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On Hochberg et al.’s “The tragedy of the reviewer commons”


  • Louis Mesnard

    (University of Burgundy and CNRS)


We discuss each of the recommendations made by Hochberg et al. (Ecol Lett 12:2–4, 2009) to prevent the “tragedy of the reviewer commons”. Having scientific journals share a common database of reviewers would be to recreate a bureaucratic organization, where extra-scientific considerations prevailed. Pre-reviewing of papers by colleagues is a widespread practice but raises problems of coordination. Revising manuscripts in line with all reviewers’ recommendations presupposes that recommendations converge, which is acrobatic. Signing an undertaking that authors have taken into accounts all reviewers’ comments is both authoritarian and sterilizing. Sending previous comments with subsequent submissions to other journals amounts to creating a cartel and a single all-encompassing journal, which again is sterilizing. Using young scientists as reviewers is highly risky: they might prove very severe; and if they are not yet published authors themselves, the recommendation violates the principle of peer review. Asking reviewers to be more severe would only create a crisis in the publishing houses and actually increase reviewers’ workloads. The criticisms of the behavior of authors looking to publish in the best journals are unfair: it is natural for scholars to try to publish in the best journals and not to resign themselves to being second rate. Punishing lazy reviewers would only lower the quality of reports: instead, we favor the idea of paying reviewers “in kind” with, say, complimentary books or papers.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Mesnard, 2010. "On Hochberg et al.’s “The tragedy of the reviewer commons”," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 84(3), pages 903-917, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:scient:v:84:y:2010:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-009-0141-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s11192-009-0141-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. de Mesnard, Louis, 2017. "Attributing credit to coauthors in academic publishing: The 1/n rule, parallelization, and team bonuses," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 260(2), pages 778-788.

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