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Re: Rewarding Reviewers

The APS journals rely on the volunteer service of over 42,000 
active referees.  We have kept records for over 20 years of the 
quality, number and timeliness of referee reports, and we have 
recently announced an award program to recognize about 130 of 
these referees each year as "Outstanding Referees".  To initiate 
the program, we have selected a larger number of 534 referees 
that have been exceptionally dedicated over many years.  The 
award is a pin, a certificate, and the recognition of their peers 
for an outstanding job well done.

We have chosen recognition rather than money as a reward, in 
order to keep the costs of our publications as low as possible. 
In addition, most scientists recognize that participating as a 
referee in the peer review process is an obligation if one 
publishes.  By making the award very selective, we draw attention 
to those who have shown exceptional dedication and service, much 
as Universities have teaching awards to recognize those who are 
exceptionally dedicated and skillful.  The announcement of this 
award each year is an opportunity to to emphasize to the 
community the importance of peer review, and to raise awareness 
of the obligation.  We considered recognizing a larger fraction 
each year, but found that the logistics of it was difficult, and 
we also thought we were more likely to alienate referees not 
recognized if the award were less selective.  We will continue to 
thank every active referee in an annual letter.

The honorees come from 33 different countries, with large 
contingents from the US, Germany, UK, Canada, and France. The 
award has been very well received, and we have had only one 
complaint about our selection process.  The comments from the 
awardees have been wonderful to read: (Below are three of the 
more than 400 responses)

> Thank you very much for this delightful and surprising e-mail! 
> (This must be my quickest ever response to the APS Editorial 
> Office, I fear.)  I am delighted to accept.

> Thank you for your message. I don't know if my referee's work 
> deserves any special recognition; I only did my duty towards 
> the community of physicists in the same way as I was glad to 
> have my own manuscripts honestly and constructively refereed.

> I appreciate very much that the APS has included me among the 
> outstanding referees.  I definitely feel honored by this 
> choice.  It is a strong encouragement for continuing to take 
> seriously the job of providing careful, fair and competent 
> reports on manuscripts submitted to the APS journals.  This is 
> a service not only to the APS journals but to the physics 
> community in general, which I have always felt to be important 
> and crucial for the soundness and credibility of the field.

You can read more about the program and view the list of awardees 
at: http://publish.aps.org/OutstandingReferees

Gene Sprouse
American Physical Society