Valuable refereeing

The work of reviewers is essential for the peer-reviewing system, but is sometimes somewhat underestimated. It takes time, no matter how well written a paper is. And we receive more and more papers to review each time (e.g. this year I received ca. 40 manuscripts, not counting revisions). There are who call for payments, given that it takes up valuable time, which could have been spent on research, education, or (most likely) free time with the family.

One possible way of achieving this would be through a discount on journal rates. Being a computational chemistry software developer gives also discount on these programs, so applying the same reasoning would make sense. The question would be how to do this. Peer reviewing is anonymous (and should be so), so only the reviewer and the editor (journal) know about it. Of course, the journals themselves should be able to produce a list of numbers at the end of the year, indicating that e.g. Univ. of Girona (UdG) has provided 100 referee reports for 2011. This could then be used to generate a discount for the UdG on the price for that journal.
But I see a number of problems:
1) much depends on the journals, with few controlling mechanisms for the universities
2) should the reports be weighted according to the impact factor of the journal?
3) most importantly, in the end it won't matter.

The reason for point 3 is that the scientific journals are mainly bought by universities (I think), e.g. by the same researchers that act as reviewer. Therefore, in the end the journals may give e.g. a 50% discount. BUT, the costs of printing the journals remains the same, and which has to be paid (mainly) by the same universities, and therefore the baseline rate will simply go up. In the fictitious example of a 50% discount, the baseline rate would go up by a factor 2, over which a 50% discount would simply give the same costs as before. Therefore, this system would probably not matter very much.

An alternative would be to pay the reviewers for their time, but this would be an enormous hassle, from which probably the banks would benefit mainly (and the scientific journals themselves, who would have to hire extra administrative personnel, whose costs would have to be fitted into the journal charges). The only viable solution I see is that the journals give the reviewers credits, with which the reviewers can buy scientific journals etc. Given that several journal publishers have in house book departments, this would be simple and straightforward to implement.


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