In a recent survey, I asked philosophers about their submissions to journals, to get a sense of what journals people submit to and also what factors might influence their decisions on where to submit papers. Specifically, I wanted to know how frequently people submit their work to the top 5 journals in philosophy, which are usually regarded (according to polls) as the best journals in the field: Philosophical Review, Journal of Philosophy, Mind, Noûs and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Increasingly, publications in these journals are regarded as a marker of excellence.
However, there are several hurdles to getting published in the top 5. The acceptance rates are forbidding (I don’t have exact numbers, but journals in the top-20 that have published acceptance rates as low as 5%, (e.g., Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Canadian Journal of Philosophy). Presumably, the acceptance rates in the top-5 are lower still, making them more difficult to get into than Science or Nature. Also, review times at some of these journals tends to be longer than the standard 3 months. Those journals that are quicker close submissions for half the year, and unfortunately, they do so concurrently (otherwise, so a senior philosopher pointed out to me, they wouldn’t have the lower submission rates they are aiming for).
251 philosophers completed the survey. Below the fold is a summary of some results. I asked respondents to say how many papers they submitted to top-5 journals and any refereed journal over the past year (i.e., since September 2013).
First some demographics about the survey. 76.9% were men, 23.1% women. Academic positions were as follows: 9% students, 25% tenure track faculty, 38% tenured (or equivalent permanent) faculty, 23% non-tenure track fulltime (postdoc, VAP etc), 3% adjunct or other part-time, 2% outside of academia. Most respondents came from the US (61%), followed by the UK (13%), Europe (12%), Canada (8%), Asia (3%), Australia & rest of Oceania (2%) and Latin America).
Most philosophers did not submit anything to the top-5 journals in the past year
As this graph indicates (numbers indicate percentages), most philosophers (68%) said they’ve submitted zero papers to top-5 journals the past year.
For comparison, here is a breakdown of the numbers of submissions to any refereed journal in the same population:
Reasons for not submitting to top-5 journals
Those who responded zero got a further question as to why they did not submit anything to the top-5 journals (multiple options possible).
Most respondents thought the probability of acceptance was too low (38%) or that the papers they wrote during this time period didn’t fit in these journals (36%) - see graph for full breakdown.
The qualitative data are also quite interesting. 12% of respondents stated “other”. Reasons included a perception that these journals were just not for them
- “I regard them as 'old man' journals, or journals for people from Princeton.”
- “It's not going to work anyway”
- “If you don't like a journal it tends not to like you. I don't much care for these journals , ergo ...”
- “Not enough connections to the editors. It is well known that for most unknown people submitting to these journals is a waste of time.”
- “All of the above, in a sense: I need publications at this point in my career, not rejections. Also, working three jobs doesn't leave time to write papers of that caliber, and if I spend months on a paper, I need it to pay off with a publication.”
Some respondents said these journals don’t publish work in their field (in spite of being general journals), or that don’t reach the right audience:
- “these journals do not publish the most relevant work in my field (political philosophy)”
- "I do interdisciplinary work that is more likely to be read by the audience I'm most interested in in specialty journals
- "My perception is that the areas in which I work (Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Race, Aesthetics) would not be taken seriously by these venues. Why waste time?"
Some authors were working on commissioned pieces or book manuscripts so they could not submit to these journals, for instance
- “I am senior and most articles are solicited”
- “I was writing several papers that I had been invited to write for volumes (e.g., Handbooks, Companions, etc.) or for special issues of journals.”
Finally, some respondents refuse to submit anything to these journals because of ethical considerations
- "Some of these journals I just refuse to do business with, in protest of their corrupt or irresponsible practices."
- "I wish to support open-access journals like Ergo and Phil. Imprint"
Who submits in top-5 journals?
Gender: No difference between men and women
A recent discussion on Political Philosop-her looked at the breakdown of gender as inferred by first names in the journals Ethics and Journal of Moral Philosophy. These are two top journals in the field of ethics, which has more women than some other philosophy fields (perhaps 30% or more). Yet, the large majority of authors in Ethics and J of Moral Philosophy in recent years are written by male-coded authors (80 and 82.5% respectively). Meena Krishnamurthy thinks this might be caused by implicit biases (as anonymous review isn’t often anonymous), but it might also be caused by stereotype threat: “Stereotype threat may lead women to be less confident about the quality of their work”. I did not test this for Ethics or J Moral Philosophy, but if stereotype threat was at work, one would expect women to be less likely to submit to the top-5 journals, given their fine reputation.
I performed a parametric test (t-test) (I've also, for kicks, done everything via a non-parametric test - Kruskal Wallis ANOVA - since technically it's an ordinal variable, but it doesn’t make much difference). Interestingly, I found no difference between these groups. Men and women in this sample submitted as often to top-5 journals. Men (Mean=.62, Standard Deviation=1.126) submitted as often as women (Mean=.58, Standard Deviation=1.164) to these journals t(.220), p =.826, NS. I don’t think this automatically means that stereotype threat isn’t at work here. However, if it is at work, it doesn’t result in women submitting less of their work to top-5 journals than men.
Ethnic self-identification: Ethnic minorities do not submit less work to these journals than white people
I asked for ethnic self-identification. The majority of respondents, 87.1% were white, which seems to be in line with other estimations. I kept categorization quite rough, with 3% of respondents identifying as Asian, 3% as Hispanic, 3% as mixed and 1% as African-American. I found no significant difference between whites (Mean=.61, SD=1.124) and non-whites (Mean=.50, SD=.950), t(.509), p =.611 not significant.
Academic status: No difference between tenure-line and non-tenureline faculty in submitting to top-5 journals
Perhaps the long review times and low acceptance rates act as gatekeepers, discouraging non-TT and nontenured faculty from submitting. The qualitative data suggest as much). With the longer horizon of a tenure-track or tenured position, that mightn’t be an issue. I recoded the data into tenure-track and tenured faculty versus all the rest. No difference there. t(.834), p = .405. This finding does not disprove the gatekeeper idea; it could be that more senior people write more in edited volumes and other invited contributions, or books, and that junior people are more discouraged by the low acceptance rates and long review times, resulting in both groups not submitting frequently to top-5 journals (or at least not as frequently as one might expect, given the prestige that brings)
What does make a difference?
Lemmings submit more to top-5 journals
Some AOS are regarded as more central to the discipline of philosophy, the so-called lemmings fields (philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics and philosophy of mind). I recoded people with one or more specializations in these fields as lemmings. There was a significant difference in how much lemmings submit to top-5 journals (Mean=.81, Standard Deviation=1.350) compared to those without any of these specializations (Mean=.45, Standard Deviation=.906), t(-2.353), p=.0001 – this is a really big difference. Lemmings submit about twice as much to these journals as non-lemmings!
Authors who work in institutions ranked in the top-15 of the PGR submit more to top-5 journals
The only difference I found based on institution is that people who are currently studying or working in PGR-top 15 ranked institutions submit significantly more papers to top-5 journals than those outside of these fields. Only 21 of my respondents were part of such institutions. In the sample, people part of PGR top-15 lists submitted more papers (Mean=1.29, Standard Deviation=1.554) than people who weren’t part of such institutions (Mean=.55, Standard Deviation=1.069) – about three times as much t(-2.907), p = .004. Note that these people don’t submit more papers overall to journals.
Other measures, such as Ivy League status, R1 status, Liberal arts college, did not make a difference.
In sum: There is some extent of self-selection in submission to top-5 journals in that people who work in areas regarded as more “central” to the discipline, and people who work in departments regarded as better places to do one’s graduate studies submit more. There is no difference in how much people submit according to their academic status, ethnicity or gender.