As academics, a lot of our time is invested in activities that are not seemingly related to our research. Teaching, organising seminars, writing EGU blog posts, reviewing papers. While I don’t deny the time consumingness of it, reviewing papers is a necessary and useful activity, at least as long as the publishing system works the way it currently does (that’s a topic for another post). It’s what keeps the peer-review system going and it forces you to be up-to-date with the literature, for once (cough cough…). But how much is too much? This is exactly what Yang wonders:
How many reviews should you do every year?
Some would say you should accept reviews proportionally to how much you publish every year. So if you publish a few papers per year, you should consider accepting at least one or two review requests. And if you are asked to review a manuscript that falls squarely in your specific area of expertiese, you definetely should accept, because unless you are doing Mickey Mouse science, you likely are one of the few persons on the planet that is equipped to thoroughly review it.
Let me put it this way: you publish, right? At least once every two years (I hope). When you submit a paper you would not want it to stay on the editor desk forever because nobody wants to review it, right? I heard stories of manuscripts being returned because no reviewers were found. You wouldn’t want this to happen to you, right? Then don’t be “that guy” and pull your weights!
Furthermore, while the authors won’t know that you consistently turn down review requests, the editors will. And eventually the bad karma will come around.
Reviewing manuscripts is like cleaning the toilet in a shared flat. Nobody wants to do that, but somebody should. You use the toilet, right? And I bet you are not unhappy to come home and discover that your flat-mates stuck to the agreed schedule and cleaned it. So, clean the toilet. Now, we all know that things happen and every now and then you might ask to reshuffle the cleaning schedule. However, this should not be the norm, or your flatmates will slowly get very, very unhappy at you for not doing your part. Eventually you will become “that guy” nobody wants to live with. At that point, if your flat-mates are prone to practical jokes and revenge, things might get ugly for you. I will leave to your imagination to picture in what specific form the bad karma might come back at you for not cleaning the toilet.
The Sassy Scientist
PS: What? You only use the toilet at work so you don’t have to clean the shared one at home? Jeez…I feel for your flatmates.