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March 22, 2021


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James Grimmelmann

I would go further. Under the circumstances, I think that PPQ is estopped, morally and perhaps even legally (!), from desk-rejecting the manuscripts for which it did this. It should send them all for external review.

Steve L.

Thanks, James. I thought of that, but it seems unfair to ask external reviewers to spend time on a manuscript that is destined for rejection. It is not possible for PPQ to make the UK professor whole, which is why I believe the editors should spend their own time helping make the article better so that it may be published elsewhere.

James Grimmelmann

That's a good point. I suppose my cynicism may be such that it is not actually clear to me that all of the articles in this category are truly "destined" for rejection. If they are, then your solution is probably better. I think we agree that PPQ "owes" the affected authors the equivalent of a full external review, so the questions are what that entails and how to provide it.

Steve L.

Yes, the "equivalent of a full external review" would at least provide some compensation for the lengthy delay and mistreatment.


I agree with the gist of Professor Lubet's comments. I would just note that USC has about 20 tenure-stream faculty in philosophy, many of those listed are courtesy appointments from other departments who are generally not much involved with PPQ. Still, they have enough intellectual resources to offer substantive feedback to the authors who were wronged.

Janet Levin

I am writing in my capacity as Chair of the Editorial Committee for the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly to explain what happened with our reviewing process over the past year—and to apologize for the burden this has placed on authors waiting for a response. We recently discovered that due to a major error in our record-keeping process, over 100 manuscripts submitted to the PPQ over a period of a little over a year were misclassified as having undergone an initial review. There was a confluence of factors that allowed the error to go undetected for so long, some due to COVID-19, some technological, and others due to a diffusion of responsibility in the reviewing process. These factors also contributed to some failures to respond to author inquiries.

When we discovered the extent of the problem we made the difficult decision to try to clear the backlog as quickly as possible, and therefore (i) to do an unusually thorough reading of papers during the internal review process to enable us to get results back to authors as quickly as possible, and (ii) not to give comments on papers that we did not send out for external review.

I take full responsibility for this situation and apologize sincerely for it. I want to make it clear, however, that the rejection of papers was not arbitrary; once we recognized what happened, each paper underwent a serious initial review process, more thorough than submitted papers normally receive. The percentage of acceptances to rejections of these papers was actually somewhat higher than it had been in previous years. We are now overhauling our processes for submission and evaluation of manuscripts to make sure not only that nothing like this happens again, but also that, going forward, the PPQ can be exemplary in giving authors quick decisions. We will announce more concrete steps in this regard soon, including new faculty editors who will be taking over after the end of this semester.

With sincere apologies, and best wishes,
Janet Levin, Chair
Editorial Committee, PPQ


A reasonable solution. At least the time won't have been totally wasted.

Stephen Diamond

I wonder if this shouldn’t be cause for concern about a single department having such dominance over a “peer review” journal.

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