Re: Paying Referees?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 12:22:39 +0100

Whatever the pros and cons of adopting a new policy of paying
referees to hasten referee reports (apart from the tiny minority
of cases, mainly in Economics, where this is already standard
practice), I would like to remind colleagues that the goal
of this Forum is open access to the peer-reviewed journal literature,
such as it is, as soon as possible. Improvements in the efficiency
of peer review, welcome as they are, are another matter, unless
there is some sort of causal connection between the (tested and
demonstrated) improvements and the hastening or facilitation of
open access.

As far as I can see (please correct me if I am wrong), referee
payment would increase existing costs -- costs which are currently
covered by toll-access in all but the handful of open-access
journals that exist so far. I cannot see how increasing costs can
help hasten open access, either via self-archiving or via open-access

Self-archiving (BOAI Strategy 1) is independent of such
considerations, and whereas open-access journals (BOAI Strategy 2)
that pay referees may be able to offer authors the incentive of faster
turn-around, it is not at all clear how that would trade off against the
disincentive of a higher author-institution peer-review service charge
at a time when institutional funds are still so tied up in paying in
access tolls for the rest of the peer-reviewed journal literature
(20,000 journals).

I make these causal considerations explicit so we don't get too
absorbed in premature, irrelevant, or even countervailing optimization
details such as referee payment (interesting as they are in their own

Sorry to be such a carmudgeon!

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Aug 15 2002 - 12:22:39 BST

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