This is an excellent data-driven analysis of peer review, which calls into question the conventional wisdom that increasing demands on key scholars for reviews has broken the peer review system. By looking at actual aggregate data, Tim Vines shows that “…while it’s natural to join the dots between rising submissions and your own workload, and from there to the imminent demise of peer review, the connections may not really exist.” In fact, it appears that while senior scholars may be being bombarded by review requests, the increase is due to their own increased prominence, not to any systemic factors.
The opinions of highly respected senior scientists tend to get a lot of attention, and a number (here, here, and here) have lamented the state of peer review. But what if the reviewer experience for high-profile researchers is the exception and not the rule?
One common complaint voiced by big name scientists is that the rapid growth in the number of papers submitted to journals has led to a massive increase in the demands on the reviewer community. After all, 10 years ago, there were fewer papers being published (Figure O-13 here), and now they’re getting a huge number of requests to review. A reasonable conclusion is that the peer review system is more overloaded now than ever before — it may even be close to the point of collapse.
This alarming conclusion may instead reflect a more benign change: the steady increase in their…
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