Tell Us How to Fix the Lack of Diversity in Philosophy Journals

[cross-posted at the Blog of the APA]

by Eric Schwitzgebel and Nicole Hassoun

Philosophy departments in the U.S. and Britain are famously homogenous. You already know that. What you might not know is that mainstream Anglophone philosophy journals are even more homogenous. We at the Demographics in Philosophy Project aim to fix that. Come join us at the Pacific Division meeting to tell us how.

First, some data:

Women comprise about 20-25% of philosophy faculty in the U.S. and Britain (Beebe and Saul 2011; Paxton, Figdor, and Tiberius 2012; White et al. 2014) and about 27-33% of philosophy PhDs and new tenure-track hires (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017). However, among elite Anglophone philosophy journals (as measured by reputational polls), women are only about 12-16% of authors of research articles (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017; Wilhelm, Conklin, and Hassoun 2017.

Black philosophers are even more scarce, comprising about 13% of the general U.S. population, but only about 2% U.S. of philosophy faculty and only about 0.5% of U.S. authors in elite philosophy journals (Bright 2016).

In the most elite general Anglophone philosophy journals, there is almost no serious discussion of authors from other linguistic traditions, even in translation. In the only published study we are aware of on this topic, we examined 3556 citations from a sample of 93 articles from twelve elite journals (Schwitzgebel, Huang, Higgins, and Gonzalez-Cabrera forthcoming). Approximately 97% of citations were of sources originally written in English, 1% were of sources originally written in German, and less than 1% were of sources originally written in French, ancient Greek, Italian, or Latin. We found not a single citation of any source from any other linguistic tradition.

We are not aware of any formal studies of the rates at which disabled authors or authors from lower Socio-Economic-Status family backgrounds publish in elite Anglophone philosophy journals, compared to non-disabled authors and authors from middle- to upper-SES family backgrounds, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they may also be substantially underrepresented relative to the general population and perhaps also relative to the population of philosophy professors as a whole. Other under-studied dimensions of diversity include (but are not limited to) sexual identity, political viewpoint, religion, topic of research focus, prestige of home institution or institution of graduate study, and other aspects of race or ethnicity.

Why it is a problem:

You might not think such homogeneity is a problem. We do think it is a problem.

It is a problem for epistemic reasons. Philosophy, as a discipline, profits from hearing voices from a variety of different backgrounds, with a variety of different cultural perspectives and life experiences. If only a restricted range of voices enters the philosophical dialogue, we philosophers, as a community, risk drawing conclusions that would not survive the scrutiny of a broader range of people. We also risk disproportionate focus in our collective philosophical attention: over-emphasizing issues that especially matter to those with the dominant voices and under-emphasizing issues that matter more to those who are not participating as visibly.

It is also a problem for reasons of social justice. Plausibly, individual and systemic patterns of prejudice or bias disproportionately favor philosophers who already belong to socially privileged groups. Unfair exclusionary practices, whether implicit or explicit, harm people’s lives by unjustly closing off career opportunities, advancement, and salary. If so, this is an injustice that deserves addressing.

Since publication in elite journals is central to hiring, tenure, and promotion, it is unlikely that we will see much greater diversification among faculty until we repair the situation in the journals. Furthermore, it might be easier to change publication practices than it is to fix pipeline problems directly – and improving the diversity of authorship in elite journals might then naturally lead to more diversity in hiring, tenure, and promotion.

Tell us how to fix it:

We have some preliminary ideas about how to improve the situation. But we want to hear from you. We are interested in concrete suggestions for specific practices that can be implemented by journal editors to improve diversity without compromising their other goals. We are especially interested in hearing about practices that have been successfully implemented to good effect.

Give us your suggestions. Raise objections and concerns. Comment this post. Email us. And, if you’re in the area at the time, please come to our session on this topic at the Pacific APA meeting in San Diego on March 29 (9a-12p). The session will start with a brief presentation on diversity in philosophy journals, but it will mostly consist of open discussion with a panel of editors from nineteen well-regarded philosophy journals, who will bring their experience to the question as well as, we suspect, in some cases, their strenuous disagreement.

After the session, we hope to partner with journals to collect more data on what works to improve diversity and to develop a toolbox of helpful practices.

Suggestions, objections, and contributions welcome at dataonwomen@gmail.com. More data on women in philosophy are available here.

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Session details:

APA Committee Session: Diversity in Philosophy Journals

Pacific APA, San Diego

March 29, 2018, 9:00a-12:00p

Sponsored by the Committee on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, the Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession, the Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession, the Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Committee on Hispanics, the Committee on LGBTQ People in the Profession, and MAP (Minorities And Philosophy).

Chair:
• Eric Schwitzgebel (University of California at Riverside)

Speakers:
• Liam Kofi Bright (Carnegie Mellon University)
• Sherri Lynn Conklin (University of California at Santa Barbara)
• Sally Haslanger (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
• Nicole Hassoun (SUNY Binghamton and Cornell University)
• Manyul Im (University of Bridgeport)
• Meena Krishnamurthy (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)
• Anita Silvers (San Francisco State University)

Panelists:
• Bruce Barry (Vanderbilt University and editor in chief of Business Ethics Quarterly)
• Christian Barry (Australian National University and co-editor of Journal of Political Philosophy)
• David Boonin (University of Colorado at Boulder and editor of Public Affairs Quarterly)
• Otavio Bueno (University of Miami and editor in chief of Synthese)
• Stewart M. Cohen (University of Arizona and editor in chief of Philosophical Studies)
• Graeme Forbes (University of Colorado at Boulder and editor in chief of Linguistics and Philosophy)
• Peter J. Graham (University of California at Riverside and associate editor of Journal of the American Philosophical Association)
• Stephen Hetherington (University of New South Wales and editor in chief of Australasian Journal of Philosophy)
• Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown University and editor in chief of Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal)
• Franklin Perkins (University of Hawai’i and editor in chief of Philosophy East and West)
• Henry Richardson (Georgetown University and editor in chief of Ethics)
• Achille Varzi (Columbia University and editor in chief of Journal of Philosophy)
• Andrea Woody (University of Washington and editor in chief of Philosophy of Science)
• Jack Zupko (University of Alberta and editor in chief of Journal of the History of Philosophy)
• and representatives to be determined from Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Ergo, Hypatia, Philosophical Quarterly, and Philosophy and Public Affairs

Thanks to Sherri Lynn Conklin for continuing help with this project.

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