Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

the economics of peer review

This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Paul R. Goldin 10 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #129874 Reply

    Paul R. Goldin

    I recently received an automated peer review request from a journal that I had never heard of: International Communication of Chinese Culture. Googling it revealed that it’s yet another new journal published by Springer! That was just about enough to convince me not to do it. In my response (which I have a feeling no one at Springer will read), I included this sentence:

    “Moreover, I no longer provide gratis peer review for the benefit of for-profit corporations like Springer.”

    Of course I recognized that the issue is not so simple, because publishers like Cambridge University Press have been adding more and more journals to their stable, and someone might claim that they’re “for-profit” as well–which would lead to a tortuous inquiry into what “for-profit” means. But maybe that kind of inquiry is necessary.

    Be that as it may (I have my own intuitive and perhaps fallible sense of which publishers are “for-profit” and which are not), I’ve reached the point that I don’t understand why I’m obliged, culturally or ethically, to provide gratis expertise for a company like Springer. Am I wrong? Is there some important consideration that I’ve missed? I still do (very frequent!) peer review for journals that I don’t think are in business primarily for profit, but Springer, Elsevier, etc. turn my stomach.

    I figured a group of philosophers would surely have some opinions.

    #129881 Reply

    Bill Haines

    I suppose the idea would be that the obligation isn’t to Springer, so much as it is an obligation to other workers in the field and to other potential beneficiaries of the work; and a general duty of one’s vocation or position (taking “duty” to be distinct from “obligation” in that obligations are owings, are owed to somebody).

    Surely there’s no obligation or duty to accede to all requests, hence no automatic obligation or duty to accede to this one in particular (but there might be a special obligation if it’s a paper that only a handful of people would be capable of reviewing, which may be the case)?

    There might be an obligation to do some reviewing for an institution like Cambridge or even Springer, profit or nonprofit, insofar as the institution includes many people who contribute to the intellectual project without much monetary profit from it. There might then be an obligation to do one’s part.

    Then there’s the question of the economic and other impact of people’s refusing requests from for-profit companies. I don’t have an opinion about that. Collective refusal is another thing.

    If good work isn’t getting published because there aren’t enough journals or their reviewing isn’t good enough, that could strengthen a general obligation or duty to review even for the Trump Journal of Bronze Rhetoric.

    #130388 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Maybe my answer above is all wrong. The real question is maybe whether e.g. Springer’s journal business is ripe for competition by academics on laptops.

    We talked about books here:

    Academic Book Costs

    #130464 Reply

    Paul R. Goldin


    I certainly agree that the endgame doesn’t look rosy for corporations like Springer (for reasons that I stated on the thread that you cited), but I don’t know whether I’ll be alive to see the endgame. I’m musing about how I should handle such requests in 2016.

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