American Physical Society: Outstanding Referees Program
Motivation: Reporting on a good initiative by the American Physical Society (APS) to give credit to scholars that have done some great peer review work over the years.
Problem statement: Good incentives for peer reviewers are rare, so every initiative that supports the crucial contribution of peer reviewers is welcome.
The Outstanding Referee program was instituted in 2008. The highly selective award program recognizes scientists who have been exceptionally helpful in assessing manuscripts for publication in the APS journals. The program will annually recognize approximately 130 of the 42,000 currently active referees, but in the inaugural year a larger group of 534 referees has been selected for the Outstanding Referee designation. Like Fellowship in the APS, this is a lifetime award. By initiating the program, APS expresses its appreciation to all referees, whose efforts in peer review not only keep the standards of the journals at a high level, but in many cases also help authors to improve the quality and readability of their articles—even those that are not published by APS.
The selection of Outstanding Referees was made based on two decades of database records on over 50,000 referees (some no longer in active service) who have been called upon to review manuscripts, of which 33,000 were submitted in 2007. Most of the referees chosen in this inaugural year have given dedicated service for many years. The basis for choosing the 534 honorees was the quality, number, and timeliness of their reports, without regard for membership in the APS, country of origin, or field of research. Individuals with current or very recent direct connections to the journals, such as editors and editorial board members, were excluded. The decision was difficult and there are many excellent referees who could not be recognized this year. In this first year of the program the lifetime of work contributed by a referee was emphasized. In future years, the focus will be on the more recent work of referees.
The honorees come from 33 different countries, with large contingents from the US, Germany, UK, Canada, and France. The names of this year’s honorees are listed below and are printed in each APS journal. All have been notified, and have been sent a lapel pin and a certificate. Simple recognition ceremonies are being held at some APS meetings.
The Outstanding Referees are to be congratulated and thanked for their outstanding service to the physics community.
What a great idea. I would sure like to know how they evaluated all these peer reviewers on quality, however. I know a bunch of instruments for that purpose, but I am not sure how feasible they are in this context. Depending on how much work it is to assess these scholars on their contributions, I think every field should do something like this!