How many referee reports do you do?

per month?

per year?

Do you ever get paid for any of them?

Do you ever refuse any?  How do you decide what to refuse?

#1 has found that she’s getting more and more all the time.  One of her senior mentors has told her she needs to start saying no to the ones from journals she’s never heard of.  So she’s done that once so far.  She did say yes to a recent journal she’s never heard of, but only because the editor is someone she has heard of, and in her field it’s good to do favors for people.  #1 does probably ~20 referee reports per year, including grants, and that’s probably too much.  One journal pays $100/report.  Grants and books pay $100 to $500 per report, or sometimes just a free copy of the book.

18 Responses to “How many referee reports do you do?”

  1. CG Says:

    I did around 12 last year, which I’m told is more than average in our department, and I’ve done five already this year. I’m on the editorial board of a journal, so I have to do more for them, but I actually really enjoy writing reviews and don’t mind doing a lot. Also, a lot of the papers I get cite my work, so I view it as partly a benefit to me because if the paper eventually gets published my citations go up. I don’t say no very often, although I may have to do that more if the number of requests keeps increasing. I have said no when I thought the paper topic sounded dumb and when I thought it was far enough removed from my expertise that I wouldn’t have much useful to say. I also very occasionally say no if I’ve just had a cluster of requests and I need a break, but that’s rare.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Whenever I get the cluster requests it always seems like they come in exactly the wrong order for me to be able to say no—the ones I could say no to come first followed by ones I shouldn’t.

      My faculty review this year noted that I had refereed for most of the prominent journals in my field this past year and that is absolutely true.

  2. hypatia cade Says:

    I like doing reviews (of all the service I do, this is the service I enjoy the most). I do about 1-3 journal reviews per month (they tend to come in lumps). I say no if I have too many reviews (or other things) already pending and can’t get to it. Journals never pay. My field is not a book field so that’s not a request i get. I say yes to all requests to review grants – it’s good to know what people are wanting to do. They sometimes pay and sometimes don’t. They are WAY more time consuming than journal reviews though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do like feeling like I can help shape a field and when I get papers for lower tier journals that just need some additional changes to be made into truly good papers that makes me feel good about myself… but I also get irritated at some of the crap that famous (white male) people send to top journals that would get desk rejected if I tried to do that… and sometimes it gets published anyway. It is not fair. Basically, I like it when I get good papers for top journals and I like it when I get fixable papers for lower tier journals, but I hate getting crap papers when the authors are just being lazy (or worse, dishonest– I recently reviewed a paper from a famous dude in which the results in the tables did not match the story at *all* and only one other referee of 4 noted that in hir review– thankfully the paper was rejected) because the profession allows them to do that.

  3. Steph Says:

    Do you count each grant you read as primary/secondary as a review, or just 1x for serving on the panel? I would like to do more grant reviews, but I’ve realized that I need to dedicate more time than some of my colleagues to critically consider a proposal, so I’m aiming for 1 panel every year or two. I’m at the stage where grant review is also helpful career-wise, because I get to see how the reviews go before I submit a proposal.

    I do 1-2 paper reviews per year, and publish ~1 paper per year so I feel like that works out. I get annoyed with folks I know who publish 3-5 papers per year but review at most 1/year – at least provide your colleagues with the same service they provide you, rather than publishing an extra paper while they use their time to review yours. (None of our journals pay reviewers; I would probably review more if they did! But we don’t do Elsevier and most of our papers are posted publicly, so it doesn’t completely feel like service to a corporation. Only a little…)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I haven’t done any reviewing for the NIH (even though I volunteered when I was on leave and we’re constantly getting reminded to say yes to being on NIH panels since they fund so much research), and the NSF has cut way down on panels in favor of single evaluations. So I’m mostly doing one-offs for the NSF (the exception being a three day panel that I’m not allowed to tell you I was on but let’s just say it wasn’t directly funding specific research projects although a component included evaluating potential research projects that will probably never actually happen) and smaller granting agencies across a number of different funding mechanisms a few months apart. So, they each count as 1. But if I were on an NIH panel I’d count each proposal separately! They are a lot of work just to read through! Especially when people mess with the @#@#43ing kerning. (Don’t do that! Find other ways to save space.)

