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Can it be counterproductive to list in one's CV all journals for which one has done peer-reviewing (both top- and low-rank ones), or whether it's better to list only the top ones and omit the ones too low.

The area in question is pure math and, if there are any journal metrics that might make sense to look at in the first place, I'd be happy to provide them to get a feel of the situation.

  • Unless you have been a peer-reviewer for a journal on Beall's list or one that is exploitative in some way, why leave it off? In the same way that not all papers can be groundbreaking, not all service work is high-prestige - but being a referee at Society Journal X is valuable to the field. Feel free to put Ann. Math first on your list, though! – AJK Apr 18 '17 at 22:34
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    Even more strongly, if a professor claims to only review for the top journals in the field, you could easily think that they will, by analogy, only do service work if it helps their own prestige, and ignore important gruntwork. – AJK Apr 18 '17 at 22:37
  • For young researchers, I think it is okay to list every review you've written, even when the review was written indirectly, e.g., editor X asked Y to review, and Y delegated to you. For senior researchers, I think indirect reviews can be omitted, mainly because they take up space and they are less prestigious. – user2768 Apr 19 '17 at 12:51
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I expect the answer depends on your circumstances. Here are some cases that might apply. I can't specify precise cut-offs between them, but I doubt it matters too much if you're near the dividing line. (Keep in mind also that you may have specific rules to keep in mind. For example, some particularly bureaucratic universities have guidelines for exactly what you must or must not include in your CV.)

For most junior academics, I think it's helpful to list all of them, and it's almost certainly not harmful, assuming they are at least respectable, mainstream academic journals, even if they aren't prestigious. Each time you've been asked to referee a paper is a vote of confidence from an editor, and it's worth demonstrating that you are starting to become widely known. Listing seven journals, some really not prestigious, probably looks better than listing just the two or three more prestigious ones.

For people coming up for tenure at research universities, and even more so for mid-career academics, I'd recommend focusing primarily on prestigious journals. At this stage the goal isn't just to show that people have heard of you, but rather that editors of excellent journals trust your opinion about important papers. (But be sure to add some short comment to make it clear that this is a selected list.)

Once you are sufficiently senior and widely known, I don't think there's any need to bother listing journals you've refereed for, except perhaps very briefly to indicate that you still do your duty.

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    Possibly slightly off-topic, but: have you ever witnessed a situation in which anyone at Prof. X's university actually cared about Prof. X's refereeing work? – Pete L. Clark Apr 18 '17 at 23:23
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    @PeteL.Clark: That's a good point! It's worth keeping in mind that this is a low-order effect. I think it can help very slightly for junior candidates, and I'm told it can be helpful as a sign of scholarly engagement for people at teaching-focused universities who aren't publishing much, but this is way down the list of things people care about on CVs. – Anonymous Mathematician Apr 19 '17 at 0:37
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    @PeteL.Clark sounds pretty on-topic to me. – Dan Romik Apr 19 '17 at 5:43

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