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I was wondering if reviewing papers for established journals was a way to increase ones credibility as a researcher?

My question is related to the fact that the journal editors, that are (frequently) known scientists in your domain, will read the review you made.

I was wondering if we can therefore assume that they will, to some degree, evaluate your reviewing work, and therefore yourself as a scientist, based on your review? Lets imagine I know the editor, and I might want to have a position in his/her lab, then my reviewing work might weight in my evaluation?

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A reasonable speculation, but I think ... no, this won't have significant impact. It's a good thing to do, nevertheless. –  paul garrett Apr 16 at 0:50
    
Just a comment, but I have a colleague who is probably as famous for his referee work as for his published work. So yes, at least in some cases, it can happen. –  Olivier Apr 16 at 14:38
    
@Olivier, I'm curious, how does your colleague know that he's famous for his referee work? Is it not anonymous? –  gammapoint Apr 28 at 13:48
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@gammapoint I'm not sure he knows (I think he might because he once was invited to a prestigious conference unrelated to his direct work but on the topic of a manuscript he had recently reviewed), but I do, and that's because several times I was asked if I knew X, said yes, and then heard a comment like "what would we have done with manuscript Y without him?" or "before his review, manuscript Z was really great but completely sketchy on the details and he really set things straight." –  Olivier Apr 28 at 20:40
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5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

Just to add to the other answers with some other points to think about in terms of profile:

  • Reviewers for conferences are often made explicit as Programme Committee members. People who do good work in the PC eventually become Senior Programme Committee members, then Track Chairs, then Programme Chairs, then General Chairs, etc. Even PC membership for good conferences helps your academic profile, where higher-up positions help even more.

  • Journals work a little differently since reviews are solicited directly and are typically not noted anywhere public (with the exception of some journals employing a transparent peer-review model). But in my case, I was invited to the Editorial Board of a new journal in my area on the basis of my reviewing work for them. If you do good reviews, editors will notice. (Of course, this might not always result in an EB membership, but ...)

  • Conferences and journals (at least in CS) sometimes award "Best Reviewer" awards. I've picked up a couple of these and they look good in CVs.

Of course, reviewing in a community is an excellent way of keeping your finger on the pulse of not only what are the hot topics, but how papers in the area are evaluated (this is esp. true for serving in committees of conferences where seeing how the sausages are made is an enlightening experience).

(And on a more philosophical note: I always saw reviewing a bit like seeding in Bittorrent. Submitting lots of papers for review but never doing reviews is plain greedy. Complaining about the quality of the reviews you get and then doing crappy reviews is hypocritical. ... not so related to the question, but it's good to vent now and again.)

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Thanks for these nice insights! –  Wiliam Apr 16 at 20:58
    
+1 for the file-sharing analogy. haha –  NewWorld Apr 17 at 8:25
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Yes, it helps in more than one way. Community service is a relevant part on an academic CV. Although reviewers for individual papers are normally secret, it does not need to be secret that you have reviewed articles for journal X. You can write that you have done so on your CV, and if needed (but I don't think it should be), a journal editor can confirm.

It works the other way around too: being asked to review a paper is an independent confirmation of your credibility as a researcher. The first times it happened to me, it was really an ego boost. Wow, someone else than my supervisor thinks I know something about something! Great!

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Possibly, although many peer-reviewed journals use a double-blind review system, so identities of reviewers can get buried -- and your "reputation" as such won't get enhanced.

However, I think reviewing papers -- and books, and other items of scholarship -- is a really valuable activity for a number of reasons. First, it gives you exposure to what active scholarship looks like and to other people's research and writing styles. Second, it's a way of contributing to the community of researchers in your field, a way of giving back to the system we all want to work well. Third, if you're in a tenure-track position this is an example of service to the profession that most TT profs are expected to contribute.

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Blind or double blind, certainly the editors now who referees which paper... –  Benoît Kloeckner Apr 16 at 18:15
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I was once asked to referee a paper for a well-known journal and accepted because I was flattered that someone took a chance on me. I must have done a pretty good job because I ended up doing more than a dozen for this particular editor. I don't think my service, which I did willingly and took seriously, increased my reputation as a researcher. I do think it enhanced my reputation as far as knowledge of the field and professional judgement in it. It was a good feeling to have someone value my opinion, and it felt good to give something back to the discipline.

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I suspect that it indeed has an impact. Although reviewers are often anonymous, they are not for the editor and the editorial boards. There are important, influential and well connected people on editorial boards and if you provide useful reviews they will notice you. First, this news may spread by gossip and this will for sure be helpful. Second, people on editorial boards are often the same people that will be asked for reports and evaluation (e.g. in Germany, one collects expert opinions to fill positions) and if they know you through your referee reports this may be of great help.

I have no data how large of an effect these two points really make but there is some anecdotal evidence: I remember that I once heard a conference chair introducing the next speaker by saying that he always asks her with the toughest papers he gets submitted as an editor. At least to me that made some impression…

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