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I was chatting with some colleagues earlier and we talked about about a case where a reviewer was caught consistently asking the authors of the papers reviewed for up to 30 or so of his/her own papers cited. The conversation steered towards how this kind of abuse would not be caught earlier and the idea of professional refereeing was debated around the coffee table.

One of the seniors said that paying reviewers was tested several times and in general was more problematic than not, which got me a bit curious if there is an overview of what was tried and how it was evaluated. I would be very interested in any publication that looks at the concept in a more rigorous and less anecdotal manner.

  • For people reading the question without knowing the details: this is the reported case – llrs Feb 1 at 14:31
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You can refer to the following article: "Why do peer reviewers decline to review? A survey" to begin with.

The following extract from the results abstract is quite interesting:

Most respondents agreed that financial incentives would not be effective when time constraints are prohibitive (mean 3.59 (SD 1.01)). However, reviewers agreed that non-financial incentives might encourage reviewers to accept requests to review: free subscription to journal content (mean 3.72 (SD 1.04)), annual acknowledgement on the journal’s website (mean 3.64 (SD 0.90)), more feedback about the outcome of the submission (mean 3.62 (SD 0.88)) and quality of the review (mean 3.60 (SD 0.89), and appointment of reviewers to the journal’s editorial board (mean 3.57 (SD 0.99)).

So basically, this study confirms what your colleague mentioned about financial incentives not being the best approach to incentivise reviewers (maybe though for different reasons that you might have expected).

However, keep in mind that people in academia are not motivated only by money (as in that case they wouldn't be in academia in the first place). The are other means to motivate people that are keen to review papers, such as acknowledgements or free subscription to the journal they review, as the article states.

  • Another good incentive is to give the opportunity to write editorials/commentaries. – Joe_74 Feb 1 at 14:06

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