I am baffled by this question. Elsevier boycott aside, is one supposed to review a paper every time he/she is asked? And somebody will be upset if he/she declines the request to review? Or is this only maths thing?

Reviewing paper is unpaid, while it takes a lot of time and effort (at least for me). As such, I expect someone in editorial board to be thankful if one accepts to review a paper, and move on if his/her request for reviewing is declined.

To be angry with a (junior) researcher for not reviewing a paper is unacceptable behaviour for me. We are not slave.

Note: Until now, I am happy every time I am asked to review a paper.


No, reviewing is not mandatory, it's just good community service.

When I'm soliciting reviews, as an editor or program chair, I would actually much rather have people who don't want to review simply decline to review. It does mean that I have to search for more reviewers, but it's much preferable to getting low-quality reviews or no review at all.

Moreover, there is always a limit to the amount of service that one should be expected to do. If you're reviewing a good amount of papers (see discussion in this question about how much is enough), you should feel free to triage. Just be polite when you decline: even with things you don't want to deal with, it's usually better to simply say "I don't have time right now" (true enough) than to offend a person by completing the sentence with something like "... for your crappy journal" or "... for this horribly tedious-looking paper."

Of course, there is always the possibility of encountering an ego-centric jerk on a power-trip, but life is too short to spend all of fearing that you might encounter such.

  • 7
    Still, if you "hate Elsevier", it makes a perfect sense to state it: "Sorry, I won't do the review since I don't volunteer for Elsevier." Fair enough, in my opinion. After all, what would a boycott be good for if the target didn't know about it?
    – yo'
    Aug 25 '15 at 6:31
  • 3
    @yo' I agree. However, you can still be polite about it. There's a big difference between "Screw Elsevier, and screw you for working with them!" and "My apologies, but due to my disagreement with Elsevier's publishing practices, I have chosen not to submit to or review for Elsevier publications."
    – jakebeal
    Aug 25 '15 at 13:53
  • Ok, it seems we come to agreement, which is good :) To me it just appeared that this point is missing in the answer.
    – yo'
    Aug 25 '15 at 13:55

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