It appears the Philosophical Gourmet Report is returning. The last installment was in 2014-5. We are now in the midst of a 3-year gap in rankings, which is the longest gap, I think, since the thing got going in the 90s. We may not have such a long gap again. So I got to thinking this might be a time to reflect on people’s experiences of doing without such a ranking for a while. What were the costs, if any? What were the benefits, if any? Or perhaps this was too short of a gap to serve as a useful test of life without rankings?
There are now many more surrogates for ranking than ever before. In large part as a result of pressure from the Report, most departments now provide detailed placement information. In addition most faculty at graduate programs list their CV and research interests. That, combined with a sense of what the top journals in the field are, and the availability of citation information, grad attrition information, etc. mean that people without rankings would be much less in the dark about where to go to grad school than I was back when dinosaurs roamed the plains and we lacked a widely consulted ranking of grad programs in philosophy in the 80s.
Given the availability of such, do we still need rankings? If so, how might they be made better and what do we need or want ranked? If not, what if anything is to be done given that they will exist. Dept’s that are ranked highly unsurprisingly tend to tout their ranking with the result that many of the top departments seem to tacitly ratify or endorse the rankings. This self-interested reason to tout favorable rankings among top depts would seem to exist whether the report is well done or not and whether or not a dept finds the rankings reliable. The new editors of the Report may be, especially at this moment, interested in and responsive to advice about how to make the Report better. What would be good advice for us to offer?1