There’s a nice discussion at Leiter about refereeing duties. Leiter has asked people to disclose the amount of refereeing they do, and to opine about how much refereeing one ought to do. A lot of people have contributed, and I think it’s a valuable discussion. I have a couple of thoughts, though.
1. Almost everyone who has responded claims to do what would have to be an above-average amount of refereeing. One person claims to referee 30 papers a year. Although I think that’s bullshit, a typical commenter claims to have refereed between 10 and 15 papers a year on average. I think that probably represents the high side. Nobody has said, “I never referee,” or, “I referee once a year because that’s the smallest amount that doesn’t leave me feeling like a total dick.”
2. Almost everyone who has responded claims to provide detailed feedback. I find that I almost never get feedback, and only very, very rarely is the feedback detailed. I have never gotten detailed feedback with a rejection—I’ve only received feedback with a rejection once, and while it was actually very helpful, it was not detailed. The detailed feedback accompanied a request to revise and resubmit (and was extremely, incredibly helpful—I’d like to know who the refs were so I could adequately thank them. Seriously.)
3. I have never been asked to referee a paper.
4. Franz Huber proposes a formal system of credits and debits that would guarantee smooth and efficient operation of the submission/refereeing system. I think the system would be disastrous—people who don’t get many requests to referee would be shut out, and this would much more likely to happen early on in one’s career, when you need to be free to send stuff out like crazy without being punished, but when no editor is going to think of you when thinking of potential refs. I think our current all-volunteer system, while flawed, is superior.
5. Matt S. asks a question I’d like to see answered: “how often does it happen that you get asked to referee a paper for one journal, reject it, then are asked by another journal to referee the same paper when it gets submitted there? Given how specialized most topics are, I would think this must happen with some regularity. If so, do you refuse to referee the paper, reject it automatically, reconsider depending on revisions or what the journal is...?”