Scientific sinkhole: estimating the cost of peer review based on survey data with snowball sampling

Background There are a variety of costs associated with publication of scientific findings. The purpose of this work was to estimate the cost of peer review in scientific publishing per reviewer, per year and for the entire scientific community.


Internet-based self-report, cross-sectional survey, live between June 28, 2021 and August 2, 2021 was
used. Participants were recruited via snowball sampling. No restrictions were placed on geographic location or field of study. Respondents who were asked to act as a peer-reviewer for at least one manuscript submitted to a scientific journal in 2020 were eligible. The primary outcome measure was the cost of peer review per person, per year (calculated as wage-cost x number of initial reviews and number of re-reviews per year). The secondary outcome was the cost of peer review globally (calculated as the number of peer-reviewed papers in Scopus x median wage-cost of initial review and re-review).


A total of 354 participants completed at least one question of the survey, and information necessary to
calculate the cost of peer-review was available for 308 participants from 33 countries (44% from Canada). The cost of peer review was estimated at $US1,272 per person, per year ($US1,015 for initial review and $US256 for re-review), or US$1.1–1.7 billion for the scientific community per year. The global cost of peer-review was estimated at US$6 billion in 2020 when relying on the Dimensions database and taking into account reviewed-but-rejected manuscripts.

Lead Researchers

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  1. Jean-Philippe Chaput

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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  2. Mark S. Tremblay

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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