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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Reviewer Information
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Peer reviewers are scientists and technical experts who possess relevant knowledge and experience in a field of science.  They critically evaluate a set of scientific research project plans for scientific and technical quality. Peer reviewers are independent of the research being planned or performed and qualified to serve. Peer reviewers may be members of academics, Agency customers or stakeholders, or (rarely) ARS scientists.

Peer reviewers lend their expertise and experience to ARS in assessing the scientific and technical quality of research project plan approaches, methods, procedures and use of material resources. Unencumbered by internal or organizational viewpoints and associations, they are in a unique position to provide constructive feedback to ARS scientists. Peer reviewers serve as advisors to ARS. While their recommendations are not binding upon the Agency, their insights and suggestions will be carefully considered to ensure the quality and credibility of the Agency's overall scientific Program.

Peer reviewers are responsible for providing credible, objective and thorough reviews of ARS research project plans.  Peer reviewers are also required to sign and honor confidentiality agreements to protect potentially sensitive information included in ARS research project plans.

ARS research project plans may include information about the underlying research and existing or anticipated research results that are considered by ARS to be proprietary or confidential.  Reviewers must agree to not copy, quote, discuss, or otherwise use material from the proposal outside the panel review process.

All individuals who serve as a panel peer reviewer for ARS are reimbursed for their travel and lodging expenses according to government travel regulations. External (non-ARS) panel reviewers also receive a modest honorarium.

Preparing panelists is an important part of the peer review.  Essential to their work is a clear understanding of the unique nature of this particular review. This includes differentiation of this ARS review from competitive reviews, its similarity to manuscript review, the nature and origin of plan objectives, and the role of stakeholders, Congress, and others in setting research directions.

Panelists receive both written and detailed web-based training on the OSQR peer review process. This includes an overview of the process and its unique aspects. A presentation by NPLs introduces reviewers to the relevant National Program Action Plan and the scope of projects being reviewed.

General Information

All reviewers are sent a Confidentiality Agreement, an Information Form and request for curriculum vitae (CV) very early in the panel review process. 

About six weeks prior to your panel meeting, you'll receive a Federal Express package containing:

Panel Reviewers:

  1. Project plans. A few will be identified as those you will need to provide an in-depth peer review as primary or secondary reviewer. It is expected that you will read all plans uncless you have a conflict of interest.
  2. Panel agenda with a list of all of the projects your panel has been assigned to review and your individual assignments as primary and secondary reviewer.
  3. Guidelines for peer reviewers.
  4. Logistics folder containing information specific to your panel.
  5. National Program Action Plan

Ad Hoc Reviewers: At least four weeks are allowed to review a project plan and return reviews electronically.

Other Useful Information:

Guidelines for Peer Reviewers

Sample Peer Review Form (This form contains the peer review criteria and action classes.)

Action Class Matrix

ONP Research Homepage


Last Modified: 11/25/2013
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