Role of Peer Reviewers
What are the responsibilities of Reviewers?
The primary responsibility of peer reviewers is to participate in all phases of the process. Teams of reviewers are selected for each set of applications with the express intent that each person’s expertise will be brought to bear on assessing the quality. When people do not fully participate, the absence of someone’s expertise or viewpoint has a direct impact on the team. That said, we do recognize that illness or a business crisis may develop unexpectedly and reviewers may have to drop out.
Other responsibilities are to
- Protect the integrity of the process by monitoring for “Conflicts of Interest” as described in each grant program’s regulations and notifying the Commission when such a conflict may be present.
- Maintain as confidential, information about applicants that is revealed through the peer review process. This commitment to confidentiality includes a prohibition on discussing the application with individuals not involved in the selection process.
- Refrain from using such information in any way that would benefit the reviewer or any other organization or business.
- Complete all the tasks for each phase of peer review including but not limited to attending the online training, reading and assessing proposals, submitting comments and other data requested, participating in rating conference calls and online meetings.
- Maintain internet and phone capacity during the course of the process.
- Return any materials requested at the end of the process.
What equipment or material is needed?
Because Peer Reviewers generally work at home or from their office location and this process is accomplished using available technology, the following tools are essential for the role:
- High speed or DSL internet connection to handle opening of large documents and participating in online meetings that are interactive.
- Access to a fax or the ability to scan signed forms for transmitting to the Commission.
- A computer and phone with separate connections that permit using both at the same time.
- An email account.
- (optional – depends on working preference) Printer
What are the qualifications of Reviewers?
In general, peer reviewers need to have demonstrated technical experience in a field related to a need and activity discussed in a proposal. Generally the needs and activities can be classified as related to health, human services, arts or culture, public safety, emergency services, environment, education, veterans affairs, energy, economic development.
Individuals with technical expertise and experience in volunteer program design, implementation, or management are very likely to be asked to serve as peer reviewers. This happens because the grant programs managed by the Commission are awarded to organizations with existing or planned volunteer programs.
Several categories of grants also require assessment of an organization’s capacity to administer a major grant program. For that reason, the Commission needs peer reviewers with expertise in financial systems, nonprofit management, organizational development, and the various ways that nonprofits as well as public agencies generate match for federal dollars.
Other qualifications are the ability to assess written narrative using predetermined criteria and discern as well as provide rationale for the quality rating assigned; ability to read significant volumes of material within a pre-determined schedule; ability to organize one’s self to accomplish the work required on a schedule that generally does not accommodate extensions or modifications; ability to participate in discussions that are not face-to-face and negotiate with other reviewers over the ratings and scoring; and, the ability to use the preferred telephone and internet technology.*
*For anyone who is unfamiliar with online meetings, the Commission provides coaching.
What is the benefit of being a peer reviewer?
You gain experience in analyzing and scoring grants that benefit local volunteer programs directly. You get an inside view of the grant-making process for a major State funder of the volunteer sector and (when applicable) learn about the selection criteria for National Service programs such as AmeriCorps and Learn & Serve. You have an opportunity to network with experts in your profession from around the region. You have a chance to learn from others how technical aspects of meeting a community need integrate into volunteer activities through strong program designs.
What is the time commitment for participating in a review?
The Commission’s peer review process is a time-intensive and time-sensitive activity. The components of a review and an estimate for the amount of time each phase takes are as follows:
- 1.5 hours -- Orientation conference call
- 1.5 hour -- Review of written assessment instructions provided to each reviewer, signing and emailing/faxing/mailing any required certifications (e.g., Conflict of Interest)
- 3 to 6 hours per application to accomplish all these tasks -- read and analyze proposal, develop and record comments and/or ratings, draft comments and submit via internet form. The number of hours depends on the grant program and the complexity of the proposal requirements.
- 90 minutes per proposal -- Online consensus scoring meeting including development of final comments [if applicable].
The time commitment ranges from 30 hours to 40 hours over a 16 day period.
How long is my application kept in the pool of potential reviewers?
Peer reviewer applications received will constitute the pool of potential reviewers for one year. Toward the end of the year, you will be contacted to determine if you would like to remain a member of the pool or deactivate your application.