January 31, 2023


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He refuses to pay colleagues’ salaries and believes they threaten academic work

Is it time for researchers to get paid to do peer review?

No, is the obvious answer from NTNU sociology professor Axel Tjora. He believes it is starting at the wrong end and is a threat to an academic effort under pressure.

If you’re going to start paying reviewers because the major publishers’ finances depend on the free labor of so many people, you’re starting on the wrong end. One should instead look at the problematic aspects of how the publishing system is structured, he says over the phone from a research stay in Australia, before adding:

– The world of the university should be interested in service-based.

publishers with huge profits

In other words, Tjora disagrees with UiO professor Jonas R. Kunst, who not only advocates that peers should be paid for their work, but also started a separate publishing house where they challenge publishing giants by paying strictly for peer reviews.

– The system must be changed. We don’t think publishers are interested in it, they make a lot of money from a system that exploits researchers, so we started our own publishing house, Art told Chrono.

He pointed the finger at publishers with enormous financial power who control the scientific publishing market. Five major publishers control more than 50 percent of the market and can point to huge profits.

At the same time, it is estimated that researchers globally spent more than 100 million hours peer reviewing in 2020. That work is valued at more than $1.5 billion to peers in the US alone, while in the US alone it is valued at more than $600 million. to peers in China.

Peer reviews, which are supposed to ensure research quality by having experts evaluate scholarly articles before publication, are largely unpaid. It has been considered as part of an academic effort to ensure research quality.

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Art, for its part, describes how requests for essay evaluation have become increasingly numerous. He wants to end the pro bono business of multi-billion publishers.

useful community

Tjura notes that he himself researches societies as a sociologist.

“The professional academic community is a rather fragile thing that deserves attention,” he says.

He touched on something of the same in a Universitetskamp article from 2019.

There he wrote: “The academic community must be seen as an effective coordinating and motivating mechanism—an organic means of organizing academic work—which we run the risk of being destroyed by some form of industrialization in the university sector.”

For example, he refers specifically to publishing research and his experience as editor of the Journal of Sociology for four years about ten years ago, an experience he describes as “an example of the struggle to maintain such a dedicated community.”

He describes it as sitting “at the heart of a national academic community” and writes that “he then experienced how to create a national academic community and was confirmed by the hard work of social scientists across the country who contributed articles, peer reviews, and book reviews to the journal.”

Do a lot without pay

Does pushing colleagues pose a threat to academic effort?

Yes, the quick answer from Tjurah before continuing:

When you start paying for work that used to be free, you are in a very sorry position. Should I charge to talk to you now? Should I be paid to answer a journalist calling from NRK with whom I speak for half an hour for one minute on the radio? Then we are in a twist where there will be a terrible bureaucracy.

Tjora asks if he should then get his own institute to do the billing and says you end up creating more bureaucracy, less professional freedom, and more people management if all tasks are to be followed by a financial transaction.

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“The fact that this sector can continue to operate at a high professional level, without there being a lot of financial transactions, is related to professional enthusiasm, which is manifested in the situation that you do many things that are not paid for,” he says.

As a starting point for Tjora himself that he says yes to peer review requests, provided it’s something he has a good understanding of.

Thought it was posted too much

Art also described harsh pressure on the editor to get colleagues. It’s something Tjura recognizes from his stint as editor.

“Getting reviewers is a growing problem, but an even greater symptom of failure,” he says, referring to the “publish or disappear” refrain, which is a growing pressure to publish.

– There is an insane increase in the number of journals, and there is a significant increase in the number of articles published in various journals. This means that the need for auditors has increased steadily over a long period of time. The fact that we have a counting edge system in Norway means that we have a huge increase in publications also among Norwegian academics.

He still believes that paying colleagues starts on the wrong end.

– The problem is that too many articles are being published. 90% of articles published are unnecessary articles, he says, and refers to the book “Tomhetens triumf” by Swedish researcher Mats Alfison.

– There are a whole bunch of articles that you shouldn’t publish because they don’t really contain anything new, they’re premature or they repeat the same thing over and over again to generate publication points or until a research project is funded by, for example, a research board can Or the EU will list everything that came out of the project upon completion, while the main findings can be written in one article.

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He believes that high publication ratings also mean that researchers have to read unnecessarily a lot.

“You’re starting on the wrong end if you’re going to start paying reviewers, you’d rather be working too long and trying to reduce the number of articles published,” Tjura says. He also believes that in this way “one loses the opportunity to work with a structure that has lost its way.”

An army of expert reviewers?

In an article published by Khrono in 2019, Tjora wrote that they were “going to destroy some of the most important driving forces in the sector, academic work, which still characterizes the core of academic work and teaching, but is under pressure.” He referred to medicine and wrote that “an army of expert reviewers is emerging who are paid in part for the evaluations of their articles.”

Start at the wrong end if you want to start paying reviewers.

Axel Tjora

– “an army of reviewing experts”, is that a real fear?

– It was a specific wording, but the fact is that we now have a number of open access journals where authors are required to pay for the publication of articles. Then there is the economy of having articles, and then there is also the economy of having reviewers. I have experienced reviewers in a medical journal, whom I won’t name, who go into the text and make changes, as if they were co-authors. Then you get a situation where the reviewer helps publish the article, say.

It’s an unfortunate development, he says, adding:

– For me, it would be strange to deal with a professional device with a large economy, who would count on publishing as many articles as possible.

Tjura also believes that it creates a strange economy that the author must pay.