Should peer reviewers be paid? — R Voice

Should peer reviewers be paid?

chris leonard
chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 145 admin

Great discussion here in Science about whether peer reviewers should be compensated for their time and rewarded for timely, in-depth reviews. FWIW, I agree that they should, but $450 is way too much to be sustainable.


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  • Mdumiseni Mazula
    Mdumiseni Mazula Member Posts: 63 ✭✭✭

    Thank you Mr Chris Leonard so Mr Chris Leonard I have a question, Is there any fees that we can prepare to pay as author for a peer review?

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    Ideally, yes. I believe people should be compensated appropriately for their work. End of.

    BUT, do I think that. it is possible in the way that academia is set up? That I'm not so sure about. Like you say, $450 is a lot and if this were the case I feel that submission/processing costs would probably go up too. It's a difficult one because I don't see how it can change without a knock-on effect on the accessibility of publication, which would (IMO) emphasise and reinforce a gap between those that can afford fees and those who can not. The cynical side of me also wonders about the unethical practices that may result from being paid. I would like to see appropriate remuneration for work, but I think it needs to be done carefully (but I have no idea how that would work...I'm just being opinionated!)

  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 145 admin

    @Mdumiseni Mazula There has long been talk of submission fees for authors to cover the cost of peer review, but if the paper is rejected, those costs are lost. So while it sounds sensible, no journal has any incentive to implement this as authors will go to other journals where this is no submission fee.

    However, this is about reviewers being paid, which is a different topic - but one which COULD affect publication charges or subscription fees. @Shruti Turner - you're right. But.... most publishing companies have enormous profit margins which could accommodate $100 for return of a decent report within 10 days.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 21

    @chris leonard - interesting discussion and article. The article discusses the issue pretty well from various view points. The issues rightly raised by @Shruti Turner about cost and ethics are also dealt with pretty well in the article.

    Personally, I dont want to paid for peer-review (IMO, money - besides other things - is the root cause of all evil...😂..no seriously...).

    The more practical reason is -> payment could exclude many researchers from peer-reviewing. There are strict rules in Industry, national institutes, etc. on getting any side-money, to weed out any potential conflicts of interest (legally). So, payment of large amounts (450 USD for a single paper is huge money) will complicate what was already a bit of a mess (that is peer-review as a system) with infinitely more paperwork, more permissions, red-tape and potentially lead to more exclusion.

    Also - its not easy to define the quality of peer-review, what qualifies payment, contract renewal, etc. And just the editor (or even an editorial board) judging the quality of peer-review is anyway an impossible task and may not be well-done with the volumes published. Sometimes, depending on the paper, there is nothing in a peer-review that could warrant a 450 USD payment. A paper might be THAT good or THAT bad.

    I am happy with my review work recognized at Publons and ORCID. Some open access journals provide small discounts (100 euros) or a reward to publish a paper with no cost in return for peer-review services. I think that model of reward is sufficient. Also, my peer-review services goes into my career-review at my institution every year (if I pass the yearly multilevel interviews on what I did in a year, I get a formal bonus...from my institution, peer-review is a part of the many criteria...).

    Basically, I am in the 45 % category referred in the article.

    A 2018 Publons survey found that only 17% of respondents selected cash or in-kind payment as something that would make them more likely to accept review requests. [The top priority, selected by 45%, was more explicit recognition of the reviewing work from universities or employer.]

    In addition to rewards for reviewers, I am all for OPEN review...that is publishing the entire peer-review process (with or without anonymity of the peer-reviewers) - all referee comments and responses - for readers to peruse. THAT is an easy first step if improving the quality of peer-review is one of the goals - rather than just by rewards (especially payment).

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @chris leonard : The profit margin of publishing houses - essentially free-riding on the content basically created by researchers - that is a shame and a totally different topic. But paying reviewers will not solve this, because publishing houses will come up with new strategies to increase their profits, they are for-profit businesses and that is what businesses do.

  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 145 admin

    publishing houses will come up with new strategies to increase their profits

    Oh, I am aware of this. I have worked for them in the past!

