The 450 movement (getting paid to peer review)


I’m just going to put myself out there, this is an ugly movement. I have seen people “demand” things for their academic achievements, and the only thing which is their due is being stripped of whatever they believe entitles them to such beliefs.

Good idea, I like it! I support by default any rising initiative which can result in openness in science and fairness in science communication “business model”. Another question is that other scientists or OS activists tend to criticise these initiatives without any reason, instead of proposing real help and actually practicing this idea in their academic life. This is one of the problems in OS movement, everybody thinks his/her project is the best and others are literally bad and finally, people do nothing.


one of jon’s last, unpublished articles was on this issue, at my prodding and urging. would share and discuss it later. :slight_smile:

the thread is below… jon sent me another, perhaps the same article, which he sent to the new york times… would dig up from my whatsapp later… :slight_smile:

The second is about the exploitation of free academic labour during peer review, and was inspired by @surya.

Abstract: Commercial publishing houses continue to make unbounded profits while exploiting the free labour of researchers through peer review. If publishers are to be compensated financially for the value that they add within a capitalist system, then all others who add value should be similarly, including reviewers. I propose that peer review should be included as a professional service by research institutes in their contracts with commercial publishers. This would help to recognise the value of peer review, and begin to shape it into a functional form of quality control.


Thanks for reminding us of this, @surya!


Welcome. Post-humous publication of that paper by e.s.e. :slight_smile:

Haven’t founs the nyt article draft yet. Inhave three phones, all of which were used to communicate intensively with jon. I hope later. :slight_smile:

I wrote a Twitter thread of reasons why this might not be such a good idea, at least if it became popular, here:

The tl;dr is that it’s better to be paid rather than not be paid, if everything else remains the same. But everything else would change too.


Thank you for taking the time to provide a deeper analysis other than the knee jerk “yes lets get more money” reactions.

I do not simply agree with your perspective as signing the job contract can be treated under the Labour code, potential reviewers and editors can be united in trade unions and ask for rights and adequate salaries for their work OFFICIALLY AND LEGALLY. And while workers are international, this creates additional problems for publishers: this process cannot be strictly controlled by them as it requires a lot of resources. I think the 450 movement, instead of receiving a lot of critics without a solution, needs an external help from experienced lawyers in international labour law. The capitalistic future of this idea that you have described will never happen just because Open Science movement is growing very fast and the scientists’ engagement in it is much more important than in Open Access 20 years ago.


I mentioned in the thread that @surya linked to that I’m somewhat in favour of paying reviewers as a way to be able to enforce better reviewing standards.

Regardless of whether reviewers should be paid (possibly) or journals should pay (probably) for reviews, I think this also highlights the difference in expectations between academics and professionals in other industries about how services should be compensated. My experience is that academics are really willing to really go above and beyond to provide services for others in society without asking for any compensation (except for an acknowledgement and sometimes a CV item).

I didn’t read the original 450 movement post entirely, but theses lines caught my eye:

And yesterday, I had a very odd experience. I was clearing out my personal inbox, which has hundreds of unanswered emails, and I found a review request from a journal.

My first thought was: oh, I should hurry up and send them a contract.

That’s my world now.

We need advice? We find a consultant.

We like the consultant? We sign an NDA, so we can talk freely.

We have a productive conversation? We draw up a contract.

I currently work independently and still often provide detailed advice to people who ask for it without thinking much about getting paid or asking for a contract, even though this takes time that I could be otherwise using to earn my income. As a case in point, when discussing how to proceed with the first industry client I worked for, I initially suggested that he send me over a side project or a some small task for me to work on for a few weeks to see if I was a good fit - he just said he’d send me a contract and put me on his main project straightaway :man_facepalming:t2: Anyway, I don’t offer to do that much for free anymore. But I think that this a common mindset in academia and does lead to academics being exploited by other people or entities that are primarily interested in profits, such as academic publishers.

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Good luck with drawing up a six-hour temporary employment contract for an Irish person living in France with an affiliation at a Dutch university, reviewing for the journal of an British society that is published by an American multinational.

