Blowing the whistle on refereeing

Having written 4 referee reports this week, and 7 over the last month (Review of Economics and Statistics, China Economic Review, Journal of Socio-Economics, Economic Papers, European Journal of Political Economy, BE Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, Australian Journal of Political Science), I feel like I’m well and truly doing my duty to the academic profession. I’m sure others have worse stories, but I found this month’s load pretty exhausting. For what it’s worth, my recommendations were 1 acceptance, 4 R&Rs, and 2 rejections.

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10 Responses to Blowing the whistle on refereeing

  1. Joshua Gans says:

    OK I’ll top that. Last year I had four reviews for Management Science — all requested in the same week and done within two weeks (and I did another review for them as well that year). That was while being an editor of two other journals.

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    JG, what share of referee requests do you refuse? I tend to be wary of refusing to review for a journal where I have recently submitted, or might submit at some point. So my refusal rate is <0.1. But I have a feeling that's probably sub-optimal.

  3. The curse of wide-ranging interests?

  4. conrad says:

    Its interesting how non-random and non-scientific the process of selecting reviewers actually is — Here are things I have noticed increase selection that have nothing to do with scientific merit:

    a) Knowing editors
    b) Going to conferences
    c) Having an email address that is easy to find (changing jobs will divide the requests you get by 10)
    d) Doing weird work — you will start collecting reviews for _anything_ weird, including things you know nothing about.
    e) Doing work in areas where there are lots of non-English speakers — editors seem to prefer English speaking reviewers (and again it seems categorical — English vs. non-English)
    f) Doing work in multiple areas — people think you will be able to review anything.
    g) Doing previous reviews quickly — you start collecting reviews when a final “judgement” is needed in ambiguous cases.

  5. Sinclair Davidson says:

    two more to Conrad’s list:

    h) having had a PhD supervisor who’s a journal editor.
    i) having an office two doors down from a journal editor.

  6. Paul Frijters says:

    your load sounds very high indeed. I’ve had about 11 sofar this year, 20 if you count reference letters as well. Next month will be more than 7 though because of the ARC which sends out grants it wants you to review. Its getting hectic.
    I asked a mutual US friend of ours what a reasonable load was to refuse and she said that if you get more than 3 a month, you should start to refuse. Hence my implicit rule now is to refuse something if I’ve had over 3 referee reports to write in the last 30 days. However, as you say, its tough to refuse something from a journal where a paper of yours is lying or when the editor is your friend…

  7. Sacha says:

    I did my first refereeing of a paper for a journal about a month ago, and laboured over it – I probably spent at least 20-30 hours on it in total, and I don’t even have an academic job!

    I think I’ll spend less time on refereeing in the future.

  8. Kevin Cox says:

    I am surprised that a bunch of economists are refereeing for no payment. My lay understanding of the way things work in your world that if it is not paid for then it has no value:)

  9. invig says:

    You should get a sign on your door

    ‘rather be blogging’


  10. Christine says:

    Kevin, that’s business school types, I think. Or possibly financial economists. Certainly not economists who specialise in public economics.
    Refereeing is providing a public good, and we all believe in maximising social welfare 🙂

    And no, I have no idea where interest rates or the Dow Jones are going next. Sorry!

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