      Most years I do way more reviewing than I have papers of mine reviewed. I try to mentally set a cutoff to not review for any place I wouldn’t submit a paper to, but I can’t say no when the editor is someone I know because I know what it’s like to be that editor who is trying to find people to do reviews.

      I’ve also noticed that the variety of journals I’ve reviewed for is way bigger than a lot of people in my field. Like, it takes a much larger portion of my cv just listing out all the places I’ve reviewed. I think some of that is because I do some interdisciplinary work so I’ve reviewed for journals outside of my specific social science.

  4. xykademiqz Says:

    I used to do too many, and still do. I am also associate editor for a specialty journal, so that carries additional review.
    Things I don’t say no to:
    1) Grant reviews for federal agencies that already give me money (I did six in May, half of them large centers grants, that took a ton of time). Some of these pay.
    2) Grant reviews for federal agency programs that could potentially give me money in the near future. If I cannot envision them funding me, I don’t. I used to review every grants I was asked to review, but not any more. I also reviewed grants considered by foreign agencies, but now do so only if I know and like the PI.
    3) Papers published by main society of affiliation. I feel that’s my home and should be kept in good order
    4) Papers that I find really interesting topically or technically, irrespective of journal
    5) Papers by colleagues whose work I like and respect, irrespective of journal
    6) Papers in high-profile journals, especially if handled by editors who might handle my work in the near future

    Other than this, I say no outright. This means no to most journals to which I would generally not consider submitting.

    Even so, I probably review 2-4 every month.

  5. Lisa Says:

    I have started saying no to manuscript review requests a lot more often than I used to (for example, in 2018 I reviewed 2 manuscripts but in 2013 I did 16). I need to start saying no to grant review panels more often, but I find that more difficult. In the past year, I reviewed for a prestigious postdoc foundation award, finished my stint as a regular NIH study section member and agreed to serve as an ad hoc member of a different NIH study section. I’m kicking myself for that last decision now, as I’m buried in proposals to review and have a proposal of my own that needs to go out on the same day as the review panel! I find it hard to say no to NIH/NSF program officers, though, especially when I’ve recently been funded or hope to soon be funded through their program.

    All of my reviewing is unpaid, unless you count the small per diem that federal agencies give for travel to panels.

    One thing I’m noticing a lot more now that I’m senior (or maybe just more cynical) is that I seem to often be asked to review or serve on committees because they need a woman on the panel. While I 100% agree that diversity on panels is important, I’m realizing that I don’t always have to be that diversity and am trying to make “NO” my new favorite word unless I really want to contribute to that particular activity.

  6. Mimi Says:

    In poli sci, so slightly different, but my rule is that I try to review 3x the number of articles that I submit in a year to balance out the amount that I draw from the discipline. I’ve started saying no to journals that I’d never consider publishing in, but do have an interest in reading new work and reviewing forces you to do that! We don’t get paid for articles, but do for books (usually $50-100 in cash or x2 in books from the press).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That seems like a good rule, but I find myself violating it. I usually send out one or two a year but review a lot more than 6(!)

      I’m also a little concerned… my previous stint as an editor was for a top field journal so it was easier to get people to say yes to reviewing. My latest assignment is for a second tier field journal (that I’ve never published in and am unlikely to publish in unless it’s joint work with a student, though it does have a surprisingly high h-index) and I know it is going to be a lot harder to get reviewers. I will also feel less like I’m doing a good deed when I ask a senior graduate student or new assistant professor to review because it won’t look quite so prestigious on their cvs. It’s hard balancing protecting myself against feeling sorry for people in my position.

  7. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    5calls finally has a script for some of the horrible abuses coming out of ICE, including hurting children. https://5calls.org/issue/immigrant-detention-ice

    Indivisible has a related script about defunding hate. https://act.indivisible.org/call/defund-hate/

  8. Fiona McQuarrie Says:

    I get about one a month. I’m on an editorial board so I will always say yes to those. For others, it depends how much else I have going on. I also look at the abstract to see how clearly written it is. If it’s poorly written then I know I will have to spend much more time on the review, so if I’m busy that may be enough for me to say no. I also say no if it’s something that’s too far out of my areas of expertise.


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