But even more fundamentally, where is the money going to come from? A reviewer contract for $450 will require the publisher to see $1000 minimum coming in. Two reviewers, $2000. Three rounds of review, $6000. And at the end, you might get rejected. Who will pay this?

I am not a lawyer but I think that the law or any other legal act regulating this employment contract is simply not set up as it was never done before. Does it mean that in the beginning of the XXth century women should stay silent and quiet because there is no way they can get the equal labour rights as men have as law, religion, culture forbids this kind of equality? I am sure that opening up this discussion is a huge step forward. And the question is not about money but about the free academic labour that needs to be stopped.

Which money? Publisher’s money? This is a deal of journals to set up their budgets. Getting them in this legal quests is already an achievement. While publishers will be treated as employers, they can get a lot more attention and critics from society.

Just a comment about the practicalities of small contracts in a multinational context - I think that gig-economy platforms like Upwork (general) and Kolabtree (science-specific) already have this sorted out. In fact, when I used KolabTree in 2018/9 I regularly saw tasks for publication support services (e.g. scientific editing, proof-reading and pre-review) posted there. So if nothing else, an immediate legal solution would be just to have publishers ask reviewers to register on a platform and then assign them a paid review there. Of course, the platforms take a substantial cut for mediating such business (20% for KolabTree) so there is probably a better solution to be found.


I think more change is necessary than what is being advocated by the 450 movement.

The problem is academic publishing itself, not the way academics interact economically with publishing houses (which yes, is illogical and abhorrent). The institution of privatized academic publishing, I would argue, must be done away with completely if we are to seriously improve the conduct of science.

It seems to me, that if publishing houses retain editorial control, this creates many perverse incentives that will only lower the quality bar for reviews (which is already astonishingly low). If a journal wants to publish an article (so it can get money), then your review could potentially prevent this from happening (they can chose another review, and not ‘hire’ you again–softball reviews will be amplified).

The idea that we must pay reviewers is correct (contrary to some popular open source software ideologies all-volunteer projects do not guarantee high quality, they guarantee high accessibility), but the critical question I feel is: who pays?

The sponsoring grant making institution must pay for verification of findings, if findings are claimed. I think there are a few parts to this:

  • As a contingency of accepting a grant, a researcher agrees to 2 publications that will be attached as outcomes to the grant. A research summary outlining negative or positive results, and additionally, a verification paper that will be used as the complete basis for reconstructing the results.
  • The grant making institution will have an electronic system making these two (at a minimum) papers electronically available per grant as they are validated.
  • A grant making institution, if publicly funded, will cooperate with publicly funded verification centers and personnel in order to ensure the high quality and correctness of reported research results.

The core idea is that we are grossly underfunding science where it matters the most, the verification step. We don’t currently fund this key piece of the scientific process, and here I argue, is where many of sciences’ current problems lie: reproducibility crisis, accessibility crisis, prestige hacking, etc.

In the publicly funded verification scenario, there are no journals. You find papers and research results in a flat, non-hierarchical repository. These can be organized and searchable by grant, by field, by sub-field, or private companies can build search and curation services on top of this if they can provide additional value.

So how to do the verification step?

First, yes it’s a lot of money we are talking about. However, that amount of money pales in comparison to the amount grant making institutions are wasting year over year funding bad science that isn’t reproducible, and is of no use to society.

Simply put: we need dedicated verification centers and personnel. Anything less than this will not work, and only serve to exacerbate the current crises facing science.

So, why not make verification work part of the scientific training process? I argue that spending 1-2 years of your phD verifying papers in collaboration with senior review personnel would be more instructive, and have a better chance of producing a capable scientist than what I have seen in academia, which seems to be: here…go do this narrowly scoped project on your own for 5-7 years and then write a report about it no one will likely ever read…then go work at Google. I think having the experience of verifying other scientists work, and having that work be fairly broad in scope, would better serve the phD student.

