03 September 2010

Peer review pariah

The Scholarly Kitchen discussed how much time and effort go into peer review.

I wanted to get a feel for how burdensome peer-review is in my field, biology. In a thoroughly non-scientific study, I asked a dozen biology professors about their peer-review burden, trying to get a good cross section of people at different stages of their careers and at different types of institutions. The vast majority told me they review around 1-3 papers each month.

That’s a wide range, but I was still a little surprised. I checked the amount of reviewing I had done since starting my current gig, and included both journal articles and federal grant proposals that I had reviewed. I didn’t include textbook chapters I’ve reviewed, since I am asked to do those by publishers rather than fellow scientists.

That little line underneath the “average” is the number I’ve reviewed. I can’t remember refusing to do a review, so it’s not as though I’m being selective. I did decline to reviewing a revision, but just once.

I suppose many would consider me lucky that I have such a light reviewing load. But I am am having a bit of Rudolph syndrome, wondering why I’m not getting asked to join in the reindeer games.

I wonder if the amount that people are asked to review varies systematically. Do faculty at some institutions get asked more than others? Does the average load vary across disciplines? Is anyone trying to compile a dataset on this?

1 comment:

Monotreme said...

My first response is that they must be mis-remembering.

It should be possible to roughly calculate the "average" reviewing load by taking the number of papers in the field, multiplying by 2.5 or 3, and then dividing by the number of scientists in the field.

My suspicion is that the actual outcome would be very lumpy and not smooth at all. I think there are those that get dozens of papers a month (particularly those who sit on editorial boards) while others get practically nothing.

I can check my CV for data, but I think my counts, when I was active, were similar to yours.