I had a conversation earlier this year with a faculty member who was recently appointed to emeritus status at a research university, a story that says a lot about the research climate in philosophy then and now.
The faculty member joined his institution in the early 1960’s. I discreetly asked about the research expectations: His process was uncomplicated: write a paper and send it off ("I usually had a few people look at it within the department, but I didn’t really do many conferences"). His preferred venues of choice were Mind and the Journal of Philosophy, and if he "didn’t get it accepted at the first place you usually got it accepted in the next one."
I don’t know how typical this faculty member’s experiences were, but this astonished me: I imagine we now think little of sending papers to many more journals, vetting them with many more colleagues in many more venues, etc. But the more surprising thing was his remark that even when a paper was rejected "you’d get three or four pages of feedback returned to you."
Again, I don’t know how representative this is of the era, but it struck me that (a) there’s the sense that journals provide comments less frequently than they once did, and (b) the comments they provide are of uneven quality. (The journals wiki Doug so kindly created suggests that most journals take seriously their obligation to provide timely and effective feedback to authors, but some — including some very prominent journals in the discipline — don’t seem to have a very good reputation in that regard.)
And that brings me to blogging: Are blogs like PEA Soup now performing the service — providing timely and informative feedback on research — that journals once did more ardently? And will journals be superseded in this function by blogs? Speaking for myself, PEA Soup has been invaluable as a place to vet my ideas before an informed and helpful audience. (Three of my manuscripts that eventually were published saw their first exposure to public scrutiny on this blog: Kant on lying to murderers, the competency requirement for execution , and moral expertise.) And why wait for feedback from a journal (or at a conference for that matter) when I can nearly instant feedback from our incredibly accomplished contributors, who by my very rough count have published 250 papers and a goodly number of books (and I’ve not even mentioned the commenters)?
So I wonder: will blogging replace journals in this capacity? And how has blogging changed scholarship in philosophy?