Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology (PTPBio) is a peer-reviewed, open-access, academic journal that aims to publish work from philosophers of science and theoretically-inclined biologists, and to encourage interactions across disciplinary boundaries. Our goal is to foster a broader conception of what it means to reflect on and analyze biological theory and method, both scientifically and philosophically. This, in turn, will benefit both research communities as they engage in ongoing scholarship.
PTPBio uses doubly-anonymous external review to identify excellent scholarship, and then prioritizes providing access to published research. The journal makes its articles available at no cost to the academic community, independent scholars, and the global public. Meanwhile, authors do not pay fees to publish in the journal, and they retain intellectual copyrights for their work. PTPBio applies Creative Commons licenses to every publication, to ease their further circulation through venues like course websites and authors' personal pages.
Published by Michigan Publishing, the publishing arm of University of Michigan Library, PTPBio enjoys the stable, long-term platform offered by the Library, with its commitments to archiving and availability. To avoid charging readers or authors, the journal minimizes costs and meets its obligations to Michigan Publishing through the assistance of several sponsors.
While theoretical biology is often understood to be primarily mathematical in nature, biology is an inherently historical science with a long tradition of conceptual theorizing, from Charles Darwin to the architects of the Modern Synthesis, and continuing to today. Biological disciplines ranging from evolutionary biology to ecology, from cell to developmental biology, and from morphology to paleobiology are characterized by a lively interplay among empirical data, mathematical treatments, and conceptual discussions.
Like theoretical biology, philosophy of biology is characterized by its attention to conceptual issues. Indeed, over the past several decades, it has evolved to include an increasing number of philosophers with a solid background in science, and whose conceptual interests are often intertwined with those of biologists. Yet, philosophers bring distinctive approaches and backgrounds to the examination of problems in biology; in philosophy, the focus tends to be on the logical structure of theoretical constructs, the uses and interpretation of evidence, the ways in which concepts are employed by scientists, and the relationships between empirical and theoretical elements of research programs.
Behind and alongside the theory of biology stands a diverse body of scientific activity including methods, patterns of reasoning, and strategies for applying science. Philosophers of biology have increasingly understood the value of engaging the process of science, and science has benefitted from scientists' self-reflection on their practice. Building on that progress, in 2017 PTPBio expanded on the scope suggested by its previous title, Philosophy and Theory in Biology, to include explicitly the “practice” of biology.
Though practitioners of biology and philosophy of science share interests—together with some colleagues in areas like history of science and science-communication—we think increased scholarly interchange and intellectual cross-pollination is valuable and possible. Therefore, PTPBio explicitly aims at a mixed audience of philosophers of science and biologists, as well as others with aligned interests. We solicit papers that are methodologically diverse, including but not limited to standard philosophy of biology analyses of concepts or research programs and ‘theoretical’ papers by biologists (conceptual, mathematical, methodological, and otherwise). Accordingly, we encourage papers submitted for PTPBio to be written with the ‘other’ audience in mind.
Besides research articles, PTPBio publishes several other kinds of papers: overviews of trends in biological research or philosophy of biology; position papers stating and defending philosophical positions with less context than is typical in research papers; comments on any of the journal's published articles; and in-depth essay reviews of recent books pertinent to biology and philosophy of biology. See the submissions page for details.
PTPBio is edited by a small team of philosophers and biologists, with the support of its Editorial Board. Whenever possible, the editors make the journal's decisions collectively. For manuscript submissions of research articles, trends overviews, and position pieces, the journal draws on advice from external peer reviewers.
Submitted manuscripts judged by the editors to be potentially within the scope of the journal's interests and otherwise suitable for external review are sent to professional colleagues, often in both biology and philosophy. PTPBio's “doubly-anonymous” review process means that the editors communicate neither authors' identities to referees nor referees' identities to authors. The journal asks authors to remove identifying information from submitted manuscripts. (The editors do not, however, prevent referees from intentionally revealing their identities to authors.) Submitted manuscripts judged by the editors not to be within the journal's scope are promptly declined.
Once the editors enlist appropriate volunteer reviewers for a manuscript, reviewers are asked to try to complete reviews within four weeks. Therefore, PTPBio aims to return decisions within six weeks whenever possible (though it is not always possible). Authors seeking updates on the status of their submitted manuscripts are welcome to ask by email. The journal's overall acceptance rate varies; a recent acceptance rate is displayed on the journal's front page.
Ethics and conflicts of interest
The editors of PTPBio work to identify and avoid conflicts of interest wherever they arise in the editorial process.
The journal requires that authors not infringe on others' rights, including but not limited to intellectual property rights and privacy rights. Further, authors should attempt to identify the original sources of ideas they discuss, so that their creators are appropriately recognized.
Volumes 1–8 of PTPBio were published under the title Philosophy and Theory in Biology (P&TB), ISSN 1949-0739. The current title debuted in 2017 with Volume 9.