Petition repetition [or] Synthesiana ad infinitum 
It seems that April has become Blog About the Synthese Debacle month here. The debacle, a recap: There was a recent guest-edited issue of Synthese. The usual editors added a disclaimer to the printed version of the issue, distancing themselves from it and saying that some of the papers in it were insulting rubbish.

There are now three different on-line petitions, all directed at the editors of Synthese: Eric Schliesser has started two petitions.

Schliesser's first petition calls for the editors to allow Barbara Forrest the write a response to Francis Beckwith's response to her original paper. Her paper, recall, is the one that led the editors to apologize for the guest-edited issue of their own journal in the first place. In Beckwith's reply, he uses the editors' disclaimer as evidence that the original paper was incompetent!

Schliesser's second petition calls for the editors to explain how and why they allowed Beckwith to publish such a brazen reply.

The third petition, organized by Brian Leiter, demands that the editors retract the the disclaimer and apologize. Ingo Brigandt and Mohan Matthen provide strong arguments for signing it.

I have signed all three, although I worry that the grand buffet of petitions will dilute the appropriate outrage. One might object to Schliesser's first petition for procedural reasons, on the grounds that allowing Forrest a reponse would be the wrong form of redress, even if one thought that the editors well and truly cocked this up. Yet a weak showing for that petition might be taken as somehow vindicating the editors and Beckwith's response. Bleah.

I am still prepared to give mitigated support to a boycott of the journal, so petitions now are weak sauce. I'll sign them, though, and so should you.*

* Obviously, you shouldn't just sign them because I said you should. Follow some links. Read up on it. Then sign.

Update, 3May

Leiter's petition, which I think was the most important, has now closed. It will be delivered to the editors with roughly 470 signatures. Leiter provides a summary of signatories and comments.

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Analysis of the Synthese affair 
I was going to provide links to further discussion of the Synthese boycott, but John Wilkins is johnny-on-the-spot. Here's the omnibus entry at his blog:

Round-up of Synthesiana at Evolving Thoughts


The editors have now offered a response which fails to address the real issue.

Mark Lance and Eric Schliesser enumerate its shortcomings.

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Epistemic community and the Synthese boycott 
Brian Leiter is calling for a boycott of Synthese. He gives details of the case at his blog, but the gist of it is this: The January issue was a special issue on the theme Evolution and its rivals. It included a paper by Barbara Forrest excoriating intelligent-design mountebank Francis Beckwith. The ID flak machine went to work long before the issue appeared. There was discussion of adding a disclaimer or revising the paper, but (after much ruckus) the guest editors were assured that the issue would appear without such tampering. In the end, however, the print version of the issue contained an apology from the journal editors for breaches of the "usual academic standards of politeness and respect." Some of the papers, they say, "employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group."

The guest editors of the issue are understandably miffed. Leiter leads with the headline Synthese Editors Cave in to Pressure from the Intelligent Design Lobby, and that doesn't seem overblown. The editorial note basically condemns some of the papers in the issue for resorting to ad hominem. The editor who wrote it were bungling, craven, duplicitous, or some combination of these.

I have published in Synthese in the past, and I have a paper working its way through their editorial process right now. If my present paper were just a regular submission, I would withdraw it.

The bind for me is that my paper was prepared for a special issue. The issue is on the theme The epistemology of inclusiveness. I was invited to submit the paper, I would not have written it but for the invitation, and the paper does not really make sense out of that context. Indeed, it's titled The epistemology of inclusiveness (or) Particular epistemic communities are always a mess.

Of course, losing a publication for principle would not cost me too much. I have tenure, and one paper more or less won't make much difference for my CV. Yet the guest editors who invited me have put time into the issue, as have other authors. They may not be in a position to be as cavalier about it as I could be, and none of them were involved with caving in to pressure from ID hacks. So I think that I will not withdraw my paper from the special issue.

I will join the boycott to this extent: I will not submit anything else to Synthese or review papers for the journal until there is a satisfactory reckoning. An apology from the editors would help here, but what can they say?

Of course, I will also keep an eye on the case. The editors have not given their account of it publicly.

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Lo! -gos & episteme! 
My paper, Miracles, Trust, and Ennui, has now appeared in Logos&Episteme.


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Whither logos & whence episteme? 
UPDATE: Hither & thither! I heard back the next day from the editors. It was just a technical glitch, and I happened to visit the site during a brief technical outage. So let me commend the editorial staff for being johnny-on-the-spot, and let me recommend to you (the reader) submitting a paper to Logos&Episteme.

I have a paper forthcoming in the open access epistemology journal Logos&Episteme.* The journal, although new, has an impressive editorial board and is off to a good start.

I checked the journal's website today to discover: This Account Has Been Suspended

The Google Cache for March 19 (two days earlier!) shows the page for the journal. So its disappearance seems to be a new thing. Hopefully it is just a technical glitch, but I worry that the journal has been swallowed by digital silence.

I've e-mailed the editor, but I also thought I'd try asking you. Do you know what's up with L&E? C'mon, internet, what's the haps? [I know! See the UPDATE.]

* I sent my paper to L&E because it's important to support open access publishing. Having commercial publishers skim off of university budgets is ultimately untenable, and open access publishing may be crucial to the survival of humanities publishing. If L&E has disappeared, I don't think it's a cautionary tale about open access - but instead a cautionary tale about new journals. It just happens (alas) that most open access journals are new, because the old journals still labour on with the old model.

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