Verification centers could also dramatically improve the quality of science on their own. This is a service I could envision an independent science organization offering to say the NSF. This would create more desperately needed jobs in science, providing a service that science desperately needs. These could be located at Universities (in normal labs), or they could be specialist centers that do the work with high efficiency and lower cost.

However we get there (open, reproducible science), I think we must get there–what we have now is a clearly broken system.


So funnily enough, about a month ago we started designing a campaign along these lines to be hosted on Free Our Knowledge. Basically the same premise as 450Movement – people should withhold unpaid reviews from highly profitable publishers – except that people only take action once we hit a critical mass of support (100 pledges? 1000 pledges). Would love it if those interested could help us design the campaign details, as the platform should be ready to host it in the coming weeks/months.

Here’s the thinking: 450 Movement is great and all, but it’s one person. What happens when one person (effectively) refuses to review for a journal? They just get someone else to do it. But what happens when a critical mass of people refuse, together? Systems change.

Now, we could discuss a whole bunch of hypotheticals about how this might play out, all things being equal, but I’m with @sivashchenko on this. The open science landscape is changing rapidly, and it’s impossible to predict how this movement will interact with others in the space. To me, the main thing is that each campaign places some small amount of pressure on the broken parts of the system, while easing pressure on the potential solutions, so that we can gradually edge toward an open science future. If you don’t agree with a particular campaign, you can always start your own campaign that you think will have greater effect (seriously, please start some campaigns on Project FOK!).

In this case, the 450/FOK campaigns place pressure on for-profit publishers, who own science and make huge profits off of our labour, while easing pressure on community-owned journals/editors (note that neither proposal is saying we should charge the latter). Who will pay for it? Well, I can imagine a future in which we capture the value we currently throw away to publishers, and instead put those billions of dollars toward building completely free and open infrastructure, and support those researchers who contribute value to such a system. All of this is a long way off, of course, but multiple factors can change in concert as we edge toward a better system, and we’ll have plenty of opportunity to check in and change course as we go. But I’d much rather try something, and have it fail, than try nothing at all.


In general I agree, however I think there is some danger in not articulating a clear alternative. I tend to view this as a systems design problem (we currently have a bad one), and am cognizant of the possibility that things could get worse, as well as better. In the particular case of the 450 movement, I do not want it to succeed in the sense of private journals paying researchers for reviews. If it succeeds in the sense that it tips the status quo further towards collapse, then that would be great IMO. Open access journals would be a much better alternative, and I would be all for a general strike of researchers just refusing to review for journals that charge access fees. However, the open access journals do not yet solve the significant quality and reproducibility issues–and I feel only a very serious change of course in the way things are done can change this for the better.

FOK looks great! Thanks for posting a link to this.


folks, would chime in on this issue later… :slight_smile:

but this is today, so do sign up soonest… it’s supposed to be for asia pacific, but i think this is a very broad region… half the world is in asia pacific… so sign up if you’re from here… :slight_smile:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Greetings from Jakarta.

Thank you very much for registering for the online regional consultation meeting on “Inputs from Asia-Pacific region to the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science” which will take place on Tuesday, 15 September 2020, 12:00 – 15:00 (GMT+7).

Please find the meeting link below the email, and three documents for your kind information:

  1. Summary of global and regional results of the global survey on Open Science conducted from March-June 2020

  2. The draft Table of Content and key messages of the Recommendation on Open Science developed by the Global Advisory Committee (meeting on 16-17 July 2020)

  3. Concept Note (including updated agenda)

Please address any further inquiries about the meeting to Dr. Ai Sugiura ( and Madam Sharizad Dahlan ( and cc to Ms. Jiaying Lin (

We look forward to welcoming you to the meeting.

Thank you very much,

Kind regards,

UNESCO Office, Jakarta

-------- Zoom Link ----------

Topic: Regional Open Science Consultation Meeting

Time: Sep 15, 2020 12:00 PM Bangkok

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 929 1454 7224

Passcode: 787832

I was surprised this didn’t mention the 450 movement.

Let’s tell them to mention it… :slight_smile: