Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quantifying the Volunteer Effort of Scientific Peer Reviewing

After a two-year study of reviewers of Monthly Weather Review, my co-author David M. Schultz and I published the results as an article entitled "Quantifying the Volunteer Effort of Scientific Peer Reviewing" in the March 2012 issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.  The dollar value of the voluntary contributions of scientists who serve as reviewers is considerable.  Although many of them are employed by institutions that encourage them to review others' work and they benefit from the knowledge and experience they acquire by doing so, much of the effort is completed by taking away from family and social time. During the ten years I coordinated the review process for MWR, I worked with hundreds of reviewers.  Rarely was any one of them anything but courteous and sincerely dedicated to improving the communication of science.

Here is the abstract:

"A survey of 310 reviewers for Monthly Weather Review addresses how much time and effort goes into the peer-review process and provides insight into how reviewers function. Using these data, the individual and collective contributions of volunteer peer reviewers to the peer-review process can be determined. Individually, respondents to the survey review an average of 2 manuscripts a year for Monthly Weather Review, 4 manuscripts a year for AMS journals, and 8 manuscripts a year in total, although some review more than 20 manuscripts a year. Each review takes an average of 9.6 h. Summing the individual contributions of the reviewers, respondents averaged 18 h yr−1 performing reviews for Monthly Weather Review, 36 h yr−1 for AMS journals, and 63 h yr−1 for all journals. The collective time that all of the reviewers put into the peer-review process for all manuscripts submitted to Monthly Weather Review for each year amounts to 362,179 h, or more than 4 years of voluntary labor valued at over $2.34 million. Nearly all respondents (95%) are comfortable with their current load, but only 30% said that they would be willing to perform more reviews. Because the number of submissions to journals has been increasing over time and is unlikely to decrease in the near future, this burden is anticipated to grow. Options for reducing the burden include using fewer reviewers per manuscript, increasing the number of unilateral decisions made by editors, and increasing the size of the reviewer pool (particularly from active retired and early-career scientists)."

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