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Reviewer Information
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Reviewer Information


Peer Review - The critical evaluation of ARS research project plans for scientific merit and technical quality.  Written recommendations, emphasizing on the quality and credibility of expert peer reviewer’s insights and suggestions, which are fully considered to strengthen the Agency's overall scientific programming. 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.

Peer Reviewers - Researchers or technical experts, deemed by ARS as possessing relevant knowledge and experience in a particular discipline. Peer reviewers are free from conflicts of interest as related to the lead SY researcher and their research team And also agree by virtue of a Confidentiality Agreement to not copy, quote, discuss, or otherwise use material from the proposal outside the peer panel review process. Peer reviewers are academicians, customers or stakeholders of USDA science or selected USDA researchers.

Peer Panel Review - The peer reviewer deliberation that assesses the scientific and technical quality of individual research project plans, its approaches, methods, and procedures. Peer reviewers provide their expertise and experience to ARS by participating in a credible, objective and thorough reviews of ARS research project plans..

Panel Chairs - Selected chairs can be recommended by National Program Leaders (NPLs) and/or previous OSQR service or sought based on their nationally recognized expertise by the OSQR Director. Selected individuals are examined for suitability to lead a panel review, screened for conflicts of interest (COI) and finally concurred upon by the current Scientific Quality Review Officer (SQRO).

Scientific Quality Review Officer (SQRO) - A senior USDA-ARS research scientist selected for a two year appointment to serve as part of the Office of Scientific Quality Review and provide additional scientific expertise in the peer review process, including approving panel chairs and other members, ensuring reviewers comments are adequately addressed in project plan revisions, and certifying post plans.

Project Plan - USDA-ARS sponsored research concept, considered both proprietary and/or confidential

Honorarium - Modest fee offered to Peer Reviewers for time spent reviewing assigned project plans

Orientation - Training preparation of Peer Reviewers (Panel and Chair) via written and web-based modules.

Information Forms - Submissions from Peer reviewers, which serve as supplemental information to account for the identity of each external reviewer assigned to review a plan. 

Ad Hoc Review - A Peer Review without a virtual panel review. All correspondence is sent electronically.

Action Class Rating - Available scoring selections which a Peer reviewer may assign to a project plan. i.e., No revision; Minor revision; Moderate revision, Major revision, and Not Feasible

General Information

All reviewers must complete a Confidentiality Agreement, an Information Form, and provide a current curriculum vitae (CV) very early in the panel review process. 

About four-six weeks prior to your panel meeting, you'll receive an email containing:

  1. Project plans - It is expected that you will read all plans unless you have a conflict of interest.
  2. Panel review forms 
  3. 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.
  4. Guidelines for peer reviewers.
  5. Supplemental information specific to your panel.
  6. 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:

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


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