The purpose of the peer review protocol is to enhance Extension scholarship by providing Extension faculty (tenure track and nontenure track) with an opportunity to have Extension educational products peer reviewed. Peer review assures the following:
- A system-wide standard of excellence, leading to sustained credibility for the Extension brand.
- A depth of intellectual rigor that communicates new or innovative knowledge, or the compilation of existing knowledge in a new or innovative method.
- Information that is appropriate for contemporary Extension audiences and relevant to the priority program team or special initiative team plans of work.
- Appropriate credit for the author(s) on annual performance evaluations.
What Gets Peer Reviewed?
Peer review is required for any educational product produced with a peer review designation. Peer-reviewed Extension products are intended for regional or statewide use, and they are available and useful to clientele over a period of time. Examples of Extension educational products include the following:
- Social media
- YouTube and video
- Online courses
- Digital publications
- Mobile apps
Peer-reviewed Extension products are directed at the needs of clientele and prepared for lay and/or professional audiences. As much as possible, they should relate research-based information to practical techniques or concepts that clientele can use.
One-time or limited-use materials such as newsletters, meeting handouts, or short course materials are not appropriate as peer-reviewed Extension products, nor are public relations materials. Additionally, textbooks intended primarily for academic audiences rather than Extension audiences, conference proceedings, primary reports of research results, and other academic research publications are not appropriate for the Extension peer review process. Separate, academic review may be appropriate for these items, depending on the intended use of the material.
Policy on Peer-Reviewed Extension Product Authorship
The majority of authors on peer-reviewed Extension products must be Extension faculty (tenure track or nontenure track) from either Alabama A&M University or Auburn University.
Steps of Peer Review Process
Step 1. Before creating a peer-reviewed Extension product, the primary author is encouraged to discuss its need and the concept with a workgroup or program-coordinating body (i.e., priority program team or special initiative team).
Step 2. The primary author must consult with Extension Communications and Marketing and/or Extension Information Technology to discuss the concept, marketability, appropriate method, and whether funding is available for production. These initial conversations help ensure that the best approach is selected, making it a more viable, useful educational resource. At that time, there will be a discussion of a reasonable timetable for the production of an initial draft by the author, completion of the peer review process, and production of the final product.
Step 3. When preparing an Extension product for peer review, the primary author is responsible for submitting the START-UP/PEER-REVIEW request at https://sites.aces.edu/intranet/startup/Pages/default.aspx and for providing and managing the flow of content. Depending on the product, the components required to construct a draft or prototype for peer review will differ. They may include manuscripts, charts, graphs, illustrations, photographs, video segments, tables, a detailed conceptual description, etc. The necessary components for a given product are to be itemized in the START-UP/PEER-REVIEW request. A list of references is encouraged; however, references are not to be cited in the manuscript text. Extension Communications and Marketing and/or Extension Information Technology will assist authors in using the appropriate editorial services, videography services, media, or software to construct an initial draft or prototype.
Note: It is important to have well-developed files when starting the product development stage. Creating a product using files that will change substantially results in investing twice the time needed to create the product. Production time can be reduced by using next to final draft files when possible.
Step 4. The Assistant Director selects and enlists two reviewers from the four suggested reviewers provided by the primary author on the START-UP/PEER-REVIEW request. Peer reviewers are asked to review the product and include specific, objective suggestions that would help the author(s) improve the product.
Note: The Assistant Director has the final say on who will review the product and who has the discretion to select reviewers not suggested by the primary author. When possible, the Assistant Director will contact the selected reviewers before providing the materials to determine if they will be able to conduct the review. The peer review process is not a double-blind process, so the anonymity of reviewer names cannot be assured.
Step 5. Reviewers evaluate the product using the Reviewer Evaluation Form for peer-reviewed Extension products. Reviews should be completed in an expedient and timely manner, taking no longer than 2 weeks.
Step 6. Reviews are returned to the Assistant Director who then summarizes the reviewer comments for the author(s). If desired, the Assistant Director can add his/her opinion or suggestions in the letter to the primary author.
Step 7. Primary author responds in writing to all specific comments. This response is returned to the Assistant Director.
Note: If the primary author fails to respond within 3 months from the date of formal acceptance, the author(s) will be asked to re-initiate the peer review process. If the initial draft or prototype does not pass peer review, its primary author may appeal that decision to his/her Assistant Director within 3 months.
Step 8. The primary author is responsible for working with Extension Communications and Marketing and/or Extension Information Technology to incorporate reviewer recommendations into the final product.
Step 9. When the product is in final form and the Assistant Director is satisfied with the primary author’s response and revisions, he/she and the primary author complete and sign FORM 2. One copy is maintained in the Program Office, a copy is given to all authors, and a copy is sent to Extension Communications and Marketing and/or Extension Information Technology.
Note: Major changes to drafts, prototypes, or concepts once production begins my cause significant delays in completion.
Step 10. Extension Communications and Marketing and/or Extension Information Technology assigns the peer-reviewed designation and produces the product. In the section listing the author(s), the product will carry the following statement “This product was peer-reviewed by two independent reviewers.”
Peer-Reviewed Extension Product Reviewer Selection Guidelines
The purpose of peer review is to bring the same intellectual rigor to Extension products as is expected of peer-reviewed journal articles. Peer-reviewed Extension products are not necessarily original research. Nevertheless, the commitment by authors, reviewers, and administrators to the rigorous and qualified review of educational resources developed for users of peer-reviewed Extension products should be no less than that brought to academic journal articles.
To support this goal, considerations for reviewer selection include the following:
- Reviewers should be fluent in the subject matter of the product and familiar with the characteristics of the intended audience.
- Inaccurate or incorrect educational resources have the potential to harm both to the user of the inaccurate or incorrect information and to the overall image of Extension. Reviewers should be selected to provide the best possible assurance that products of ACES are of the best possible quality.
- Where possible, an ACES campus-based specialist or faculty member should be included as a reviewer.
- Where possible, a qualified reviewer from outside ACES is encouraged.
- Where possible, it is strongly encouraged that an appropriate ACES Regional Extension Agent or representative of the intended audience should be included as a reviewer.
- When questions concerning appropriate reviewers or subject matter expertise arise, Assistant Directors are encouraged to discuss and consult with Department Heads/Chairs or Associate Directors as necessary.
- Thought should be given to the independence of a given reviewer’s perspective. While close academic or organizational affiliation should not automatically exclude an otherwise qualified reviewer, these factors should be considered.
- Reviewers should be qualified to assess the appropriateness of a product to its intended audience and use.
- Review standards and reviewer selection and guidance should be consistent between Assistant Directors.
- The Assistant Director has the final say on the selection of reviewers.
- Reviews should be completed in an expedient and timely manner, taking no longer than 2 weeks.