Authors : Francesco Pomponi, Bernardino D’Amico, Tom Rye
Scientific publishing is experiencing unprecedented growth in terms of outputs across all fields. Inevitably this creates pressure throughout the system on a number of entities.
One key element is represented by peer-reviewers, whose demand increases at an even higher pace than that of publications, since more than one reviewer per paper is needed and not all papers that get reviewed get published.
The relatively recent Publons platform allows for unprecedented insight into the usual ‘blindness’ of the peer-review system. At a time where the world’s top peer-reviewers are announced and celebrated, we have taken a step back in order to attempt a partial mapping of their profiles to identify trends and key dimensions of this community of ‘super-reviewers’.
This commentary focuses necessarily on a limited sample due to manual processing of data, which needs to be done within a single day for the type of information we seek. In investigating the numbers of performed reviews vs. academic citations, our analysis suggests that most reviews are carried out by relatively inexperienced academics.
For some of these early career academics, peer-reviewing seems to be the only activity they engage with, given the high number of reviews performed (e.g., three manuscripts per day) and the lack of outputs (zero academic papers and citations in some cases). Additionally, the world’s top researchers (i.e., highly-cited researchers) are understandably busy with research activities and therefore far less active in peer-reviewing.
Lastly, there seems to be an uneven distribution at a national level between scientific outputs (e.g., publications) and reviews performed. Our analysis contributes to the ongoing global discourse on the health of scientific peer-review, and it raises some important questions for further discussion.