the Dialectica "fishpond"

a new, more "positive" model for triple-blind refereeing

At Dialectica, we practice triple-blind refereeing, because it is the most democratic, most just and best performing evaluation system we know. This does not mean it is perfect. Triple-blind refereeing can be done in many different ways and there is very little information about how journals do it concretely and in practice. 

After much discussion, Dialectica has shifted to a new refereing system during the summer of 2022. In our new "fishpond" model, members of the Editorial Committee pick anonymized papers that they hope to promote and send them out to referees. If, based on the reports, they make a successful case to the committee, the papers are accepted. Submissions are sent back to the authors after one month if they have not been picked up. This is not to be understood as a (desk-) rejection, but simply as an acknowledgment of the limitedness of our resources. We hope that this triple-blind, positive-oriented process will shorten the turn-around time for authors and make the editorial and referee work more attractive. 

Focus on the positive

The most important feature of the fishpond is its switch of the perspective on reviewing: rather than focussing on the critical, that is negative, evaluation of the papers we reject, we actively search (“fish”) for the good articles in the pond and seek to justify their publication to the other members of the Editorial Committee

An Editorial Committee member "fishing" (adopting, chaperoning, promoting) a paper seeks to make a positive case for its publication; her/his refereeing requests to well-known specialists in the field have the purpose of building such a case. If external referees are unwilling to contribute to such a case, do not believe it can be made or believe Dialectica should rather spend its resources on other papers, they are welcome to just say so.  

Quite often, a positive case is both easier to make and more compelling than a negative one. Almost all papers are imperfect in some respect; and being improvable is as often a sign of quality as a defect. Negative evaluations tend to be generic (better structure, more signposting, improved clarity, more transparent focus) and are often boring to write. A positive verdict, by contrast, amounts to a reasoned answer to one single question: "does this piece of work bring the discipline forward?". 

Being honest about limited resources

Every journal is contrained by the temporal. intellectual and doxastic ressources of its pool of editors and referees.  Authors do choose their publication venue, often trying to anticipate what style, content, length and detail would best "fit" a certain journal. At Dialectica, we try to be honest about our preferences, while not imposing them in the form of strict conditions. 

Papers that are not fished or for which a case for publication was subsequently dropped are sent back to their authors with our excuses. We acknowledge that the very same paper, in other circumstances at another time, perhaps with another choice of referees, could very well have ended up published. 

A better service to the profession

Dialectica aims to be the best philosophy journal edited on the European Continent. We believe that we become more attractive for prospective authors

  • by following a clear, transparent and predictable evaluation procedure of submitted manuscripts;
  • by privileging turn-around time over frequency and quantity of comments, providing most negative verdicts within less than a month; 
  • by providing simple yes/no answers, rather than complicated "yes, but only if"s and "no, but"s;
  • by being forthright about the intrinsic limitations of the process and open for suggestions for improvement. 

We are keen to improve our existing procedures in the light of these aims and welcome any suggestions on how to do so. 

Further developments

The present "fishpond" platform has been developped within the "workbench" project, financed by swissuniversities. It is made freely available in its entirety at GitHub and may be used, improved and adapted by everyone. 

In the future, the project should explore new and innovative ways of open refereeing in philosophy, both for academic journals and for research outputs that do not meet the threshold for a full article, such as student papers, teaching material, review articles, book notes and reviews, as well as other, as yet unnamed, “nuggets” of scholarly output. 

If you are interested in participating, have ideas or suggestions or know about related initiatives, please let us know.