By Catarina Dutilh Novaes
In recent weeks, there has been much discussion on journal editorial practices at a number of philosophy blogs. Daily Nous ran an interesting post where different journal editors described (with varying degrees of detail) their editorial practices; many agree that the triple-anonymous system has a number of advantages and, when possible, should be adopted.* (And please, let us just stop calling it ‘triple-blind’ or ‘double-blind’, given that there is a perfectly suitable alternative!) Jonathan Ichikawa, however, pointed out (based on his experience with Phil Studies) that we must not take it for granted that a journal’s stated editorial policies are always de facto implemented. Jonathan (correctly, to my mind) defends the view that it is not desirable for a journal editor to act as a (let alone the sole) referee for a submission.
With this post, I want to bring up for discussion what I think is one of the main issues with the peer-reviewing system (I’ve expressed other reservations before: here, here, and here), namely the extreme difficulties journal editors encounter at finding competent referees willing to take up new assignments. Until two years ago, my experience with the peer-review system was restricted to the role of author (and I, as everybody else, got very frustrated with the months and months it often took journals to handle my submissions) and the role of referee (and I, as so many others, got very frustrated with the constant outpour of referee requests reaching my inbox). Two years ago I became one of the editors of the Review of Symbolic Logic, and thus acquired a third perspective, that of the journal editor. I can confirm that it is one of the most thankless jobs I’ve ever had.