[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

peer review costs and issues

The following extracts  from

Houghton, John and Steele, Colin and Sheehan, Peter (2006) 
Research communication costs in Australia : Emerging 
opportunities and benefits. Centre for Strategic Economic 
Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne. 

may be of interest in addition  to the list emails.  Discussions over 
the years with a variety of academics in Australia have indicated that 
they receive very little remuneration for peer review activities and 
many do peer review  for the big STM  firms  It would be relevant  at 
some stage for a survey of peer review costs and paractice in various 
countries to be undertaken if data is not available from publishers?.


Houghton Report
Peer review

Assuming that peer review activities scale to HERDC compliant 
publication (i.e. peer reviewed publication), it is estimated 
that peer review activities in higher education cost around AUD 
100 million a year - of which perhaps AUD 90 million would relate 
to the peer review of journal articles and conference papers, AUD 
6.5 million to book chapters and AUD 4.5 million to research 
monographs. No account is taken of reviewing other outputs.

It is further estimated that peer review of higher education 
related ARC and NHMRC grant applications costs a further AUD 22 
million, bringing the total costs of peer review activities in 
Australian higher education to some AUD 120 million a year. No 
account is taken of other peer reviewing activities relating to 
other grants.

On a per item basis, it is estimated that in Australian higher 
education institutions it costs around AUD 1,700 to peer review 
each journal article, AUD 1,500 to peer review each refereed 
conference paper or book chapter, and AUD 6,000 to peer review 
each research monograph.

Editorial activities

Based on an extensive international survey of more than 5,500 
researchers, it is estimated that Australian higher education 
editorial activities relating to scholarly journals alone costs 
perhaps AUD 37 million a year - of which AUD 33 million might 
relate to editorial activities and AUD 3.5 million to editorial 
board activities. No account is taken of other editorial 
activities (e.g. internal working papers, contract research 
reports, etc.) or of activities relating to monographs. The level 
of payments and/or honoraria received in recompense for these 
activities is unknown.


Editorial activities and peer review

Scholars make an even more substantial contribution to the 
scholarly publishing value chain than these figures suggest. In 
an international survey of more than 5,000 recent authors, 
Rowlands and Nicholas (2005; 2006)  found that 77% had also acted 
as refereesduring the preceding year, 24% were members of 
editorial boards and 8% were journal editors.

The same authors report that the majority of recently published 
authors surveyed had a positive view of their peer review 
experience (i.e. agreeing that the referees comments on their 
last published paper were helpful). Interestingly, those in 
physics and astronomy, where open access to pre-prints is common, 
were the least positive about their formal peer review 
experiences. In a more focused survey of around 1,000 researchers 
who had been or were being funded by DFG, Deutsche 
Forschungsgemeinschaft (2006, p32) found that 17.5% were the 
editor or co-editor of one or more journal, 23.8% served on 
editorial boards or scientific committees, and 11.4% reported 
performing other journal related functions.

Tenopir and King (2000, p139) found that the time spent (peer) 
reviewing article manuscripts was significant. Citing a variety 
of sources, they suggested that scientists were spending and 
average of 6 hours reviewing rejected manuscripts and 6=BC 
reviewing successful ones. They also noted other studies that 
reported ranges of 3 to 5.4 hours.Based on their costing of 
researcher time, they suggested that peer review was costing 
around USD 480 per article. Citing Tenopir and King, Morris 
(2005) suggested that peer review activities cost the academic 
community USD 480 per article in 1997 - based on an average of 
3-6 hours spent reviewing per article, by 2 or 3 referees - or 
around USD 540 at 2004 prices.

In their analysis of content origination costs, Halliday and 
Oppenheim (1999, p71) modelled the external editorial and 
refereeing costs at 30 minutes for the editor and a total of 6 
hours for refereeing (2 referees for 3 hours each) per paper. At 
an hourly rate of GBP 50 to cover salary and on-costs this 
suggests external and refereeing (selection) costs of GBP 325 per 
paper. Rowland (2002) suggested that the average cost that 
journals attribute to the peer review process was USD 400 per 
published paper.


Peer review

The costs of peer review cited by publishers also vary 
significantly. Rowland (2002)presented a summary of the 
literature on the peer review process. Citing Page et al. 
(1997)he suggested that around 3% to 5% of the subscription 
income of a journal was paid to editors in honoraria and support 
costs, which he estimated to amount to approximately GBP 75 to 
GBP 125 per published paper. Citing Donovan (1998), Rowland 
reported a range of refereeing costs from a survey of journals of 
GBP 50 to GBP 200, or GBP 100 to GBP 400 when adjusted for 
reported rejection rates. Citing Tenopir and King (2000), and 
assuming 10 page articles, Rowland calculated that their 
estimates would be equivalent to a peer review cost of USD 200 
per article. Dryburgh (2002, p6) found the median cost to the 
publisher of refereeing per paper among the 10 publishers he 
surveyed to be GBP 75, with a range from around GBP 30 to GBP 

Citing Rowland (2002) and Tenopir and King (2000), SQW (2004) suggested 
that quoted peer review costs per article of the order of USD 200 
appeared low, and concluded that total associated costs may be closer to 
USD 600. HCSTC (2004, p3)  also mentioned the USD 200 number and 
reported a concordance with the evidence of The Public Library of 
Science. However, they also noted that Blackwell Publishing estimated 
the cost of peer review to be GBP 264 (approximately USD 525) per 
were taken into account.

Donovan(1998) reported that one major scientific society employs 
a staff of about 25 and spends about GBP 1.8 million to process 
some 9,000 papers a year, which would amount to GBP 200 per paper 
if all were acceptable. Since the rejection rate is 50%, the cost 
doubles to GBP 400 for each publishable manuscript. From the 
small sample examined, Donovan (1998) concluded that "peer review 
is expensive, with the cost for each manuscript submitted ranging 
between GBP 50-200, and for each paper published, between GBP 100 
and GBP 400." There is considerable evidence of the peer review 
load increasing (e.g. McCook 2006), suggesting that peer review 
costs may well be increasing. "


Colin Steele
Emeritus Fellow
The Australian National University
Canberra  ACT 0200
Email: colin.steele@anu.edu.au

University Librarian, Australian National University (1980-2002)
and Director Scholarly Information Strategies (2002-2003)