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    I am on the same page as you about the massive profit margins, @chris leonard @Raj sundaram , I think. They do have the ability to change the system, but my cynical mind is doubting that they ever will. Really, they hold the power in the publishing relationship, we're all going to keep reviewing for free and paying to publish because it's is the done things/needed. There is so much good that good be done if the businesses with high profit margins shared that (both in and out of academia) - I would love to see it happen.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    @Raj sundaram - I find your take on being paid as a reviewer really interesting. I am at the very early stages of my research career and I feel like I would like the opportunity to review papers (even without being paid) because it would be a big learning experience for me. Perhaps, this is because of my early stage and I'm definitely not as busy/have fewer responsibilities compared to those higher up the ranks/who have been around for longer.

    I too think an open review system would come with benefits. I feel it would stop/shine line on those reviewers who e.g. insist on the inclusion of their own papers in the references and other potentially questionable behaviours. I'm not sure how I'd feel about the responses to reviewers/or shining a light on the silly things I've done in drafts..but overall I think it would make the process more transparent and improve both my drafts and the reviewing process.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @Shruti Turner

    Getting involved in peer review...yes, it's good for early career researchers as well as those above the ladder. Because we learn and practice a lot as reviewers. Forces us to be up-to-date with literature, knowledge gaps...if we've been slacking, which happens a lot as people climb the ladder with more responsibilities. Also, polishes our own paper writing skills...we understand various viewpoints and styles of writing, the merits and demerits - our own skills get better in the process. Plus great practice for critical thinking skills and writing a critique but maintaining decorum and respect. The ability to communicate ideas, work together to create a better piece of work communicated in a better way is also a major plus. And the best is...getting new ideas. Yes, we get ideas when reading literature...but it gets better as a peer reviewer, because we have to critically assess the paper and think deeply. That's where ideas happen.

    Also becoming a reviewer no longer is as difficult as it used to be. For early career researchers....easy to sign up with journals that one would like to review for. Before, one would need to rise in the career ladder and have a network, personally know editors (usually other researchers) to become a reviewer, etc. Now it's much easier to kick start being a reviewer.

    Open review - I think being open about the silly things we've done reduces the taboo around doing silly things. Overall, it's helpful for everyone on the community...I feel. Some of my papers are open reviewed. People do appreciate how the reviewers have commented and how the comments have been answered, more information than what's available in the paper is included...questions that come to mind while reading a paper are sorted. In general, the transparency is quite helpful. 🙂

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    I don't mind for profit businesses, if they are actually selling a service but...what the publishing industry does now is mostly a scam.

    Publishing companies used to hold real power...for real reasons in the printed era. Before online publishing became a thing....publishing companies played a major role. Typesetting, proof reading, printing...all major tasks. But now, with digitisation and the internet...those tasks are gone.

    And then, solely I think...as a business strategy...journal rankings, impact factors, citation metrics made their advent.

    The power publishing companies hold is entirely phoney. Academics write, we vet the content as reviewers for free, the proof readers are meagerly paid, and the publishing houses are paid to publish our content. The power imbalance is because we researchers and academics and universities and other institutions (including funding bodies) are enabling this unhealthy for-profit behaviour of publishing companies by giving away our own power, perpetuating vicious cycles (by making hiring/funding practices excessively dependent on metrics - number of publications and/or impact factors). The solution is to come up with alternative publishing practices born in and curated by academic communities themselves on a non-profit basis.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    As always, it's so interesting to hear your thoughts, @Raj sundaram . I have never had the opportunity to peer review, I didn't realise how simple it could be. I always tick the box when I sign up to journal offering to peer review, but I guess because I have minimial publications (because they are stuck in review processes annoyingly) so far I'm not a favourite to be picked? I'll have to do a more dedicated search I think to make more of an effort to do this.

    I think that you're probably right about showing how human we are in open reviews. I've never been aprt of one of these, it doesn't seem common in all fields. I think I have seen one journal that does this which is partially relevant to my field. The rest are all double blind.

  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 342 ✭✭✭✭

    I agree with a lot of this. I just couldn't bring myself to "like" or "awesome" it because I don't like it, and I think it would be good to see change. I do appreciate your points though.