Some one tell me what’s wrong with this idea: Journal editors should publicly acknowledge their best referees. Obviously, they can’t say which papers the referee worked on, but they could write a note saying
To whom it may concern: Jane Doe has refereed more than twenty papers for the Journal of Isotropic Widgets, and she has always done a through and careful job. Our journal is greatly improved by her efforts.
Professor Doe could then list this on her webpage and CV, and hopefully it would help her tenure case and her professional reputation. As things currently stand, referees can list the journals we have worked for on our CV’s, but there is no way to indicate the quality of that work.
The only argument I see against this is that the process of writing these letters would be very subjective. But that’s also true of the writing of recommendation letters and of the acceptance of papers to journals. Am I missing something?