Review as a mug's game

March 8, 1996

Having just engaged the professional services of a solicitor at Pounds 125 per hour, the absurd position that academics who publish in professional journals have procured for themselves was brought home to us. Because of the perceived wisdom that everything and anything must be "written up", we willingly joined the bandwagon of "peer review" for publishers who gain financially from the expansion of their repertoires of journals to satisfy the burgeoning quest for knowledge; the more cynical might suggest that its simply a positive feedback loop benefiting publishers' profits and authors' egos.

We tirelessly and without charge review and edit manuscripts for the publishers as part of our "academic duty". We generally receive no payment for authorship (Joan Collins please note), there can often be page charges, and invariably colour charges, the latter surely an anachronism in modern times. We even sign over copyright to the publishers. Surely it is time for us to stand up and be counted, or are we too preoccupied and scared of damaging our impact factors for the next research assessment?

MALCOLM ALISON CATHERINE SARRAF Royal Postgraduate Medical School Hammersmith Hospital PS. One of us did receive a mug at Christmas from a grateful publisher.

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