Capacity Building Success - Funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration H315D050007
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Peer Review Process

Overview of Peer Review Process
FAQ about Peer Review Process
Become an OSERS Peer Reviewer

Overview of the Peer Review Process
Peer review is a vital part of the proposal competition.
The Department puts a great deal of time and effort into recruiting peer reviewers from various disciplines to evaluate and score proposal applications. After the reviewers score the applications, program staff conducts an internal review to assure that the reviewers' scoring sheets are correctly completed and that the application meets all the requirements of the program. The Department may also standardize the reviewers’ scores to ensure that each proposal has received a fair and impartial review. The review process is the basis for a final listing of applicants that are considered for funding.

Reviewers score each application against the selection criteria published in the Notice Inviting Applications and included in the application package. In reviewing applications, reviewers are not permitted to use additional criteria or consider any information that is not in the application. This is why applicants are strongly encouraged to use the selection criteria when preparing their program narrative.

Peer reviewers assign points to applications based on a review of how well the proposal addresses the selection criteria. Applicants may find that the scores of the reviewers vary by more than a few points. Department policy requires that each reviewer must provide an independent review. This means that reviewers are not asked to form a consensus decision. They are, however, asked to document the reasons for their scores.

The program may use a statistical program to normalize (or standardize) reviewers' scores. This normalization compensates for the tendencies of some reviewers to score applications higher or lower than other reviewers for the same group of applications. With normalized scores, program staff is able to prepare a rank order list of applications that negates as much as possible, any unusual variations in scoring.

It should be noted that even if your proposal ranks high your application still might not be funded because of the large number of high quality applications that were received under the competition. Some programs have a requirement to maintain urban/rural and geographic distribution for grants awarded.

Although the time varies from program to program, it takes approximately four to six months from the time the Department receives a new application to the time the award is made. The Department must carefully follow its own procedures, as well as requirements established by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in reviewing applications and awarding grants. We must assure that the review and award process is fair to all applicants. As the Department adopts new technology, we expect the time required to process applications will be reduced.

Benefits of becoming a proposal reviewer
Reading the attempts of many other people to put together a proposal gives you a much better sense of what reviewers need. Being a reviewer also exposes you to the latest ideas and information in your field. Most federal agencies and some private ones need outside reviewers and are glad to have additional help. Contact agencies or other sponsors in your discipline to see if you can serve as a reviewer for them.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Peer Review Process

What is the Peer Review Process?
Most Federal funding sources (i.e., RSA, NIDRR), utilize a peer review process to select proposals to be funded.

Peer reviewers, also called proposal reviewers, are recruited from various disciplines to evaluate and score proposal applications. Reviewers score each application based upon the selection criteria published in the Notice of Funding Available (NOFA), Request for Proposals (RFP), and in the instructions found within the RFP application package.

When reviewing applications, the reviewers must consider only the information provided in the proposal application. Usually the peer reviewers will review the proposal separately and then come together as a panel. The panel will then share their feedback and comments about the proposal, as well as their rationale for the scores they awarded.

Once the reviewers have evaluated and scored the applications, Federal officers use the information to rank the proposals according to their numeric scores. The proposal applications receiving the highest scores will be funded based on their ranking and the number of funds that are available for that particular competition.

Who are the Peer Reviewers?
Almost anyone can be a peer reviewer. There is great need for individuals from ethnically diverse backgrounds and individuals who have disabilities to become reviewers. Accommodations will be made for individuals with disabilities to participate in the peer review process. Peer reviewers are:
• Professionals
• Para-professionals
• Parents of individuals with disabilities who have related experiences

What are the Benefits of Serving as a Peer Reviewer?
• You will become familiar with the evaluation criteria of different funding bodies.
• Funding agencies will also become familiar with you as a reviewer.
• You will have the opportunity to read submitted proposals, which is an excellent way to learn about grant writing.
• You will gain a better understanding of what the proposal reviewers are looking for when evaluating proposals, which will make you a stronger proposal writer.
• You will have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
• Peer reviewing offers a great opportunity for networking.
• You will be able to be of service to others.
• Your expenses are paid and you will receive a small stipend for your efforts.

What are the Responsibilities of the Peer Reviewer?

• Attend an orientation to the Peer Review Process (conducted prior to actual proposal reviews).
• Read and evaluate numerous proposals.
• Evaluate proposals based on selection criteria (independent evaluations).
• Meet with other reviewers to discuss evaluations.
• Finalize scoring, comments and feedback for each proposal.

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Become a Peer Reviewer with the U.S Department of Education – Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)!

Email your Peer Review Data Form, Resume and request to become a peer reviewer to OSERS Peer Reviewer at <>. Your name will then be entered into the system.
• When a need to review proposals arises, names are, then, randomly selected from expert categories and you receive notification that you have been selected to sit on a Peer Review Panel. Usually, it involves three individuals from outside of the Federal system.
• Participate via a Teleconference.
• The concept of Conflict of Interest will be one that you will need to deal with because if you are applying for a grant in a particular category, then you really are not eligible to sit as a Peer Reviewer in that category.

All OSERS-RSA peer review is now conducted on-line and through teleconference. RSA uses the eReader system available through the G5 grants management system < >

The Department of Education, the Program Office will contact you if you are chosen to be a peer reviewer. Once you are notified you may register for access to e-Reader through the G5 System.

If you are a new user you will need to register to use e-Reader. From the G5 Portal Page <> You must click on the sign up link on the left side of the page in order to register to use the system.

All users requiring access to G5 must register with the U.S. Department of Education to obtain individual user IDs and passwords. In addition, all payees receiving grant award funds must submit signed and properly validated paperwork supporting their individual registrations.

By applying for an ID, users must acknowledge that the data processed in G5 is sensitive financial data protected by the Privacy Act and other authorities. Users are not allowed to share passwords or login account information with anyone or access the G5 system using the credentials of others. Any sharing of user account information or unauthorized access to G5 will result in a loss of system privileges.

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