The amount and value of researchers’ peer review work is critical for academia and journal publishing. However, this labor is under-recognized, its magnitude is unknown, and alternative ways of organizing peer review labor are rarely considered.
The recent discussions about the obscene profits made by the journals that lock articles behind paywalls, estimates of what it costs to publish papers and the amount of time/money that is being donated by peer reviewers raise an important question? Is it time to start paying reviewers? We have included links to 11 related items.
Using publicly available data, we provide an estimate of researchers’ time and the salary-based contribution to the journal peer review system.
We found that the total time reviewers globally worked on peer reviews was over 100 million hours in 2020, equivalent to over 15 thousand years. The estimated monetary value of the time US-based reviewers spent on reviews was over 1.5 billion USD in 2020. For China-based reviewers, the estimate is over 600 million USD, and for UK-based, close to 400 million USD.
By design, our results are very likely to be under-estimates as they reflect only a portion of the total number of journals worldwide. The numbers highlight the enormous amount of work and time that researchers provide to the publication system, and the importance of considering alternative ways of structuring, and paying for, peer review. We foster this process by discussing some alternative models that aim to boost the benefits of peer review, thus improving its cost-benefit ratio.
Aczel, B., Szaszi, B. & Holcombe, A.O. (2021) A billion-dollar donation: estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review. Research Integrity and Peer Review 6(14) https://doi.org/10.1186/s41073-021-00118-2