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Western peer reviewers most sought after and ‘fatigued’

Forty per cent of German, US and UK reviewers complain of too many review requests

Academics in the western world are in the highest demand to review research papers, with the most experienced reviewers complaining of being fatigued by requests, according to an IOP Publishing survey of more than 1,200 researchers across the globe.

“The number of papers needing review continues to increase, while the number of researchers willing to review has not kept pace,” said Antonia Seymour, publishing director at IOP Publishing, which owns a portfolio of more than 90 journals in physics.

“This global trend has led to fatigue among experienced reviewers, who are being asked to review more frequently.”

Forty per cent of German, US and UK reviewers said they receive too many review requests, IOP’s survey found. By contrast, only 12 per cent of Chinese reviewers said they receive too many review requests, while 28 per cent of Indian reviewers—far higher than average—said they had more time to spend on peer review.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents said in-kind or cash benefits “provide very little motivation” for reviewers, who value feedback over other benefits. Reviewers said they were most motivated by interest in the paper up for review, followed by journal reputation and engagement with the scholarly community.

Meanwhile, 76 per cent of respondents said they had not experienced bias in the peer-review process. However, the report authors noted that men made up 86 per cent of the respondents—reflective of the overall gender pattern in physics.

To more evenly spread peer-review responsibilities, the authors recommended that publishers redouble efforts to improve the gender and geographical diversity of those they invite to review, improve the efficiency and consistency of the peer-review process, and attempt new methods of interacting with reviewers, such as through direct messaging.

IOP Publishing surveyed researchers who had either performed a review for or been invited to review for one of its journals between January 2018 and March 2020.