I recently reviewed a paper for a Math/Comp-Sci conference. The author's response came back with responses to 12 referees.

Am I wrong in thinking it absurd that there are this many referees on a paper?

For one, I, like many researchers, expect a paper to have about 2-3 referees, so make a rule of refereeing about this many papers for every paper I publish. I will cannot referee 12 papers for ever paper I publish. What does this do to the referee pool?

Secondly, having so many referees seems to make the decision of any single referee as insignificant. If I spend 2 days on a paper, as is not uncommon in math, I would like to think my opinion counts for more than one vote in 12.

Finally, responding to 12 referees is quite a burden for the author; especially if referees make suggestions about style or presentation, which could be contradictory.

I am not just ranting. Is there another side to this that I am missing?

  • 2
    I'd think that there's indeed something weird going on in that situation... It is true that, apparently, the contemporary game-ish version of many academic pursuits-of-better-understanding-for-humans is completely lost, etc. You've gotta "deconstruct" what's going on, ... since, I'd sadly claim, a naive appraisal of the situation would wildly disserve you... Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 0:07
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    I think it would be worth asking the editor what is going on. Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 1:30
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    I'm not in a position to judge anything, but is it possible that the editor sends requests to more-than-required number of referees due to usually low turnover rate?
    – justhalf
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 4:55
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    Is is a respected journal? Isn't it possible that the journal itself is a scam?
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 6:08
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    What did the editor / conference panel chair say when you asked them?
    – 410 gone
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 6:39

2 Answers 2


I fully agree that 12 referees is too many. 2 to max 4 referees is fine. More referees will indeed leave the authors with conflicting comments, and does not contribute to the quality of the review.


Having 12 referees is both unusual and a ridiculous amount to have. The most I have ever seen is 5 on a single paper and even then I thought that was pushing it. As @Danny Ruijters mentioned having 2-4 referees is a good number.

I don't see a reason why there would be a need for 12 referees and, if possible, it may be interesting to talk to the author about their opinion with 12 referees is.

Having that may referees will dilute the opinion of any one of them. Like you said having a 1 in 12 vote isn't the same as a 1 in 2 or 1 in 4.

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