Evaluation (refereeing)

Evaluation guidelines and criteria

because The Unjournal does not publish work; it only links, rates, and evaluates it.

For more information about what we are asking evaluators (referees) to do, see:

Choosing and working with evaluators

How do we choose evaluators?

  • We follow standard procedures, considering complementary expertise, interest, and cross-citations, as well as confirming no conflicts of interest. (See our internal guidelines for choosing evaluators.)

  • We aim to consult those who have opted-in to our evaluator pool first.

  • We favor evaluators with a track record of careful, in-depth, and insightful evaluation — while giving ECRs a chance to build such a record.

Why do we pay evaluators?

For several reasons:

  • It's equitable, especially for those not getting "service credit" for their refereeing work from their employer.

  • Paying evaluators can reduce and conflicts of interest —arguably inherent to the traditional process where reviewers work for free.

  • We need to use explicit incentives while The Unjournal grows.

  • We can use payment as an incentive for high-quality work, and to access a wider range of expertise, including people not interested in submitting their own work to The Unjournal.

To claim your evaluator payment...

Can I submit an evaluation anonymously? How will you protect my anonymity?

Yes, we allow evaluators to choose whether they wish to remain anonymous or "sign" their evaluations. See Protecting anonymity.

I'm concerned about making my evaluation public; what if I make a mistake or write something I later regret?

To limit this concern:

  1. You can choose to make your evaluation anonymous. You can make this decision from the outset (this is preferable) or later, after you've completed your review.

  2. Your evaluation will be shared with the authors before it is posted, and they will be given two weeks to respond before we post. If they cite what they believe are any major misstatements in your evaluation, we will give you the chance to correct these.

  3. It is well-known that referee reports and evaluations are subject to mistakes. We expect most people who read your evaluation will take this into account.

  4. You can add an addendum or revision to your evaluation later on (see below).

Can I redact my evaluation after it's published through The Unjournal?

We will put your evaluation on PubPub and give it a DOI. It cannot be redacted in the sense that this initial version will remain on the internet in some format. But you can add an addendum to the document later, which we will post and link, and the DOI can be adjusted to point to the revised version.

See the For research authors FAQ as well as the "Direct evaluation" track.

We have two main ways that papers and research projects enter the Unjournal process:

  1. Authors ; if we believe the work is relevant, we assign evaluators, and so on.

  2. We that seems potentially influential, impactful, and relevant for evaluation. In some cases, we request the authors' permission before sending out the papers for evaluation. In other cases (such as where senior authors release papers in the prestigious NBER and CEPR series) we contact the authors and request their engagement before proceeding, but we don't ask for permission.

For either track, authors are invited to be involved in several ways:

  • Authors are informed of the process and given an opportunity to identify particular concerns, request an embargo, etc.

  • Evaluators can be put in touch with authors (anonymously) for clarification questions.

  • Authors are given a two-week window to respond to the evaluations (this response is published as well) before the evaluations are made public. They can also respond after the evaluations are released.

Can I share this evaluation? What else can I do with it?

If you are writing a signed evaluation, you can share it or link it on your own pages. Please wait to do this until after we have given the author a chance to respond and posted the package.

Otherwise, if you are remaining anonymous, please do not disclose your connection to this report.

Going forward:

  • We may later invite you to . . .

  • . . . and to help us judge prizes (e.g., the Impactful Research Prize (pilot)).

  • We may ask if you want to be involved in replication exercises (e.g., through the Institute for Replication).

  • As a general principle, we hope and intend always to see that you are fairly compensated for your time and effort.

What value do these evaluations provide, and for whom?

The evaluations provide at least three types of value, helping advance several paths in our theory of change:

  1. For readers and users: Unjournal evaluations assess the reliability and usefulness of the paper along several dimensions—and make this public, so other researchers and policymakers can

  2. For careers and improving research: Evaluations provide metrics of quality. In the medium term, these should provide increased and accelerated career value, improving the research process. We aim to build metrics that are credibly comparable to the current "tier" of journal a paper is published in. But we aim to do this better in several ways:

    • More quickly, more reliably, more transparently, and without the unproductive overhead of dealing with journals (see 'reshaping evaluation')

    • Allowing flexible, transparent formats (such as dynamic documents), thus improving the research process, benefiting research careers, and hopefully improving the research itself in impactful areas.

  3. Feedback and suggestions for authors: We expect that evaluators will provide feedback that is relevant to the authors, to help them make the paper better.

What should I prioritize in my evaluation process?

See our guidelines for evaluators.

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