Ethics Journals

I’m curious what people think about the specialty ethics journals – which ones do you read?  Which ones do you think are good?  Which ones do you think other people read and think are good?

There is Ethics of course, but I think there are reasons for junior
ethics people not to submit their papers there.  After getting past the
referee stage, papers have to pass a vote of the associate editors, and
papers evidently fail that vote around half the time.  So it’s highly
possible to spend a year satisfying referees only to end up having to
start from scratch with a new journal.  (Not that I’m speaking from
personal experience or anything!)  That’s risky for someone with a limited amount of time to build a tenure case.  (Not that this sort of thing can’t happen at other journals, but it’s less likely.)

After that, there’s Philosophy and Public Affairs, and then a whole bunch of others that are more obscure.  Brian Weatherson did a survey a while back that provides a bit of guidance.

1.  Ethics 8.5
2. Philosophy and Public Affairs  8.3
3. Social Philosophy and Policy 6.0
4. Utilitas 5.8
5. Journal of Ethics 5.5
6. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 5.0
7. Journal of Social Philosophy 4.9
8. Journal of Value Inquiry 4.8
(10-pt scale)

Since the survey, the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy started up; no applied ethics journals (eg Environmental Ethics) were included in  the survey.  SPP  is thematic and (I think) invite-only.

Do these rankings seem accurate?  I like Utilitas, and think it’s roughly as good as Ethics or PPA.  I have a hard time distinguishing, quality-wise, between the Springer/Kluwer journals (JE, ETMP, and JVI), though I usually find more interesting stuff in ETMP I guess.  JESP seems promising, but it is early.  My impression (which might be totally mistaken) is that papers published in anything below PPA in Brian’s survey are unlikely to be read by many people (except utilitarians reading Utilitas).  So I’ve been pretty reluctant to send papers to any of them lately.

7 Replies to “Ethics Journals

  1. I don’t necessarily think that the best work in ethics comes out in ethics journals. My impression is that the general journals (J Phil, Phil Rev, PPR, Phil Studies etc.) often have more important work in ethics in them, that is, overall. And they are more widely read.
    Pre-tenure decisions about where to send stuff are tough. I remember having unbelievably long waits from high profile journals, only to be rejected in the end, including some of the above. But it is worth remembering that publishing in the general journals will help your case in one important respect, viz., your trajectory toward a national reputation. On the other hand, specialty journals may increase your standing among those in your area, and hence those who may be writing for you.
    In any case, it is clear that keeping track of which journals have aggressive editors who pester their referees is most important pre-tenure.

  2. I think Ben’s post captures one of the fundamental dilemmas of publishing: You can publish comparatively easily in journals people tend not to read. (E.g., while people may read Ethics or PPA regularly, I know few people who read, say, JE or JSP as a matter of course; they’ll read the articles there that pertain to their own interests.) Or you can have your work rejected by the journals that people actually will read! But I tend to think that, apropos of the earlier conversation about how it’s hard to identify influential articles, the advantage of publishing in the Ethics, PPA, and the most well-known general journals is that really good work can be discovered immediately. In other journals, someone has to ‘discover’ an article to make it influential.
    And I’d also add the Journal of Moral Philosophy and Social Theory and Practice to that list. And the Journal of Applied Philosophy, though not strictly an ethics journal, publishes lots of interesting ethics stuff.

  3. These days (post tenure) I aim for visibility, which means in part that I send papers to non-ethics journals a large percentage of the time. And I think that also makes sense early in the period before tenure, though late in that period it may not make sense.
    But there is another issue to consider — the quality of refereeing. Ethics does a good job providing their referees with feedback and referees know the other referee will see what they write. So I always feel an incentive to do a good job and not embarrass myself, and the principle of charity leads me to attribute the same motive to others refereeing for them. Phil Review does a nice job commenting if they have an interest in your paper, at least that was my experience and others have told me similar things. And you get it back relatively quickly if they have no interest.
    I’ve only been rejected by the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, but each time the referee’s report was carefully done and helpful. I’ve also gotten good comments from Phil Quarterly, PPR, and Phil Studies on papers they accepted.

  4. I agree with Mark that quality of refereeing *and providing comments to authors* is of great importance, especially for those writing papers pre-tenure. I second Ben’s reluctance to send papers off to the “biggies,” sometimes because of how long it takes them to produce a verdict, but also because several of them don’t bother to provide referee’s comments (when that occurs on top of a long wait to receive a report, it is utterly maddening). So if I’m going to send a paper out to a big general journal, I’ll typically pick one that will at least provide helpful feedback, even if it’s rejected. That way, I’ll at least get something useful out the otherwise wasted 4-8 month waiting period. _Ethics_ is just about the best at this, but Phil. Studies is pretty good too.
    But if I’d like a quick turnaround or a higher shot at acceptance (sometimes because I’m tired of shopping around a paper, but also sometimes because, for pre-tenure reasons, I’m hoping for another line on the vita fairly quickly) I’ll send a paper to a more specialized journal. This isn’t because they’re necessarily lower quality; it’s more because the people they typically get to referee return their reports more quickly, and also because they seem more willing to work with authors on “revise and resubmits” than the biggies who would, more often than not, reject them outright (even with borderline referee reports that could be taken as counseling conditional acceptance). Of these types, I think Social Theory and Practice is pretty good, even though it’s not on Ben’s list (it would probably be around #5).

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. JMP, JAP, and STP are good additions. JMP and JAP weren’t part of Brian’s survey; I think STP was, but it was called “social theory and philosophy,” which I think doesn’t exist. If that’s right, it got a 5.4, putting it just behind JE.

  6. Just one more thing… you say you can’t distinguish between the Kluwer/Springer journals. I think that’s wrong. JE probably edges ETMP – especially in agency – and both are a long way ahead of JVI.

  7. Maybe this is a good time and place to mention that JESP now has an email update option. Go to jesp.org and look in the upper left corner. If you sign up you’ll be notified every time a new article is published.

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