There are many flaws with the peer review system but it remains the best system we have for ensuring a certain degree of quality control prior to publication. One of the ways that the system could be improved is better recognition - and therefore motivation - for reviewers.
Ideally, there would be some form of payment, but I find it hard to see this happening any time soon. (It is difficult enough to get funds to publish papers - getting funds to get papers reviewed when they might well end up getting rejected is going to be way harder.)
The next best thing is some kind of reward or recognition. Some journals give discounted publication fees to reviewers, which is a great idea. Another great idea has just been put into action by PLOS ONE*: public recognition for reviewers:
On behalf of PLOS and the PLOS ONE editorial team, I would like to thank you for participating in the peer review process this past year at PLOS ONE.
We know there are many claims on your time and expertise and we very much appreciate your valuable input in 2015. With your help, we have continued to publish an influential, lively and highly accessed Open Access journal. Simply put, we could not do it without you and the thousands of other volunteers for PLOS ONE and the other PLOS journals who graciously contributed time reviewing manuscripts.
A public “Thank You” to our 2015 reviewers – including you – was published earlier this week.
(2016) PLOS ONE 2015 Reviewer Thank You. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0150341. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150341
Your name is listed in the Supporting Information file associated with the article. I hope that you will be able to use this letter, along with the article citation, to claim the credit and recognition you deserve within your institution for supporting PLOS ONE and Open Access publishing.
The article itself is short but sweet:
PLOS and the PLOS ONE editorial team would like to express our gratitude to all those individuals who participated in the peer review process of submissions to PLOS ONE over this past year. During 2015 PLOS ONE published over 28,000 research articles. This would not have been possible without the contribution of more than 76,000 reviewers from around the world and a wide range of disciplines.
The names of our 2015 PLOS ONE reviewers are listed in S1–S5 Reviewer Lists. Thank you to all our reviewers for generously sharing your time, insight and expertise with PLOS ONE authors in the evaluation of their work. Your efforts are a key reason for PLOS ONE’s success as an innovative and influential publication.
It’s nice to be appreciated. One more reason to be a fan of PLOS ONE. (Which I am, despite those who look down their noses at the journal because of its “scientifically rigorous research, regardless of novelty” policy.)
*The other PLOS journals did it to but I did not review anything for them this year.