I am a first year PhD student, and have been asked to peer-review a paper. The paper is not really in my field, so I will not learn anything valuable by reading the paper. The publishing venue is not open-access, so it is difficult to justify on altruistic grounds. Also, the reviews are double-blind, so there is no potential for networking. As I have never been a reviewer, I am wondering: is there any other possible personal benefits that I might realize from performing this task?

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    "The paper is not really in my field, so I will not learn anything valuable by reading the paper" Say what? You may learn a lot from looking at what people are doing in close fields! One of the (many) reason to peer-review is that you will learn from other fields, on a presentation level, if not at a technical level.
    – Clément
    Mar 5, 2018 at 22:21
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    @Clément, by "not really in my field", I am in computer science, and the paper is an information systems paper, which is college of business. I estimate my expected learning return on this to be approximately equal to choosing an academic paper at random from all fields and reading that.... which is non-zero, but not by much. :)
    – Him
    Mar 5, 2018 at 22:33
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    If reviews are double-blind, you can network with the editor. Double blind peer review usually means you don't know who the authors are and they don't know who the reviewer is. Only if they are triple-blind will there be no potential for networking.
    – Allure
    Mar 5, 2018 at 22:41
  • You don't do it (primarily) for personal benefit. You do it because someone has to do it, or no one would get their papers into journals.
    – user37208
    Mar 5, 2018 at 22:51
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    It never ceases to amaze me that, apparently, in some fields, non-specialists are deemed adequate to referee serious papers. In my field, mathematics, this rarely happens. In particular, even after some decades of experience, if someone asked me to referee a paper on a subject I'd never thought about, I would decline, on the grounds of incompetence. Beyond that, not merely in competence, but ignorance of the context. Mar 5, 2018 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


One benefit is that you are now part of the academic game and you'll learn how it's working, esp. if you have a chance to see other reviewer's comments (which is not always the case, but sometimes, all comments have to be adressed and then you can see them).

Someone might have proposed you, and this person wants to promote you.

If the paper is clearly off-topic, I would avoid reviewing it, especially if it is your first review. You should thank the editor for the trust in you, but send them a list of topics you would happliy review.

If the publication venue is a conference, you will be listed under "program committee" and gain visibility in the field.

If it is a journal: Is the journal trustworthy? I'm getting two invitations per day by some predatory journals...

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