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Peer Review Practice & Technology

When a federal, state, or private research funding organization disseminates scientific information or awards grants, it is critical that the proposed information be scientifically feasible and have verifiable technical merit. ORAU manages scientific peer reviews that provide critical, independent assessment of research proposals and program performance to help sponsors determine the quality of research proposals and accuracy of scientific information.

The peer review process involves selecting experts in the same field as the proposals to evaluate, comment, and score proposals based on their knowledge of the subject and understanding of the impact each proposal would make if funded. Focusing on continuing process improvement, research collaborations exist to evaluate the entire peer review process—from planning and reviewer identification to evaluating proposals and implementing improvements. Gaining a better understanding of what motivates reviewer participation can bring insight and greater credibility to peer reviews and program evaluations.

Research focus areas

  • Literature review of the peer review process to assess norms for rates of invites/participation, honoraria, etc., to identify gaps and/or problems in the field.
  • Create reviewer typologies of the characteristics and motivations of different types of reviewers in order to aid reviewer identification and recruitment for different types of projects.
  • Evaluate the process of conducting a review from the perspective of the reviewer.
    • What are the steps?
    • How long does each step take?
    • What are the barriers to participation?
    • What slows things down?
    • What does or doesn’t add value to the process?
  • Assess participation in ORAU reviews to identify incentives/barriers to participation, characteristics of repeat reviewers, patterns in reviewer characteristics across different review types and domains, the value of participation to the reviewer, etc.
  • Research the effects of “repeat reviewers” on scores.

Impact Areas

Tiffani Conner’s research featured on SciPod

Peer review is a key component of funding allocation in academia. What skills make for an effective peer reviewer? Tiffani Conner, Ph.D., and her colleagues conducted research and published a paper on the specific skills that are most desirable in a reviewer and how these can be enhanced. This work was submitted and summarized on the Scipod podcast, as part of an ORAU Thought Leadership Research Award.

Read the paper

Listen to the Scipod episode

Scipod cover: What makes an effective grants peer reviewer?

Contact us

If you have questions about ORAU's research partnerships, contact us at (865) 576-1717 or .