Background: It is commonly reported by editors that it has become harder to recruit reviewers for peer review and that this is because individuals are being asked to review too often and are experiencing reviewer fatigue. However, evidence supporting these arguments is largely anecdotal.

Main body: We examine responses of individuals to review invitations for six journals in ecology and evolution. The proportion of invitations that lead to a submitted review has been decreasing steadily over 13 years (2003–2015) for four of the six journals examined, with a cumulative effect that has been quite substantial (average decline from 56% of review invitations generating a review in 2003 to just 37% in 2015). The likelihood that an invitee agrees to review declines significantly with the number of invitations they receive in a year. However, the average number of invitations being sent to prospective reviewers and the proportion of individuals being invited more than once per year has not changed much over these 13 years, despite substantial increases in the total number of review invitations being sent by these journals—the reviewer base has expanded concomitant with this growth in review requests.

Conclusions: The proportion of review invitations that lead to a review being submitted has been declining steadily for four of the six journals examined here, but reviewer fatigue is not likely the primary explanation for this decline.

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Published in Research Integrity and Peer Review, v. 2, 3, p. 1-6.

© The Author(s) 2017

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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This project was funded in part by the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, the British Ecological Society and the Society for the Study of Evolution (all to CF).

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The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and at Dryad (DataDryad.org), doi:10.5061/dryad.2jr8p.