[from: The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 12, 2011]
Refereeing in Crisis?
By Nigel Thrift
One of the things that often shocks new journal editors is the difficulty that they face in obtaining referees for papers. It is often necessary to approach a string of referees in order to obtain the requisite number of references. Most annoyingly of all, sometimes a person who has just submitted a paper to a journal then refuses to referee for it or has the nerve to complain about delays to the reviewing process occasioned precisely by the search for referees. And that is before we get to the people who are approached who never even deign to reply. More seriously, at least from my experience of editing a journal, the problem is getting worse.
Journal refereeing is one of the key elements of peer review. It depends on reciprocity. Without that essential element of give in order to take the quality of reciprocity will gradually fade away.
Make no mistake, there are many people who faithfully review almost everything that they are asked to look at. These people are the backbone of the system and we should all thank them: there should probably be a memorial set up for some of them. But others are quite happy to let these trustworthy folk take the strain. Indeed, through the indifference of the free riders, the load on these folk is often made higher.
So why is the problem getting worse all around the world?
[continue at The Chronicle of Higher Education]