Editor-in-chief David Wallace announces the launch of open access journal Philosophy of Physics, which aims to be the flagship journal for this hybrid discipline. He discusses the challenges and choices that come with establishing a new publication in this field.
Studied by an international community of researchers drawn from philosophy, physics, and mathematics, philosophy of physics has evolved into a thriving interdisciplinary field. It explores all aspects of the conceptual foundations and wider implications of physics, and in doing so connects to other fields from history of science to cutting-edge physics and from mathematics to metaphysics. But it currently lacks a dedicated journal that can reflect the range and vibrancy of the field.
Launching a new journal for interdisciplinary, innovative research
In launching this new journal, we want to publish the best work in philosophy of physics, whether that work involves rigorous mathematical physics, engagement with conceptual debates inside modern theoretical physics, developing and defending a metaphysical interpretation of existing physics, or exploring the historical development of key ideas in physics. And we want to publish work that is as technical as necessary, but not more technical. We are happy to receive highly formal papers, provided that the formalism serves a philosophical purpose; we are happy to receive papers with no equations at all, if their arguments are better made without mathematics and rest on a clear understanding of any relevant physics. There are many ways to do excellent work in our field; we want to publish the best work, across all those different ways, and in doing so we hope to strengthen and widen the bridges between the various parts of our community.
That said, Philosophy of Physics is not a journal of pure physics, or mathematics, or history. We will not be publishing proposals for entirely new physical theories (however philosophically interesting they would be if true!), or theorems of mathematical but not philosophical interest, or purely historical accounts of a theory’s development shorn of conceptual analysis.
Designing a hybrid, open and fair assessment process
The disciplines of physics and philosophy have somewhat-different norms for review and assessment. In designing a reviewing process that draws from both, there is a tradeoff between the advantages of double-anonymised review and the benefits (to authors as well as the wider community) of quick dissemination of work. Therefore, and as is usual in philosophy, submissions to Philosophy of Physics should be anonymised save in exceptional circumstances, and referees will be asked not to attempt to discover the author(s) of a paper. That said, we are also entirely happy for authors to submit papers which have already been placed on arxiv.org, philsci-archive, or similar online archives for early preprint (not-yet-reviewed) versions of papers, which is common practice in much science publishing. We will leave it to individual authors to decide what is best for them. (Similarly, we will be asking referees to make a judgement as to whether they have any conflict that prevents them refereeing a paper fairly, and not simply to recuse if they suspect they know the author.)
We will also be inviting authors to submit three (or more) names of experts who they think would be good choices of referees (not to include colleagues, students, or mentors) – this is unusual in philosophy but very standard in physics. We will not always choose a referee from that list, and in any case will always choose at least one referee independently, but we hope that it will make it easier to identify referees with appropriate expertise.
We aim to turn papers around quickly – we recognise that authors can be harmed badly by slow turnaround times and that good assessment delayed is good assessment denied. Since the journal is new we can’t give a strict estimate but we aspire to the six- to eight-week target turnaround times of other top philosophy of science journals.
The other key goal for Philosophy of Physics is accessibility. We publish on an open access model, which in short means that all our published articles are online and free to download (rather than hidden behind a paywall) and protected by a Creative Commons copyright licence. This ensures everything we publish is accessible to a broader international community of readers than would be possible through traditional publishing.
Publishing all our articles open access is not free. It is made possible through the generous support of the LSE Press, through our sponsors and charitable donors, and through the membership fees of the professional society that owns and manages the journal, the Philosophy of Physics Society.
Submission to the journal will normally require membership of the Philosophy of Physics society. Membership fees are priced in tiers to be as accessible as possible, to all members of the community (starting at zero cost for graduate students and the unwaged). Philosophy of Physics does not intend to turn away any submission based on an author’s inability to pay and will also accept submissions from authors who attest that they are unable to afford society membership.
The inaugural board of Philosophy of Physics is:
Editor-in-Chief: David Wallace
Associate Editors: Katherine Brading, Hans Halvorson
Editorial Board: Valia Allori, Robert Batterman, Gordon Belot, Jeremy Butterfield, Sean Carroll, Elena Castellani, Doreen Fraser, Stephan Hartmann, Jenann Ismael, Eleanor Knox, James Ladyman, Dennis Lehmkuhl, Matthew Leifer, Chuang Liu, Olimpia Lombardi, Kerry McKenzie, Wayne Myrvold, Alyssa Ney, John Norton, Carlo Rovelli, Laura Ruetsche, Simon Saunders, Orly Shenker, James Weatherall, Charlotte Werndl, Alastair Wilson, Christian Wuthrich.
Wanted to ask if you are planning to publish book reviews in the new Philosophy of Physics journal.