Treat your reviewers well

S&P asks its reviewers to overcome the discipline’s culture of procrastination and supply reviews within a default of 4 weeks (sometimes more for especially complex or long papers). We try to repay reviewers in two ways that we consider best practices:

  • Reviewers are copied on editorial decisions. They are sent the editor’s feedback to the author and copies of all the reviews.
  • Reviewers are notified when a paper they worked on for us is published.

Neither practice is as widespread as it should be. In fact, sometimes when we have a new editorial team member, they are skeptical about sharing the entire editorial feedback with the reviewers. It doesn’t take long for them to change their minds when we get the usual enthusiastic feedback from reviewers.

This morning we published a new paper and I spent a few minutes notifying the five reviewers that had worked on various iterations of the article. I just got this response: “Thanks for letting me know. It’s nice of you to do this for reviewers. I wish other journals would follow you too …”

A guide for the perplexed author in semantics

Note: at the upcoming LSA annual meeting in Portland, I will be part of a session about the publication process. My role will be to talk about open access in linguistics. I just remembered that I had lying around a draft guide to publishing articles. So, here’s the draft. I’d be very grateful for feedback so I can improve this document but also figure out what makes sense to talk about in Portland.

You have written something that you think other people should read. You want the input of other experts. You want your ideas to make their way through the discipline. You want the excellence of your ideas to reflect positively on you. How best to achieve those goals? What follows are my recommendations. These are my opinions only, but I have reached them over my 25 years in the discipline. I hope that some might find this subjective guide useful.

My main prescription is: disseminate early, often, and relentlessly.

Make your work available

As soon as you have a handout or slides that you’ve used for an official talk, put that on your website. When you have a draft paper, put it on your website. In each case, also point people at it through whatever networks you are part of (your department, contacts at other institutions, your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ connections).

Post to repositories

By the time you have a revised draft that is ready for submission, it’s time to also share it via disciplinary repositories (LingBuzz, Semantics Archive, PhilPapers).

Excursus: Why not stop here? Why submit to peer-reviewed journals? At some point in the future, we might reach a system where you post something to the disciplinary repository, peer review occurs in the open, and you revise your paper accordingly. The paper gets rated and assessed by various metrics (likes, number of comments, number of downloads, number of citation). We are not there yet. And to be honest, I am a firm believer in high quality peer review of the old-fashioned kind. If and when we move to the kind of free-for-all I just sketched, I’m worried that quality work from young and hereto-forth unknown authors will not get the attention it deserves. Of course, whatever the superstars put in the repository will get all the attention it deserves (and more). But the expert feedback curation from good editors and peer reviewers of good journals makes it much more likely that the discipline will be exposed to the merits of new work even if it doesn’t come from the superstars.

So, yes, submit to peer-reviewed journals. I hope they’re here to stay.

Choosing a journal

When it comes time to submit your work to a journal, the first consideration in choosing a journal is whether it is an appropriate and adequately high profile venue for the work. Journals differ along various additional dimensions: quality of peer review and editorial feedback, speediness of the review and decision process, respect for author’s rights (including the right to make available preprints and postprints), quality (and existence) of copy-editing, quality (and existence) of professional typesetting (including whether they accept LaTeX source rather than insisting on a less sophisticated format), whether or not they publish an online-first/early version of a paper as soon as it is ready, speediness of publication of print version. If you are new-ish to the field, you should ask for advice from trusted mentors.

Don’t let them lock up your work

Many journals lock up your work behind a toll access barrier. You should attempt to mitigate that lock up, because it is in your best interest for your work to be as easily accessible by as many readers as possible. It is imperative that you carefully read the publishing agreement that the publisher will ask you to sign. Make sure to understand in detail which rights to your own work you are being asked to sign away. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to include this in your decision of where to submit. There is a handy service that lets you explore the policies journals have with respect to your rights as an author: Sherpa/RoMEO.

a. Unless forced otherwise by the publisher, keep the early versions of your work (sometimes called preprints) on your website and in disciplinary and/or institutional repositories, but add to the downloads all the bibliographic detail of the published version.

b. Unless the standard publisher’s agreement already gives you the right to provide open access to your final manuscript (sometimes called postprints; the version you prepared for final submission after receiving peer review and editorial feedback, but before copy-editing and publisher’s typesetting), try to insist on that right. You can try to make your signing of the agreement contingent on the publisher accepting an author’s amendment. See the SPARC Addendum.

c. An increasing number of publishers offer to make your paper open access if you pay them a fee. This is called an author-pays hybrid open access model. There is a suspicion that publishers charge excessive author fees (“double dipping” since they still rake in subscription fees for a journal that only contains sporadic open access articles). Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

d. There are some journals that are entirely open access and charge author fees to fund their operations (this is often called gold open access). This is an unusual model in linguistics and at this point pretty much irrelevant to publication in semantics. Some universities subsidize such fees. Fees can also sometimes be charged to grants that funded the research reported in the published article.

e. There are some journals that are entirely open access and DO NOT charge author fees. These are typically funded through institutional support (this is sometimes called platinum open access). Semantics & Pragmatics is one such journal. Others in adjacent areas are The Philosophers’ Imprint and the Australasian Journal of Logic.

