I am honored to have been an Associate Editor of BJPS. I thought of my role not so much as a gatekeeper, but more as a teacher. My aim was to do whatever I could to help authors make their papers as strong as they could be. I often found this to be very gratifying work. It gave me an opportunity to assist philosophers with whom I would never otherwise have been in contact, which I found very satisfying.
I was often inspired by the quality and originality of the papers that I was assigned to look after—especially by papers that were not a response to a response to…, but that instead were taking a genuine risk by bravely opening up new philosophical terrain. I was inspired as well as by the generosity and promptness of many BJPS referees. Very frequently, referees would write lengthy, careful, accessible, point-by-point critiques of papers that I thought would assist the authors tremendously in their future work—even where the referee’s recommendation was a definite ‘rejection’. This kind of service to the profession receives little public recognition. But it is obviously essential to the health of the philosophical community and I applaud it.
After reading a particularly useful referee report, I sometimes thought that BJPS should consider giving an award to the ‘Referee of the Year’ or ‘Most Valuable Referee’ (or something like that)—a referee who does something especially outstanding, such as refereeing a paper on an especially short deadline, or looking at draft after draft of the same paper and shepherding it along to ultimate success, or carrying out an enormous volume of refereeing chores. There might be a fair degree of agreement on likely award-winners among the journal’s editorial staff. I sometimes found myself laughing when I thought that I had finally managed to identify the perfect referee for a given paper, only to discover (from consulting the BJPS database) that one of the other Associate Editors had already had the very same thought for another paper and beaten me to the referee!
On a less inspiring note, there were definitely times when I felt that papers that I was asked to send out to be refereed were obviously not ‘ready for prime time’. Authors would be well advised, before sending their papers to BJPS, to send them to their friends and colleagues and students and…, well, to just about anyone whom they can cajole to supply worthwhile feedback. Continuing in this slightly grumpy vein, I confess that not infrequently, I found myself irritated simply by the low quality of the writing in a submitted paper. I would wonder how the author could possibly have thought that a sentence like that was acceptable! The grammatical carelessness, casual informality, lack of signposting, absence of any indication in the paper’s opening few paragraphs of what the paper’s distinctive contribution is supposed to be, and self-indulgence in pursuing tangential (or even personal) matters would sometimes take my breath away.
My least favorite moments as BJPS Associate Editor fell into two categories. First, there was the heart-sinking feeling when I would see that the two referee reports on a given paper recommended ‘Accept’ and ‘Reject’, respectively. (This did not happen often, but it was not as rare as I would have wished.) After taking a few minutes to absorb this disheartening news, I would have to set aside a significant block of time to write a longer-than-usual report, sorting out the various reasons given by the referees for praising or condemning the paper and then deciding which I believed were most powerful (and which, in some cases, were without merit). I would usually find myself putting further considerations (pro or con) on the table besides those in the referee reports—sometimes at considerable length.
My other category of least favorite moments were those very rare occasions when some ‘big cheese’ philosopher who had submitted a paper proceeded to object in a high-handed manner to having received something other than an immediate acceptance. ‘How dare he!’, I would fulminate to myself. (I cannot recall a ‘she’ who behaved in this irksome fashion.) The more rewarding cases, of course, were authors whose resubmissions were accompanied by careful, patient guides to the changes that they had made in response to the previous round of referee reports, together with explanations of why they had decided not to make certain other changes recommended by referees.
I very much enjoyed working with the Editors, Steven French and Michela Massimi, and also with Beth Hannon, the Assistant Editor, whose emails would often bring a smile [Oh you! – Eds]. The journal is obviously in very good hands. Thank you very much, Steven and Michela, for giving me the opportunity to play a small part in it.