By Kris Sealey
I’m the lead PI on a Mellon grant to develop a code of ethics for publishing in philosophy. Our team came to this project, not because the diversity in and ethics of publishing philosophy is anything new. Thankfully, there have been conversations about these challenges circulating in our profession for quite some time. According to its 2016 reported demographics, the membership of the APA is 76.4% white and 74.6% male. Concerns about the absence of diversity within the discipline and how that absence shapes practices around publishing and editorial decisions have been part of the experience of many constituencies in professional philosophy.
The goal of this project is to expand the conversation about how to encourage broader inclusion in philosophy. We join the concern – broadly shared in the field – with the statistical underrepresentation of marginalized scholars on journal editorial boards, and their underrepresentation in the kinds of scholarship that gets published. But our project is more specifically concerned with how marginalized groups are engaged in the literature, if and when those representative statistics increase. In other words, we consider substantial structural improvements not only in terms of increased published papers, more citations of marginalized scholars, and increased numbers of marginalized scholars on editorial boards but also in terms of more ethical practices of inclusion. It is our belief that inclusivity in scholarship and ethical approaches to historically marginalized groups requires more than increasing representation in publication and citation, that it also requires scholarship and peer review practices that follow ethical guidelines to give voice to those groups in ways that best serve them.
The questions that guide our project are: How might we rethink our publication, citation, and editorial decisions so that professional philosophy can counteract rather than amplify the structural precarity of certain groups of individuals in philosophy? What does it mean for philosophy to be accountable to marginalized constituencies in our profession, both when we theorize about their experience and when we cite scholarship on such marginalized experiences?
Our project focuses on how issues of diversity might be addressed at the level of producing the scholarly object. We are in the midst of facilitating focus group conversations which have been driven by questions about determining the (un)reliability of research findings, rectifying unethical research, and determining best practices for adequate engagement with/citation of marginalized scholarship. Such policies and best practices are well-established for the natural and social sciences, but we have noted a dearth in the equivalent for the humanities and for philosophy, in particular. Our planning grant examines the question of what guidelines for best practices and a code of publication ethics in the humanities might look like by analyzing publishing policies and guidelines that are concerned with
- explicitly defining academic misconduct, especially when it comes to appropriating the ideas of others without acknowledgment;
- defining guidelines for research addressing underrepresented or marginalized populations (more generally); and
- defining guidelines for engaging underrepresented or marginalized scholars (more particularly).
We’re engaging with these questions through a series of focus groups that gather journal editors, journal presses, and representatives of various APA committees. We conducted such a focus group at each of the three APA division meetings this year, as well as three online focus groups for those who could not make the in-person meetings, and will host one this summer for representatives of presses that publish professional journals. We also welcome comments from the broader philosophy community through this online form.
We plan to report our outcomes in a white paper which should be released in the fall. Alongside the white paper, we will develop templates for best practices that editors can adapt in conversation with their editorial boards for ensuring ethical treatment of marginalized groups in research and scholarship in philosophy. We hope to address inclusive citation practices, peer review practices, scholarly consideration of the effect of the research on those most affected by the scholarship, what it means to ensure inclusion of marginalized voices, and what would count as reflective processes for work that directly affects marginalized groups.
Our hope, my hope, is that this work can help people think about how the lives of actual people are affected by the work that we do, and how our research practices can acknowledge and reflect that reality.
Kris Sealey is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, co-director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, and co-director of Curriculum Development at the Center for Academic Excellence at Fairfield University. She works in Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Race, and Postcolonial Theory. Her current book project, Creolizing the Nation: The Argument for an Alternative Ontology, investigates the relationship between community formations, creolizing process of identity-formation, and the nation.