Preparing the documents needed for an exam for a career advancement, to a scientist like me, is something like putting order in a messy garage. Leave alone my desk, which is indeed in a horrific messy state - papers stratified and thrown around with absolutely no ordering criterion, mixed with books I forgot I own and important documents I'd rather have reissued rather than searching for them myself. No, I am rather talking about my own scientific production - pubished articles that need to be put in ordered lists, conference talks that I forgot I have given and need to be cited in the curriculum vitae, refereeing work I also long forgot I'd done, internal documents of the collaborations I worked in, students I tutored, courses I gave. All that material needs to be properly accounted for and described in the curriculum vitae.
By far the hardest part is the management of the papers I published. I know it used to be an order of magnitude more painful once, when smart web archives did not provide lists at the click of a mouse; but still, it can be annoying to have to produce a list of hundreds of articles, as the web tools (such as the Thomson Reuters "Web of Science" site, which is pretty good) usually cannot recognize duplicates, and the lists do contain them, for several reasons.
In my case the presence of duplicates was a killer, as even after the extraction of a list from the site I was left with 900 documents, with very similar titles (e.g. I counted two dozen papers starting with the words "Measurement of the top quark production cross section") and published to only a few different scientific magazines. It took me a full day of work to output the list in a suitable format, produce a computer code smart enough to identify the duplicates, remove them, and print out a renumbered list. At least now I know I have published a total of 870 articles, and I got to see that my Hirsch index is 71. Useful data, but who cares after all...
Producing a list of conference talks I gave in 20 years of career as a particle physicist was less painful but still tedious, as in a few cases I had totally forgotten name of the conference, year, or location, and some details were not easy to trace back to. As for the other lists, I had to dig in my archives and I am sure I have forgotten some student here and there. Nothing critical for the task of producing a complete curriculum vitae, but in such situations I tend to be a perfectionist so I am slightly bothered by the feeling of not having kept track effectively of all my past work.
The list of refereeing work was not hard to assemble, and it was the most rewarding one to compile, as once I was done I realized that I did spend a large portion of my research time checking papers that other people have written. I am far from the calvary that researchers in other disciplines sometimes go through, but still, it makes me wonder - why is peer review not paid for ?
I know it's an old question, and I do not have particular wisdom to add here more than what I wrote and said in a panel discussion at ESOF2010 (see here and here) - peer review needs to be independent AND unbiased, and if they pay you for doing something you usually lose a part of your freedom. The issue I have is that I loathe the idea of working for free. Especially due to the world economical crisis, I see the request of unpaid work growing in all human occupations, usually accompanied by the promise of a future stable employment, or other possible benefits; and I think this often borders sheer exploitation.
You might object that as a paid researcher, the use of my research time for review work should not be something I complain about, as it should rather be a concern of my employer; but I see this differently. If I give an invited seminar or a lecture at a school (not a talk at a conference, that's another business) I expect to receive some compensation: an addition to my modest salary which makes me willing to do as good a job as I can; or at the very least a paid trip in comfortable conditions, perhaps accompanied by my companion. Is it not the way it works for lecturers in the private sector ? Add to that the fact that I do believe my work is worth much more than what it is paid for, and you get the picture.
Publishers make lots of money with scientific journals. Their publication fees are very high, and libraries around the world spend a large part of their budget to subscribe to the magazines. Why does the CEO of Elsevier (say) have to get richer and richer, profiting from unpaid work of scientists who carefully review papers day in and day out ? I know I am being a bit naive, but I object to such a system no less than I object to unpaid "training stages" of young graduates in companies that exploit the fresh manpower and then dumps it with no mercy.
So I think the next time I am asked to review a paper, I will ask for something back - say $10 per page or something symbolic in that price range. I know they will not even reply to my request and just move on looking for somebody else. But if you are a colleague and you do that too, and this becomes a common reaction in our field, at some point things might actually change for good. Or am I a dreamer ?
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