Peer review may often seem like an arduous and (until recently) unrewarding task; the sort of thing which is often deemed a "chore". Researchers are required to take time out from their own work to contribute to that of other scientists who they (hopefully) don't know.
In a short survey, we asked some of our users to answer the question "What motivates you to take time out from your own research to review the work of others?". The answers were varied but fell into a number of categories, outlined below.
It's a great way to stay abreast of the current literature
"I get to access to the latest advances in my field. I am lucky enough to be contacted to review many of the manuscripts most directly relevant for my research. It's a little sad to say, but with the many duties I have as a young academic, reviewing a paper is one of the few occasions I have left to get to read a manuscript in depth."Pierre Bellec
"I find it exciting to read the new work that others are doing and contributing to this in any small way motivates me."Nicholas Badcock
"As far as it comes to my concern, I can definitely add that reviewing has helped me to learn a lot of aspects including recent ongoing developments in my research area."Yogendra Kumar Mishra
"Peer review is an important part of my research, not a time-stealer or a distraction. It's probably the most valuable means of professional development available to me. Reading is an integral part of being an academic, but skimming the methods and absorbing the conclusions is not enough. The only time I really dig deep and analyse every argument, every choice of methodology, is when I'm reviewing."Chris Sampson
"[R]eviewing provides a unique opportunity of having a first-hand look at upcoming research. It also forces me to pay more attention to detail than my usual article reading activities, not only by the potential novelty of methods but also by the possibility of being a manuscript that I would otherwise not have read about."Leonardo de Oliveira Martins
"I am particularly motivated by reviewing interesting and relevant papers. I see it as the task of the editor to marry up the interests of the reviewer with the paper so that reviewing is not a chore."Alex Bateman
"My main motivation for reviewing any manuscript is the opportunity it provides to keep myself up to date with the most recent developments in my field. When I was doing my PhD and later my postdoc it was easier to keep track of the latest literature in the field as I was working on 1 or 2 topics at one time. However, as I grow in function and have less time to scan the scientific literature and my research interests also widen, it becomes bit difficult to keep track of all the latest literature. Reviewing manuscripts from my interest area allows me to have some control over this aspect and it also directs me to the groups who are active in that particular research area."Deepak Pant
I expect to be reviewed so feel obliged to review
"First and foremost, as a researcher I am part of an ecosystem. I am seeking positive criticism from my peers on my own work, and this feedback almost always improves my work or the way I present it. Getting such precious feedback is only possible if everyone does its share of the work."Pierre Bellec
"I see peer review as a one of the responsibilities of a researcher. Many of the best parts of the academic experience/environment are free and this is another one of those aspects that makes a positive contribution to the process."Nicholas Badcock
"Any scientist must publish the results of own research. Therefore, at one point, this work must be reviewed by others. I try to be supporting by reviewing manuscripts in my field, hoping that, when I would like to publish my research, there will be colleagues available that will give fair and constructive comments for my work. "Ana-Maria Florea
"I see that as an author of scientific papers I have a responsibility to review the work of others. This is the quid pro quo of scientific publishing."Alex Bateman
"Conscientiousness :) -- in some cases I'm aware that for an editor it might be difficult to find another expert in the field"Galina Paramei
Noting problems in others' papers helps me improve my own
"At least I try my best to keep my upcoming manuscripts free from those issues to which I often notice in other manuscripts during reviewing and suggest as remarks. Thus it helps towards a positive improvement"Yogendra Kumar Mishra
"Reviewing helps put me back in the seat of the user of evidence. I think this is very important for researchers to keep in mind all the time. This ensures they produce evidence that is relevant yet very easy to use and to-the-point. The critical mentality of peer-reviewers is also one that keeps the researchers side of these reviewers in check."Fares Alahdab
"I have reviewed papers for journals to which I might never submit a manuscript of my own, on topics about which I am likely never to have a deep understanding, by authors I might never engage with in any other setting. This broadens my knowledge and enables me to make theoretical and methodological connections that I wouldn't otherwise make. I can easily think of specific examples where issues raised or methodologies used in studies I have reviewed have directly inspired aspects of my own work."Chris Sampson
It's a wider way to contribute to scientific progress
"My own research is dependent on the published record of the research by many others, which is why I generally do not see reviewing as time taken away from my own research, but instead as a long-term investment on my future research. "Leonardo de Oliveira Martins
"For me personally, it's extremely rewarding to have an opportunity to review the scientific work of others in my field as well as contribute to the scientific profession at large. In particular, I enjoy reading and having an opportunity to critically review the work as well as enable the authors to publish a good piece of work that will advance the scientific knowledge in the field. Hence, being considered an expert, I take the job very seriously since in essence we are the "gatekeepers" of high quality scientific publishing."Natraj Krishnan
"I am glad to contribute to the scientific community and it makes me feel good that I helped some people to improve the manuscript I reviewed. "Ana-Maria Florea
"There is only so much research I can conduct/manage on my own, so contributing to the research of others is an opportunity to have a bigger impact on the scientific progress. By reviewing papers, I can provide input on how to make the research of others better, to point out what they might have overlooked, or simply to give some ideas of what they can try (and that would be difficult or impossible for me to try on my own). The other side of reviewing papers is "policing" the literature, making sure that published works are authentic, complete (replicable), and truthful (to the best of my abilities to judge). By pointing out scientific or literary gaps, I hope to contribute to the usefulness of the work when it is published."Rafael Santos
So what motivates you to review? Let us know via the comments below what benefits you see from reviewing the research of your peers.
You can expect a follow up to this post in the coming weeks detailing responses to another question: "Has your reviewing behaviour changed since joining Publons? If so: how?".