Don’t get involved with edited volumes

Sometimes you might be asked to contribute your work as a chapter in an edited volume or handbook. I have done this (sometimes after having a hard time getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, sometimes because it felt like an easy way to get something out, sometimes because I felt an obligation to the editors). I recommend against it. Edited volumes are a poor vehicle for cutting edge work. They are not as rigorously reviewed as top journals. They are not recognized by promotion & tenure committees as particularly impressive. They often take an enormously long time to get published, often more than even the most egregiously slow journals. Don’t do it.

Any questions or comments? Comment below. Email me. Tweet in response to the announcement of this post on twitter. Leave a Facebook comment.

DSpace statistics

The MIT Libraries just made available a new website displaying various statistics about our Open Access DSpace repository. I have three papers in that archive. Here are the download counts for those papers:

And here is a graph with the cumulative download count over time:

I can’t compare this to the download numbers that these articles get at the official publisher sites because publishers don’t seem to share those numbers with their authors. But it makes clear that DSpace is a legitimate distribution venue and that I should probably make as much of my work available through it as is feasible. Stay tuned.

Every department needs a publication advisor

Every academic department anywhere should designate one of their members to be Publication Advisor. This will be someone who, with the help of their local librarians and whoever else can be helpful, informs themselves about the current state of scholarly publishing. They will learn about their institution’s Open Access Policy (if it exists; otherwise, they may initiate discussions about putting such a policy in place). They will learn to read publication agreements and spot potential pitfalls. They will make themselves familiar with the practices of the leading journals in their discipline. They will look for discipline-appropriate ways of publishing that will give readers open access to research results.

When a member of the department has a manuscript to submit, they can consult the Publication Advisor in their search for a good venue. Throughout the submission and publication process, they can ask the Publication Advisor for advice.

Some universities have staff members who try to fill that role for the entire university. I think that a more local, embedded approach is needed to make progress on the ground.

This idea was prompted by the latest skirmish in the war between scholars and mercenary publishers: (Nature playing hardball with Duke over Duke’s OA Policy).

Not unrelated: More from Spiegel Online:

Language Science Press

It’s still early days but the open-access revolution in linguistics continues. Stefan Müller and Martin Haspelmath, with seed funding from the German Science Foundation (DFG), have started an open access monograph press in linguistics called Language Science Press. E-books will be free to authors and readers. There will be a print-on-demand option as well. There are several series planned, including one on “Topics at the Grammar-Discourse Interface”, edited by Philippa Cook, Anke Holler and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen. I have enthusiastically agreed to be on the editorial board of this series. You can support the venture in many ways. Sign up at


Here’s an interesting article [HT: Steve Crandall]:

Ciampolini, Mario, David Lovell-Smith, Timothy Kenealy, Riccardo Bianchi: 2013. Hunger can be taught: Hunger Recognition regulates eating and improves energy balance. International Journal of General Medicine. 6:465-478. DOI:

Why do I find this interesting?

  • Any help with weight control is truly welcome.
  • I like seeing Open Access journals that are publishing good stuff.
  • I love that there is a video abstract of the paper.
  • I like the "Resume" at the end of the paper, which has five short subsections:
    • What was already known
    • What had been overlooked
    • What could not be known
    • What the authors’ studies have added
    • Implications

Doing this for many scientific articles wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

S&P acquired by LSA

[Crossposted from S&P Editors Blog]

We are excited to share good news about the future of S&P. We have
been working with the LSA on moving S&P out of its current incubating
stage to the next level with fuller support. This morning, the LSA
Executive Committee unanimously approved an agreement to that effect.

As of today, S&P is a full-fledged LSA journal, alongside Language
but independent of it. The LSA will join MIT and the University of Texas
in providing financial support to the journal. In return, S&P is to
become a journal owned by the LSA and titled “Semantics and Pragmatics”
with the subtitle “A Journal of the Linguistic Society of America”.

The day-to-day operations of the journal will not change. The current
editorial team will stay in place. The policies and procedures,
including the open access nature of the journal, will remain as they
are. Big decisions will be made cooperatively by the LSA Executive
Committee, the editors, and the S&P advisory committee.

Both the LSA and the S&P team are excited about this partnership. Open
access is the future of scholarly communication and we intend to work
together to make S&P the best journal in its field and a model for our
discipline and others.

An S&P underground classic

[Crossposted from the S&P Editors Blog:]

Semantics & Pragmatics today published an underground classic, Craige Roberts’ famous paper "Information structure in discourse: Towards an integrated formal theory of pragmatics", which had previously been published in a volume of OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, and then circulated in a slighly edited manuscript form, but was never officially published. With the help of Anders Schoubye, Chris Brown, and Justin Cope, the old manuscript was transformed into LaTeX and formatted for the S&P stylesheet. Craige wrote a new afterword and prepared an annotated bibliography, which is linked from the afterword. We’re proud to be able to make this classic paper and the supplementary material available in an official publication.

