I am sent a lot of papers to review, from an expanding set of journals. Currently I am a postdoc on the job market, with little time. Even though recently I only agree to review for better journals, or for journals that haven't asked me before, reviewing still takes too much of my time. Is it worth doing it at all at this point? Do hiring committees care about my reviewing record? If they do, do they ever look at sites like Publons, or is it sufficient to list the name of some journals I reviewed for in my CV? Publons being a commercial company, I never agreed to "get recognition for my review" there, even though most publishers offered it.

One of my concerns is that some of the journal editors are likely to be on hiring committees, and it would be viewed badly if I refuse too many review requests. On the other hand, the editors might judge me by reading my reviews, so I feel pressure to spend more time on writing a good review than what I am able to afford ...

3 Answers 3


Refuse away. As Buffy mentioned, the sad fact is that peer review has a terrible return on investment for the reviewer (particularly in the early career). It’s not just unpaid work monetarily, it also has negligible return in terms of career progress.

While we’re on the topic, don’t organize any conferences either.

Research is the cake, presentation & collaboration skills are the plate and table you serve it on (as opposed to serving handfuls of it off of the floor), and review/organizing/being the lab’s safety officer are the little decorative plastic bits you stick into the top and discard before eating.

  • 8
    It is a bit negative of an answer. Reviewing helps in self-development, especially in early career stage.
    – IY2
    Oct 24, 2021 at 21:26
  • 3
    @IY2, I definitely agree with you, and it is a bit of a negative answer. However, the question is asking about how it factors into hiring in the academic job market. The (sad) state of current hiring priorities values publication far higher than service of any kind. As a result, there is a huge opportunity cost associated with "extensive peer-reviewing service".
    – Brickman
    Oct 24, 2021 at 22:34
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    Overdoing it is bad, but doing some demonstrates competence and is good to keep in touch with what others do. Oct 25, 2021 at 0:13

You are overthinking it. In your CV list the journals for which you review. The fact that you do it a lot could be either a positive or a negative in the mind of a reader.

The issue is subtle since spending too much time reviewing (as opposed to your research) is bad also. But if you review at all, and give helpful feedback it would be a minor plus to anyone who follows up on that.

But, I think, very few would pursue it.

Don't be coerced into reviewing, either mentally or externally. Put your best efforts in to your own work and review as you have time and interest. It is what most academics would do.

I also suspect that the overlap between editors and academic faculty on hiring committees is pretty small.


I expect most active researchers get more review requests than they can reasonably accept, and journal editors understand this. If you decline promptly, in a way that suggests you don't just decline everything (such as "I'm sorry, but I have too many other papers to review at present"), and make an effort to suggest alternative reviewers, this won't reflect badly on you. Personally, I try to avoid declining consecutive requests from the same editor/journal (if I realise).

Of course, by declining you may lose the chance to make a positive impression, but the way to make a positive impression is by delivering a careful, helpful and timely review. If you take on too much, you won't be able to do that anyway.

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