Happy to receive, happy to give? Or doesn’t it work that way any more? Why is it so hard to find people willing to referee? I’m serving as editor for a few things right now and am getting very tired of all the people that decline to review. What are you doing? Perfecting your backhand at tennis? Polishing your powerpoint for class? At happy hour? Overwhelmed with all your own work? Getting asked to review far too often? Planning to do a job that takes five hours instead of one or two? We don’t know.
The problem is that people think of the best known people first. For my study, I would like Charles Darwin himself as referee. If not him, then the person that wrote the textbook in my field. Or someone about 20 years older than me with at least a hundred publications. These people probably need to say no to guard their sanity.
So think of someone your own age or younger when you are recommending referees. There are a lot of really talented young scientists who are actually pleased when they get asked to review.
How much should you do? I would say that everyone should review about six times the number of papers they publish. If I publish 10 papers this year, then I should review 60 papers. I know you could argue that with multiple authors this could be dropped, but, still, I like the idea that everyone reviews six times their own publishing. If the paper is really hard, much math or whatever, it could count double, or even triple.
Remember also that when you review you should be kind and constructive. The authors worked hard on this work. They may have English as a second language. They may not have had your great education. Don’t drop your standards. Just pretend this is your own child and you want to help them understand with specific comments on how to improve their paper and their study.
I sure do hope the next referee I suggest says yes! It wasn’t as if these recent ones were so old and famous, after all. We need this system that we all depend on to work.