Ethics Succession

Henry Richardson shares some thoughts that may be relevant for people considering aiming to succeed him as editor At Ethics. Here is Henry:

I’ve been invited to offer my perspective, as the current editor of Ethics, for the benefit of anyone who may be thinking of succeeding me on July 1, 2018, when my second five-year term comes to an end. I’m delighted to do so.

Editing Ethics is a service position that is an honor and a privilege to occupy. The role affords an unsurpassed overview of the best work being done in normative philosophy—in ethics, social, political, and legal philosophy, and on normativity itself. It also provides an opportunity to work closely with a terrific team of top people in these fields: the book review editor and the group of associate editors, now numbering fourteen, whose dedication, experience, and judgment are an incredible asset for the journal. (They are listed here; Sally Haslanger has recently replaced Cheshire Calhoun.)

I’ve been known to say, tongue in cheek, that the editorship of Ethics is a great managerial role to have because there is almost nothing that one can do to mess things up. Now in its 127th year, the journal is going strong. Its maximum size has recently been increased 25% by the University of Chicago Press, which owns and operates the journal. The journal does well by the Press and the Press well reciprocates, supporting a professional managing editor and, under my regime, some part-time graduate-student assistance. We even have a dedicated team of copyeditors who have developed a special manual for editing philosophers’ peculiar copy. Yet in midst of the ongoing revolution in how people access academic content, the robustness of no traditional journal can be taken for granted. In this connection, I am very grateful for our exciting collaboration with PEA Soup, which helps expose some of the journal’s content, free of access restrictions, to the site’s readers.

Note that the Press’s full announcement about the editorship explicitly welcomes proposals from two or more people who might share the job of editor in chief. At this point, eight years in, my habits are sufficiently firm and streamlined that I am not overwhelmed by the many submissions we are now getting—the number having doubled from roughly 250/year when I started to roughly 500/year now—but, especially if the submissions continue to climb, it might be best to figure out ways to share the work. I currently read all of the incoming submissions and make an initial screening decision, seeking to be strict enough to enable the associate editors really to dig deep in assessing and nurturing the papers that come to them; but it is open to my potential successors to suggest alternative ways of setting things up.

One of the great things about working with Ethics is that the journal is in a position to select articles that have it all: not only originality, or clarity of expression, or sophistication of argument, or practical importance, but all of the above, in of course varying proportions. This felicitous combination is ever more threatened by professional specialization within philosophy. Currently, one way that we assure that our papers are relatively accessible is that, as a final step before acceptance, an article must pass a vote by the associate editors, garnering broad as well as intense support. I hope that, one way or another, my successor(s) will find a way to keep Ethics broadly accessible.

As the call for proposals indicates, I am happy to answer questions about the editorship that are sent to me and to the journal’s publisher, Gordon Rudy (an officer of the Press) via ethics@press.uchicago.edu. The call notes that past editorials provide one source of information about how the journal has been operating. Here I would just add that the April 2017 issue will carry a special announcement about a significant improvement in our process of triple-blind manuscript review.

One Reply to “Ethics Succession”

  1. David Shoemaker and I very much want to express great appreciation for Henry being willing to partner Ethics with PEA Soup. We are pleased to hear it worked out well for Ethics. We think it was extremely valuable for Soup and led to our partnering with many other top tier journals, likely because those other journals thought that if Ethics was doing it, it must be a decent idea.

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