Reissuing underground classics is a worthwhile undertaking, we believe. Some famous examples are David Kaplan’s "Demonstratives" published in Themes from Kaplan, Kripke on presupposition published in Linguistic Inquiry, and in a sense also Grice’s William James Lectures. There was also volume 7 of the series "Syntax and Semantics" entitled "Notes from the linguistic underground" (edited by Jim McCawley in 1976), featuring famous papers such as Karttunen’s "Discourse referents" and gems like "Why you can’t do so into the sink" by Lakoff & Ross. So, we are continuing a respectable tradition.

Question for our audience: which other underground classics in semantics and pragmatics should S&P consider publishing? You can email us, comment on our Facebook page or our Google+ page, tweet (cc’ing @semprag), or leave a comment on our Editors Blog.

Suspicion re Cestagi

I received this email:

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:06:16 +0000
Subject: Curriculum Vitae for Scientists and Researchers
From: Olivia Frogous

Dear Kai Von Fintel,

I would like you to consider Cestagi when updating your curriculum vitae for this upcoming academic year. Cestagi is a web application that allows you to create and manage your CV with ease using academic best practices. Your personalized CV page can be monitored using Google-like visitor analytics and easily exported offline into Word, Latex, or PDF using various templates including NSF and NIH standards.

I encourage you to take some time and learn more about this free service by visiting:

Please recommend Cestagi to your colleagues and friends who you feel would benefit from it.

Best regards,

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology

I know of no “Olivia Frogous” at MIT and a search verified that there is no such person here. A Google search revealed at least one page where another institution was warning about this person (who had identified themselves as being affiliated with that institution in an email). So, appropriately suspicious, I looked at the advertised web service for sharing CVs.

At first glance, it looks legitimate and includes a privacy policy and terms & conditions of use. But there’s no information whatsoever on the site about who is behind the service and where it is run from. The whois information on the domain is deliberately uninformative as well, it just states who their registrar and webhost is.

There is a Quora query about this service with a positive reply from someone calling themselves “Mark Frendrope”, whose only presence on the web appears to be to tout Cestagi in a few places.

At this point, I can only assume that this may well be a fraudulent enterprise, perhaps designed to harvest personal information from those who upload their CVs to it. I would stay away from it at all costs and look for other ways of sharing academic information about yourself ( comes to mind, or just posting your CV on your own webpages).

To repeat, following up on the fraudulent claim in the email signature that “Olivia Frogous” is affiliated with MIT somehow, I have found no evidence that Cestagi is a legitimate service with identifiable people standing behind it.

Update (2012-11-20): After I posted this note, I was immediately contacted by anonymous staff at Cestagi and asked to take the note down. I said I would update it if they gave me relevant information and and if they explained the spam campaign. It took quite a while but the website is now updated and identifies the owner (and sole staff?) of the site as Adrian M. Kopacz, a recent Mechanical Engineering PhD from Northwestern University.

I’m still awaiting an explanation for the spam campaign and the fraudulent affiliation claims by the spammers. By the way, a friend reported getting similar emails: from “Ann Mrego”, purportedly affiliated with Northwestern University, and “Stan Latuga”, “from” UC Berkeley; both institutions my friend has had e-mail accounts with. Google searches did not turn up any results for these people at these institutions. So, it does seem like there was a systematic campaign and I hope it’s not continuing.

Update (2013-01-29): I still have a bad feeling about this operation. Adrian Kopacz emailed me as follows: “I wish for you to remove this content, including my personal information, as it reflects negatively on the branding of Cestagi.” I do not intend to take this down nor to revise its cautionary tone unless and until the spammy character of the enterprise is cleaned up. I fail to see why this individual would not want his personal information to be associated with his own project, unless, of course, the project is not one that he can be proud of.

In the mean time, another MIT affiliate reports receiving an email touting Cestagi, this one from “John Merlocke”, another name that does not turn up anything via Google search, except a shell Google+ profile. So, the spamming campaign from made-up people does seem to be continuing. [I do wonder which fake name generator is being used to make up these names.]

One more update (2013-01-29): Word now that the spam/phishing campaign definitely continues unabated. Researchers at the United States Geological Survey have been receiving identical emails touting Cestagi from someone called “Stacy Ferando” (again a name that yields no Google hits other than a shell Google+ profile).

The template that the campaign currently uses is this:

Dear $X,

I noticed you have an outdated curriculum vitae web page. You should keep it
up-to-date while working at $Y.

You may want to take advantage of Cestagi to create and maintain a curriculum
vitae following academic regulations and best practices:

Please let others know about this free platform. I believe it will be of great
benefit to everyone.

Warm regards,


Needless to say, my correspondents do not have outdated CVs.

Guidelines for writing abstracts

Found via Facebook this morning: Guidelines for writing abstracts, drawn up a while ago by Johan Rooryck and Vincent van Heuven after consultation of the Linguist List. I pretty much agree 100% with these guidelines, but about 200% with this one: “Don’t put your examples on a separate page, even when the abstract guidelines allow you to do so: abstract reviewers hate having to go back and forth between pages”. (This is a corollary of the same principle that banishes endnotes from academic publishing.)