How often should you review?

In my last post, I went over some statistics of reviewing for JGR Space Physics. One of those stats is 3.5, the average number of times each manuscript is assessed by a referee. The basic math, then, answering the question of how often a researcher should accept a reviewing assignment is 3 or 4 (including re-reviews) per new manuscript that person submits as corresponding author (not counting resubmissions of the same paper).


I’d like to suggest that the accounting is a little more complicated than that. For starters, we rarely ask students to serve as referees. If we do, then it is usually in the later years of their PhD and probably (hopefully) one or two requests. Therefore, the student’s advisor should pick up this burden, and their reviewing load should increase according to the number of times their students submit papers as corresponding author.

There are some faculty, though, that can’t or won’t take on that many assignments. I’m in this category. As EiC of JGR Space Physics, I rarely review papers for other journals. According to the expectation I just gave above, I don’t officially review enough to cover my own submissions, let alone my students’ papers. There are other faculty that have administrative roles (e.g., department chair, lab director, or associate dean) that prevent them from doing very many reviewing assignments. Others are overwhelmed with a new course development or a high teaching load, and doing a large number of reviews is difficult. So, while it would be ideal for faculty to pick up the extra workload of reviewing student papers, this isn’t always possible. The rest of the community needs to cover this.

A reservoir of referees that I regularly tap is the senior members of the research community. I really value and appreciate their expertise. Such people could be very active in writing new papers and submitting manuscripts to the journal, but even if they are not, I still send them requests to review. I am glad that so many senior researchers agree to take on a disproportionately large refereeing role.

There are also “the usual suspects” that get asked to review a lot. These are the names that people enter with their manuscript submission, and my anecdotal evidence is that certain names appear frequently for certain topics. When I look in the system, I see that these potential reviewers are often already doing one or just turned one in.

Another type of person that gets a lot of requests are Associate Editors. At JGR Space Physics, we use them as “super reviewers.” That is, we’ll send them a paper for which we’ve already had a large number of declines to review, knowing that they will most likely say yes. We send them the tough papers for arbitration (although not just them; others of you also get such requests). We ask them to do other service tasks for the journal, too, like shepherding special sections and helping to promote the journal. With regard to refereeing, though, they to a lot, and again I am very glad that there are people in the community willing to serve in this role for the journal.

So, think about your “appropriate” workload. If you think we’re not sending you enough manuscripts to review, then let me know. We can fix that!


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