I guess this has different answers in different fields of science, but I'm still interested in some good arguments as to why senior scientists would bother reviewing papers. I understand that it is prestigious and fantastic when Science or Nature approaches you with a request to referee—and since their desk rejection rate is high you can trust that it is solid research—but most don't even sign their reviews and I don't expect that they actually pay you for it so that only leaves two possible motives:

  1. Learning about what others in the field are working on
  2. Feeling like they have to because that's just how scientific publishing works

One of the reasons I ask is that if most referees are reviewing out of obedience rather than some other strong internal motivation, that would most likely reflect negatively on the quality of their reviews. They become bored, then lazy, then angry at things in the paper that don't reveal themselves to the reader immediately and in turn more likely to think positively of work that is simplistic and lacking of tedious (but important) calculations.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.