Can we stop saying reviewers are unpaid? | Scientist Sees Squirrel
lterrat's bookmarks 2017-08-23
"Reviewers, we all tell each other to remember, are unpaid. Sometimes we’re being scandalized about it, as in 'Megapublisher X is making unconscionable profits on the back of unpaid reviewers'. Other times we’re being laudatory, as in 'We should be grateful to reviewers for all the help they give us, since they’re working for us without pay'. I’ve said versions of the latter many times: for example, in The Scientist’s Guide to Writing, in this older post, and more recently and more explicitly in this post. But the thing is, it (mostly) isn’t true. We should probably stop saying it.
A few reviewers truly are unpaid (more about that later); but most of us are not. It’s just that reviewing is an implicit part of our vaguely-defined jobs. There’s nothing terribly unusual about that. At least for university professors, everything is an implicit part our vaguely-defined jobs*. I realized this a few years ago, when faculty at my university went on strike. Some unions 'work to rule' instead of (or before) striking – they do only the things their contract formally requires. The obvious joke is that our faculty couldn’t work to rule, because neither they nor their administrators could actually specify what it was they were required to do. My collective agreement isn’t completely vague: it does specify that I should teach, do research, and do service, and it even (most recently) specifies a 40:40:20 mix of those things. But that’s as far as it goes."