In the evolving bio-ethics scandal (and here) at American Journal of Bioethics, I called on the editorial board to resign. Howard Brody (hat-tip to Leiter) responds (to unnamed "critics") as follows: "The editorial board is supposed to advise the editor on editorial policy, not advise the publisher on hiring and firing of editors, so it's not the job of the editorial board to decide who should or should not be editor of AJOB." Fair enough. Maybe that's the legal situation at this journal. In addition, THAT OTHER function of editorial boards is to lend moral and intellectual prestige to a journal. These reputable scholars are lending their prestige to what is increasingly looking like an unsavory outfit. Then again, since I started blogging I have lost my innocence about the way philosophy operates.
Moreover, Dr. Brody writes, "After complaints surfaced that it was inappropriate for Dr. McGee to remain as editor while working for a for-profit stem cell firm, he stepped down as editor while apparently remaining as head of the "AJOB family of journals" for the publisher, Taylor and Francis. The new co-editors of AJOB are Dr. David Magnus of Stanford, an old colleague of Dr. McGee's from Penn days, and Dr. Summer Johnson McGee, formerly managing editor of the journal, and incidentally, Mrs. Glenn McGee." She is apparently "a long-time central figure in the day-to-day running of the journal [and] very well qualified to assume a role as co-editor, and it's sexist and patronizing to view her as a mere appendage of her husband for this purpose."
Leaving aside the fact that "Dr. McGee retains his position as head of all the AJOB journals," it is completely irrelevant how qualified Dr. Summer Johnson McGee is. Her credentials are not the issue. After all, we have learned from the experience of, say, the accountants at Enron or the credit-rating agencies during the housing bubble that credentialed people will let financial incentives occasionally cloud their otherwise expert judgment. Incentives and perceptions matter. One common sense ethicist (writing about an unrelated spousal conflict case) writes, "When no rule prohibits doing something unethical, ethical professionals still know what to do." We now know this is not always true.