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Being a young researcher myself I received a comment from my colleague that some of the journals are paying reviewers for the reviewing process.

When I gave it a thought, it started to make more sense. In case of high quality, respected journal, an institution may consider itself privileged to have a reviewer of such journal and allow the reviewer to dedicate small proportion of his/her daily activities just on the reviewing process.

The reviewer being paid, has more obligations to provide thorough in depth review.

Does that hold true for some journals or is it just a myth?

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Besides traditional journal paying reviewers, there are also few open access journals, which pay reviewers if they are able to provide a review within X days. These journals offer an optional, paid "fast-track" peer review to authors. Please note that I am referring to proper open access journals here, not those considered predatory. I am almost sure there were an experience report on this website, but I cannot find the answer yet. – dgraziotin May 14 '14 at 7:35
@dgraziotin - may I ask what do you mean by traditional journal? Payment for fast-track review seems interesting - I didn't know about that. I can see, however, this being a trend going the wrong way. – mjp May 14 '14 at 7:46
The open access community likes to call traditional journals the subscription-based journals, or those that are hidden behind a paywall. – dgraziotin May 14 '14 at 8:32
Once you accept a review you are obligated to provide a thorough in depth review whether or not you are being paid. – StrongBad May 14 '14 at 11:48
One alternative I've heard is to pay not in money, but in a discount or waiver for publication or subscription fees. – gerrit May 14 '14 at 15:49
up vote 31 down vote accepted

It's not a myth. There are/have been some journals that pay peer reviewers. For example:

Whether the reviewer being paid, has more obligations to provide thorough in depth review is true or not is entirely uncertain, though.

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that is quite nice list of records busting my myth. May I ask if you know of more of those journals that are related to life sciences/medicine? Also, do you know how does the paid reviewing process relate to a full time job that such a reviewer would have? – mjp May 14 '14 at 7:54
Cool, +1. I am especially intrigued by the odd 2.56 EUR from zbMATH, which just happens to be exactly 5 DM at the conversion rate used during the switchover in 1999-2002... So they apparently haven't changed this in at least 12 years. Fascinating. – Stephan Kolassa May 14 '14 at 7:57
In most cases it's either a trivial honorarium, or a slightly higher amount related to that "fast-track" option offered by some open-access journals. A company called Rubriq is trying to make a "paid external peer review" business model work, we'll see how that works out... – ff524 May 14 '14 at 8:00
@ff524: zbMath is slightly different. The "review" they refer to are not pre-publication peer reviews, but post-publication summary and discussions. In particular, the reviews are not anonymous and are published. There's an analogous service in the United States by the American Mathematical Society (who gives you essentially a gift card that you can spend buying AMS publications for each review; IIRC the rate is something like 4USD per review.) – Willie Wong May 14 '14 at 8:21
@WillieWong - I guess you are referring to a post-publication reviewing process similar to what I'm more familiar with as f1000. You are right by pointing it out that this is not a pre-publication review. However it is a reviewing process too and it is paid. For that reason I think it could be included in this list. I think this question could be fairly generic. – mjp May 14 '14 at 8:35

This is not quite what you asked, but book publishers often pay reviewers to evaluate a manuscript and give their opinion on whether to publish it. I recently received $125 US for just such a review. It was less work than reviewing a typical journal article (since I wasn't asked to check technical details) but had a short deadline of just a couple of weeks.

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