Publishing costs: Peer review as a business transaction

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
517,
Page:
145
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/517145a
Published online

I receive 300 requests a year to review research papers. Each takes 3–4 hours to complete, equivalent to roughly 1–2 days per week if I did them all. Should I win 'reviewer of the year' award, however, I suspect my colleagues would see my efforts as a foolish waste of time.

Reviewers are crucial to the success of prestigious and profitable journals, traditionally receiving no monetary or other recognition. As journals proliferate and scientists get ever busier, our appetite for reviewing wanes (see, for example, M. Arns Nature 515, 467; 2014). One way to revive this activity would be to consider it a business transaction — with modest remuneration of, say, US$50 per hour (see also S. Ott and D. Hebenstreit Nature 506, 295; 2014).

Publishing in an open-access journal costs around $1,000–$2,000, so paying $200 to a reviewer does not seem excessive. The authors and the journal could split the cost equally.

Prospective reviewers would be more inclined to do a speedy and thorough job. Retired scientists with extensive expertise and plenty of free time would be keen to participate. Editors would be spared the hunt for willing referees.

We could then use our reviewing fees to buy back some pleasure — I might go for a billiards table, a pinball machine or even a fancy treadmill.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Mount Sinai Hospital and University Health Network, Toronto; and University of Toronto, Canada.

    • Eleftherios P. Diamandis

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

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Comments

  1. Report this comment #64919

    Miguel Reyes-Mugica said:

    After fifteen years of being Editor in Chief for a subspecialty (and consequently small) journal, i agree with the stated difficulty to get reviewers. Only a few loyal members of the Editorial Board, or colleagues with indefatigable academic interests, accept my invitation and perform timely and quality reviews. The incentive of a small fee for reviews may be interesting. However, Universities and academic centers have strict Conflict of Interest regulations that may block the implementation of such approach.
    Miguel Reyes-Múgica, MD

  2. Report this comment #64921

    Miguel Reyes-Mugica said:

    After fifteen years of being Editor in Chief for a subspecialty (and consequently small) journal, i agree with the stated difficulty to get reviewers. Only a few loyal members of the Editorial Board, or colleagues with indefatigable academic interests, accept my invitation and perform timely and quality reviews. The incentive of a small fee for reviews may be interesting. However, Universities and academic centers have strict Conflict of Interest regulations that may block the implementation of such approach.

  3. Report this comment #64923

    Wayne Thogmartin said:

    Incentivizing peer review participation is reasonable, however, paying reviewers to conduct reviews might leave a large cadre of professional scientists sitting on the sidelines. For instance, as a scientist for a federal government science bureau, I would not be allowed to supplement my income in this manner. In the past, I've had extramural remuneration that was supposed to go to me donated by the provider (not by me) to charitable organizations. If it was a charity of my choice, I might find that even more appealing than an extra couple hundred dollars. I am intrigued by the idea of reviewing while in retirement, but here I'd worry that I might not have the resources (e.g., the published literature sitting behind a paywall) to follow up on areas of uncertainty in a topic.

  4. Report this comment #64997

    Web Admin said:

    Posted on behalf of Peiyue Li Ph.D., School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Chang'an University

    Rewardful peer review as suggested by Diamandis may inspire some reviewers to review more papers for journals. This mode, however, is not the most attractive way of inspiring potential young reviewers to participate in the review process.
    Publishing in open access generates more papers than before, thus bringing out more review requests (Arns M. Nature, 515, 467, 2014). The number of authors, however, is also increasing. I believe if all the authors, not only the corresponding authors, are added to the perspective reviewer database, it will be helpful, to some degree, in solving the problem of lacking qualified reviewers. I suggest that journals require each author provide email and expertise in the manus cript submission system while submitting their manus cripts so that the editorial team can add their names into the database.
    Actually, I believe many reviewers, like many of my colleagues and me, see the opportunity of receiving review requests as an honor and accepting it as a responsibility. I received nearly 100 volunteer peer review requests for international journals last year, averagely 8 requests per month. I accepted them all except some beyond my expertise. A ?thank you? email sent by Editor in Chief manually to acknowledge the work, instead of money, makes me happy.
    Establishing rewards for best reviewers by journal or publisher is also an incentive way (See Nature, 514, 274, 2014). Elsevier is now providing digital certificates to reviewers who have finished timely and quality review. This is a good idea, in my opinion, to acknowledge the commitment of reviewers. The idea of recording peer-review service in a researcher?s ORCID or ResearcherID (see Nature, 514, 274, 2014) is also fantastic. I believe that money can solve a lot of problems, but it cannot solve everything.

  5. Report this comment #65143

    M. Teresa Galán-Puchades said:

    Not wanting to be 'Schrödingernian' (see Schrödinger's cat theory in A. Einstein _et al. _ Phys Rev 47; 1935), but I disagree and agree with Prof Diamandis about being paid for reviewing scientific papers (E.P. Diamandis ¬ _Nature _ 517 145; 2015). He claims to receive 300 requests a year, which probably is a consequence of being, I assume, a voluntary member of 45 Journal Advisory Scientific and Editorial Boards (see http: ?//lmp.utoronto.ca/research/faculty-research-database/diamandis-eleftherios?).
    I disagree because to me the 'Publishing Avenue' is not a one-way but a two-way street. I mean, he has spent many hours reviewing articles, but many other scientists have also spent many hours reviewing his almost 700 scientific contributions (see again the aforementioned website). Reviewers certainly do a job, but they also give jobs to others, so it could be considered a kind of payback.
    However, I also agree with Prof Diamandis about being paid for reviewing articles. Money smiles, yet, I honestly doubt that prestigious and well-established scientists are stimulated to do a more efficiently reviewing process for such a modest remuneration. In addition, reviewers will also have to pay for the revision of their own articles.
    I dare suggest those scientists with so many papers to review that, in case they were paid, instead of spending the money on a pinball machine or a treadmill (Prof Diamandis? amusing ideas), could (if possible) bestow the fee on an appropriate member of their teams who could assist them in the reviewing process working in tandem. Their supervision and final approval of the review would be considerably less time-consuming. In addition, it might contribute to the enlargement of the spectrum of reviewers, thus preventing the concentration of articles in the hands of certain researchers.

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