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Here's one for team immoral! Since graduate school, I (and likely you, too) have been repeatedly exposed to what we could call the "Suspicious view" of how publishing in philosophy works. Disclaimer: it's mostly a bitter, cynical caricature of some of the problems of our publishing world. Still, if this view is even vaguely in line with reality, a case can be made that posting online preprints is immoral, at least for affirmed scholars and scholars coming from prestigious institutions. For the "Suspicious view", the publishing game is mostly a matter of politics. Journals, editors, and referees act as gatekeepers who pursue their own interests. The journal's interest is to pursue prestige, publishing big names from big universities to fatten their metrics. When a journal is mostly run by a specific department, it will also have a strong incentive to publish work from within the department, help their graduate students get a first paper out, and set the agenda in a way that is favourable to their interest (e.g. if the department is big in teleosemantics, they'll profit from publishing more on that). Editors and referees pursue similar goals. They reserve a favourable treatment to authors from their own cliques, i.e. the close circle who shares their views, invites them to conferences or knows them personally, and who is likely to be equally favourable to them. Agents need not be malicious in this model – they may not even realise what they do. The point is just that many are (directly or indirectly) moved by these incentives. The result is that powerful institutions and academics thrive by gatekeeping access to a few "prestigious" journals, while younger researchers and scholars from smaller institutions struggle to get their work published. In this world, anonymity is a precious countermeasure: it limits each agent's ability to pursue their own interests, and increases the incentives for selecting manuscripts based on quality (instead of own interest). Arguably, posting preprints online can undo the goods brought in by anonymity. Now the author's identity is just a click away. For those to compare it to "presenting a paper at conferences", two observations. First, a numerical one. Preprints (especially from prestigious authors) get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of downloads, mostly from scholars who are genuinely interested in the topic (hence potential referees).The size of your audience when you give a talk isn’t even remotely that size. Second, posting preprints, but not giving talks, makes it POSSIBLE for anyone at any time to discover the author's identity, simply by googling a bit of the paper – which is enough to say that the paper is no longer really anonymous. This is a situation where posting a preprint online (and bypassing anonymity) is extremely convenient for the agents who stand to profit from the incentives laid out above. Given that they stand to gain unfairly from sharing preprints, a good case can be made that FOR THEM posting the preprint is immoral. Not so for ERCs, scholars working in a small colleges, etc. For them, posting the preprint is simply a bad move – it is immoral only insofar as they are hurting themselves. Of course, as mentioned in the beginning, the "Suspicious View" is a gross exaggeration. Whether "team immoral" has a decent point will ultimately depend on how far their exaggeration is removed from reality. Still, even if it turns out that the Suspicious View is merely a "loser's tale", invented out of resentment by those who can't get their papers published, I think that reflecting on these issues is important, and that’s why I’ve been playing devil’s advocate. If privilege, prestige, and power differentials play a role in increasing one's chance to publish, the moral status of posting preprints is actually more complicated than suggested in previous comments!
I think you shouldn't do it, but for slightly different reasons. I think that the following is likely true: 1 - prestige bias is a serious issue in academia, especially in the humanities 2 - It is likely that uploading a paper on those platforms undermines anonymity, because - the referee could easily end up seeing the paper on those platforms (you work on the same topic after all), before or after he accepts to review - if your referee is bad, he could easily google the paper and find out who the author is If I am right about (1) and (2), I think that people just shouldn't do it, because: - if you are a lesser known philosopher (early career, non-Anglo-Saxon affiliation, etc.), you give yourself an unfair disadvantage - if you are a well known philosopher, you give yourself an unfair advantage In fact, I think that the last case is especially pernicious (esp. if it is done disingenuously) and that we don't talk enough about it. It would be great if this issue was discussed more systematically in blogs about the profession, like this one.
Perhaps it's unrelated, but I think it's not: I've recently been cited, together with other papers on the philosophy of lying, in what looks like a bot-generated paper "Artistic Study of Elegant and Concise Chorus Conducting Style". My Google Scholar newsletter was then flooded with recommendations of similar fake papers in musicology, all quoting *exclusively* recent papers in philosophy of language. My impression is that we're experiencing a wave (dare I say pandemic?) of spam publications, and that Google hasn't yet stepped in to weed them out of the system. (Oh, and of course, in case you want to know more about elegant and concise conducting style: )
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May 16, 2020