Piled high and deeper
By Michael Banks
I have only ever reviewed a couple of manuscripts in what was my brief career as a research scientist.
I remember finding it quite exciting at first, as well as being honoured to be selected by a publishing house to be able to review articles submitted by my peers for publication.
However, being a busy researcher, running experiments and writing papers, by the time the third e-mail reminder landed in my inbox asking me to finish the review as quickly as possible, I could see how researchers get fed up of reviewing articles, sometimes as many as 20 per year.
Peer review, of course, has a serious and important role in science. Still, I was rather surprised to see that 86% of respondents to a new survey on peer-review practises say they actually enjoy reviewing.
Over 4000 researchers responded to a survey carried out by Sense About Science – a UK-based charity that promotes the public understanding of science.
In what is the largest international survey of authors and reviewers to date, Sense About Science has now released its preliminary findings from the 2009 survey.
Although the survey does not seem to reveal how many papers a researcher reviews per year, it does find that, on average, reviewers turn down two papers every year.
According to the survey, the biggest benefit of peer review is that it makes researchers feel like part of the community, with 90% of respondents saying this is why they do it. Only 16%, however, say that reviewing increases their chances of having future papers accepted.
There is the argument that due to the “publish or perish” ethos in science, there are not enough researchers to peer review the increasing number of articles being submitted to journals.
However, according to the survey only 20% of respondents thought that peer review is unsustainable because of too few willing reviewers.
There is also the tricky question whether peer review stops plagiarism and fraud. While 81% say that peer review should detect plagiarism and 79% say that it should prevent fraud, only around 35% say it is capable of doing both.
And lastly, 41% of researchers say they would like to be paid to peer review, but not at the cost of the author. More than half of respondents thought that a payment in kind such as a subscriptions would make the more likely to review.