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Peer-review is an important part of decision-making in academia. Journal reviewers do not get paid.

BUT funding agencies pay for the same peer-review (of research proposals). OR universities pay the external referees for reviewing PhD dissertations.

My question is: if peer-review is voluntary and a professional duty, why isn't it the case in other reviewing processes?

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    At least some times, those other reviews require travel. – Jon Custer Oct 20 '17 at 17:10
  • One thing that could play a role: we all benefit from well-reviewed articles, but we don't benefit when others get grants. As far as I know, my current and former universities do not pay external referees for reviewing PhD dissertations. – Mark Oct 20 '17 at 17:16
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    The payment for reading PhD dissertations in the UK is minimal and not equivalent to the work it creates. The reason for paying is to create a binding "contract" and preventing the referee from flaking out. – Captain Emacs Oct 20 '17 at 17:30
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    @CaptainEmacs I've flaked out of a review I was being paid for >.> – Fomite Oct 22 '17 at 0:24
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BUT funding agencies pay for the same peer-review (of research proposals).

Not necessarily.

OR universities pay the external referees for reviewing PhD dissertations.

Not necessarily.

My question is: if peer-review is voluntary and a professional duty, why isn't it the case in other reviewing processes?

Because compared to a journal article, those are much more intensive. It may require travel, and almost certainly involves several days of work. Therefor those types of activities are disadvantaged in my considering of "Do I have time for this?"

The way to address that? Incentives. Including monetary ones.

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    At least in my field, reviewing a paper does not take much less time: normally about a day of work per paper. – Boris Bukh Oct 22 '17 at 0:21
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    @BorisBukh The phone conference alone for the last grant I reviewed took a day. Outside reading a dissertation is reading a collection of 3 papers plus framing material. That's inherently more work than a single paper. – Fomite Oct 22 '17 at 0:22
  • Also there are a lot more journal papers than PhD theses etc to review. – Allure Sep 27 at 0:54
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The premise of this question isn't generally true -- I've been paid (once) to referee a paper, and I've worked for free reviewing grant proposals and theses (as an external committee member). Indeed, I've never been paid for either of the latter two activities.

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Apart from the fact that the implicit claim in the question is not always correct (but seems to be true, at least in my field, most of the time); and in addition to the fact that doctoral thesis reviews and grant proposal reviews can sometimes be more effort than reviewing a paper (but reviewing a paper in mathematics can be enormously difficult, if you feel the need to check that everything claimed is true!), maybe it has to do with the following:

I would expect an "average" researcher to submit about as many papers papers as they review (at least in the same order of magnitude). Sometimes even PhD students are asked to review papers.

In contrast, almost every researcher has a PhD and needed reviewers for their dissertation; but probably less than 10% of them will ever review someone's else dissertation?

Similarly, the average researcher will apply for a couple of grants (starting as students already), but probably only the more/most senior researchers are asked to review grant applications (at least in my field, I assume).

Accordingly there might be some sense of balance for paper review: I expect others to review my paper, so it is only fair that I review one paper of someone else. But this balance is broken e.g. for proposals: One person is asked to review, in one go, 80 proposals submitted for a grant. So looking at a single proposal might be less work than a paper review; but doing 80 of them might be more work; and the person will not submit 80 grant proposal over their career, so it seems unfair to expect them to do the work without any incentive.

Remark: It is a bit of a mystery to me that free peer review (in particular for highly profitable and expensive journals) works at all. Of course there are some people that claim they learn a lot from reviewing papers (but they could do so by just reading the same papers on arxiv, right?), and some people might get some other benefit out of it (they might have an agenda to reject their enemy's papers, or accept their friend's, or force people to include references to their work, etc). But I think most researchers do reviews (which can really be a huge effort) in an honest way, motivated by the notion of fairness described above. While this is nice, it seems somewhat unusual that an industry can be kept alive just by the spirit of fairness and cooperation against the participant's self-interest... But this is a question that has been discussed at length already, see e.g. Why don't researchers request payment for refereeing?

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