Is it ethical to post preprints?

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Liam Kofi Bright, Remco Heesen, and I have argued for transitioning toward a crowdsourced approach to peer review. Yet, one common concern raised to our alternative approach is that it would effectively undermine anonymized review–the main mechanism in our current system for mitigating bias in favor and against authors on the basis of knowing their identity. I honestly appreciate this concern, though I still think the overall benefits of moving toward a hybrid peer-review model like that used in math and physics (which combines a crowdsourced approach with traditional journal review) are likely to outweigh the costs. 

But regardless, I recognize that not everyone agrees that peer-review should change, and this has gotten me thinking a bit about the ethics of particular actions surrounding these issues. For example, one thing that advocates for change might do is to post preprints on PhilArchive or PhilSci Archive, normalizing the practice. But, is it ethical to do this?  Last week, I asked whether journals or referees care whether authors post preprints–and I’m glad I did. For, as Jake Nebel chimed in, at least one philosophy journal, Ethics, does care about this. Their official editorial policy for Submission Eligibility reads:

We ask that authors not post or publish online manuscripts that they have submitted or will be submitting to Ethics, as doing so may compromise the anonymous review process or may disqualify the submission on grounds of prior publication.

So, I’m curious about a couple of things. First, irrespective of whether other journals have a policy like this, is it ethical for authors to post preprints–either on an online archive or on their person website–prior to journal submission (given the manner in which it might compromise anonymized peer review)? If it’s not ethical, what alternative steps for promoting reform to peer review (for those of us who advocate for reform) are ethical? I’m really curious to hear what everyone thinks!

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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