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Scholarly publishing is based on many peer review benefits. Academic peer review is one of the pillars of academic publishing. Yet, it also has its drawbacks. Since there are not many other viable options for quality control in academic publishing and peer-reviewed journals remain essential, it’s important to identify potential loopholes and try to get better at everything.
Academic publishers obviously need reviewers who are qualified and able to give insightful comments on a manuscript. The issue is that most reviewers do this as an unpaid hobby and often outside regular working hours. They spend their free time reading, analyzing, and providing feedback on manuscripts because they have a personal interest in the topic and want to support their colleagues.
However, as more papers are published every year, the demand for and pressure on reviewers has increased substantially. At the same time, academic publishing has never been as profitable as today. Thus, it is time for academic publishers to start paying reviewers for their work. Here’s why peer review benefits from financially compensating reviewers.
Peer review is a time-consuming task.
The core job of peer reviewers is to check whether a manuscript meets the scientific standards expected in academic publishing. Reviewers evaluate the manuscript based on different criteria: Is the topic interesting? Does the paper contain new findings? Does it meet the quality standards? Is it in line with the principles of open science? The review process itself is quite complicated. The peer review benefits from and depends on a high level of competence and thorough work by the reviewers:
- Peer reviewers need to understand the topic very well to recognize whether the paper has a sound methodology and whether it meets the expected standards in data analysis and interpretation.
- They have to ensure that the paper is correctly formatted and uses the terminology accurately.
- Reviewers must ensure that the manuscript is clearly written and understandable for the intended audience.
- They must be critical in their comments on the manuscript without being overly negative or rude.
- They must read the manuscript and any supplementary material thoroughly to ensure they don’t miss any relevant information.
- They have to put aside a large amount of time for reading the manuscript and providing feedback.
Why peer review benefits from paying reviewers for their work
Most peer reviewers participate in the peer review process out of a sense of duty. Yet, it would be both unfair and irrational to expect reviewers to spend their free time reading, evaluating, and editing manuscripts for free, especially given that a multi-billion publishing industry profits from it. Besides, peer review benefits from paying reviewers in various ways:
- Reviewers are more likely to feel that their work is appreciated. They are, therefore, more likely to take the task seriously and provide valuable feedback if they get paid for their work. This should lead to overall higher quality of reviews.
- Reviewers are more likely to complete the task if they get paid for it. This is important because many journals often have to wait months for a review request to be completed.
- Experts are often extremely busy and more likely to accept review tasks when they feel their work is appropriately valued. This makes it easier to find reviewers with specialized expertise in the field of a given paper.
One peer review benefit of paying reviewers is increased diversity and social equality
Reviewers who get paid for their work are less likely to decline the invitation to review a manuscript. This should also result in a more diverse group of reviewers. There are specific groups of people who are less likely to review papers now but might consider doing so if there’s a financial incentive. These include those who feel that the current academic publishing model is inherently unfair. They also include academics with low salaries or part-time jobs and scholars from less privileged parts of the world than the West. Getting paid for a review can make an economic difference for these scholars.
Peer review is one of the most important aspects of academic publishing. However, it also comes with its disadvantages. Among the most pressing challenges are finding enough reviewers and ensuring they take their tasks seriously. If academic publishers want to address these issues, they need to find a way to make reviewing more attractive to potential reviewers.
One obvious way to do this is by paying reviewers for their work. This is likely to lead to more constructive feedback and a faster review process overall and to contribute to social equality. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why academic publishers should pay reviewers for their work. Now it’s up to the industry to act on this information and improve the review process for everyone.
Advances.in in pays editors and reviewers for their work
For all our journals, we pay editors and reviewers for their work. You can learn more about how this works here. If you want to contribute to a more fair and sustainable academic publishing model, you can consider reviewer for one of our journal or submitting your research to it.