Vol. 14 No. 1 (2023): Peer review: a process undergoing a required transformation

Towards peer review as a group engagement

Andrea Bonaccorsi
University of Pisa

Published 2022-12-19


  • Peer review,
  • Open access,
  • Prosocial behavior

How to Cite

Bonaccorsi, A. (2022). Towards peer review as a group engagement. JLIS.It, 14(1), 46–59. https://doi.org/10.36253/jlis.it-511


I discuss from an economic perspective two of the most recent suggestions to reform the peer review system: (a) payment to referees; (b) ex post peer review. I show that strong economic arguments militate against these ideas.

With respect to payment to referees I use results from the economic analysis of prosocial behavior and the private production of public goods, which show that the supply of monetary incentives has the paradoxical effect of reducing the willingness of agents to collaborate, insofar as they substitute intrincic motivation with extrinsic motivation.

With respect to ex post peer review, I show that it fails to offer sufficient incentives to researchers, since it is anonymous, depersonalized, and weak in its marginal impact on publishing decisions. I take this argument to criticize the lack of theorizing, in the side of radical proponents of Open access, about the conditions for transition from the subscription model to the Open model. It is this lack of critical attention to economic arguments that has led to the unintended but dramatic outcome of a net increase in the cost of scientific publishing, as documented in very recent papers.

Finally, I advance a proposal for admitting payments to referees, but not as individuals but as groups of researchers. I offer this idea to open discussion.


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