Reviewing manuscripts for scientific journals is a bit like being a sperm donor, writes David Cameron Duffy at The Scientist, offering up one of the more pungent similes in recent memory.
"They are anonymous and their pleasure, if any, is in the process, not the result," he notes, going on to ask, given this state of affairs, "Who in their right mind would want" such a job?
The answer, it would appear, is basically no one. Scientific publishing is in the midst of a "refereeing crisis," Duffy says, and while a number of ways of remedying the situation have been suggested — from punishing reviewers for poor work to byzantine rewards systems — the best way to encourage scientists to serve as reviewers might be to ensure they receive proper credit in the field by producing metrics demonstrating their contributions.
For instance, Duffy writes, "journals could produce an annual list of reviewers and the number of times each reviewed. The sum of the number of reviews by individual referees, multiplied by the impact factor of the journals for which they reviewed, should reflect their standing in the field."
If nothing else, it could make for some entertaining peacocking around the faculty lounge.