Changes at Reason Papers

It’s exactly the middle of the year, so it’s the perfect time to announce some changes that are taking place at Reason Papers.

The first is a change to the masthead. After four years as Co-Editor of the journal, I’ve decided to step down. Carrie-Ann Biondi will remain Co-Editor, and Shawn Klein will become the new Co-Editor alongside her. Until recently, Shawn taught in the Philosophy Department at Rockford University*; he’s also an editor for The Philosopher’s Index, runs a couple of blogs (including a philosophy blog and the very popular Sports Ethicist blog), and has done a fair bit of editing and publishing, including at least one piece (PDF) he published in Reason Papers in 2012. In addition, he co-directs the American Association for the Philosophic Study of Society with Jennifer Baker (College of Charleston), so I’m guessing he knows his way around this co-running things thing. I couldn’t be more pleased with my replacement.

Hey, stop cheering so loudly–I’m not departing the masthead altogether. With Shawn in place as Co-Editor, I’ll become the new Book/Film Review Editor. Kate Herrick will remain Editorial Assistant.

Second, a change of policy. Since its inception in 1974, Reason Papers has adopted a double-blind peer referee policy with respect to Articles. After some soul searching and hand-wringing, Carrie-Ann and I decided to change our policy to one that might be called a discretionary peer review policy (unapologetically) modeled on the one adopted at Critical Review. It’s also modeled in part on the editorial approach taken by the founding editors of Social Philosophy & Policy (Fred Miller, Jeff Paul, and Ellen Frankel Paul), where Carrie-Ann worked for a decade.

I can’t improve on Jeffrey Friedman’s explanation for the “discretionary peer review” policy they’ve adopted at Critical Review:

Critical Review has received many such [accolades] over the years. The reason is that while we retain the option of peer review (see below), the default option is to work with authors in an aggressive, often substantive editing process similar to those that used to be common at university presses and literary publishing houses. We find this extra level of editing desirable because Critical Review is designed to be both intellectually rigorous and accessible to a non-specialist audience. Peer review makes most academic journals impeccable in their coverage of the extant scholarly literature, but often at the cost of being inaccessible to those unfamiliar with that literature–and, more importantly, at the cost of de-emphasizing innovation, argument, and broader significance. Therefore, at both the literary and the substantive level, authors should be forewarned of the severity of the tests to which their manuscripts will be put. …

Peer review. Critical Review publishes (i) research papers, (ii) review essays, (iii) articles, (iv) symposia, and (v) replies and rejoinders to previous papers. All research papers, essays, and review essays, unsolicited or invited, may be subject to editorial and/or peer review prior to acceptance. Therefore, they should not contain indications of your identity in the text or notes.

Peer review is undertaken at the discretion of the editor and is anonymous; authors receive copies of the reviewers’ comments. Peer review is also undertaken if requested in advance by an author concerned to satisfy the demands of the academic job market. Symposium contributions, replies, and rejoinders are not usually subject to peer review, although they may be rejected as inappropriate and the editor may, as with all articles, suggest revisions.

Carrie-Ann and I came to agree with that. Even apart from Friedman’s substantive comments, we found that automatic double-blind peer review for all incoming manuscripts consumed inordinate amounts of time in searching for reviewers, waiting for manuscripts, and nagging/reminding reviewers about missed deadlines. But it didn’t necessarily improve the final product. Hence the editorial policy change.

We were also finding ourselves overwhelmed with the job of editing the journal on its twice-yearly publication schedule (which we ourselves introduced when we started editing the journal in 2011). Hence the change to the masthead. Editing Reason Papers just wasn’t a job that two (and with the addition of Kate in 2014, three) people could do. It probably isn’t a job four people can do either, but I’ll save that complaint for the next announcement of a change to the masthead.

Thanks to all our authors (and some of our reviewers) for the work they’ve put into the journal. Thanks in particular to Jeff Friedman and Chris Sciabarra (editor for the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies) for some candid shop talk that helped us think things through. And thanks of course to Carrie-Ann, who did the lionness’s share of the work over these last four years, but left the roaring to me.

Our next issue is coming out this fall. Stay tuned.

*I updated this clause.

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