Something a bit different today: this post is mostly just a link to a piece I’ve just published on jobs.ac.uk. There, I ask why early-career folks might get involved in peer reviewing, given that they aren’t paid to review (unlike many, if not most, more senior academics, for whom reviewing is part of the service component of the job). There are clear benefits to reviewing (which you can read about in the piece I linked to above*) but I don’t think one of them is giving you something you can list to good effect on your CV. Which raises the question: what is Publons for? That’s something I don’t pick apart in my why-review post. And I don’t have an answer, but rather, some half-formed thoughts.
When I review a paper these days, I’m routinely ask if I’d like to receive Publons credit for it. This puzzles me, because I can’t figure out what problem this is a solution to. Here’s (some of) what Publons’ web site says it can offer me:
Your verified peer review and journal editing history, powered by partnerships with thousands of scholarly journals.
Publons CV summarising your scholarly impact as an author, editor and peer reviewer.
Well, I already have a CV that summarizes my scholarly impact as an author, editor, and peer reviewer. (The peer review part of that doesn’t carry significant weight in any CV-assessment situation I’ve ever been involved in, but it’s there anyway.) So what good is having a Publons-“verified” record of this?
The only answer I can come up with is that Publons wants us not to take the peer-review record on someone’s CV at face value – rather, someone should “verify” that record. So: why do we want “verified” records of some things, but not others? Why do we request official transcripts for grades, but take someone’s word for their list of publications? Actually, it’s stronger than that – I’ve been involved with several exercises (both hiring and grant adjudication) in which I wasn’t allowed to do anything other than take someone’s word for it. That is, checking a CV claim, or acting on any knowledge not already represented on the CV, was explicitly forbidden. You do hear of occasional CV-falsification scandals, so people clearly do, sometimes, pad their academic CVs. Weirdly, Publons seems to offer a service to prevent this for precisely the part of a CV that’s the least important. So what am I missing?
Anyway, just some half-formed thoughts on what is, or needs to be, “verified” on a CV. But my real point was just to suggest you read about benefits to peer review, over here.
© Stephen Heard November 30, 2021
Image: A little chunk of the peer review section of my CV. My long-form one, I mean – I do understand that hardly anyone cares about this bit. Which is sort of my point.
*^Why is it over there on jobs.ac.uk rather than right here on Scientist Sees Squirrel? Well, it’s pretty simple: they paid me for it. No, I don’t think everything we do as scientists needs to be paid; but I’m not such a purist as to refuse to be paid for anything. And it’s free for you to read there, just as every post is here.