The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is in the process of recruiting peer reviewers to evaluate grant applications submitted for the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Student Support Services (SSS) Program.  The peer review process will be held during three in-person sessions.  Each session will be held in the Washington, D.C. area, with a fourth session being an e-reading session only.  The purpose of the SSS Program is to increase the number of disadvantaged, low-income college students, first-generation college students, and college students with disabilities in the United States that pursue and succeed in postsecondary education.  SSS grantees provide opportunities for academic development, assist students with basic college requirements, and motivate students toward the successful completion of their postsecondary education.  For additional information on the SSS Program, please go to http://www2.ed.gov/programs/triostudsupp/index.html.

Role and Level of Commitment of Peer Reviewers

The Department seeks competent experts from the field (peer reviewers) to evaluate SSS applications that are submitted for funding consideration.  Peer reviewers are expected to thoroughly assess the quality of each assigned application based solely on the selection criteria, develop comments using descriptive and qualitative language and document corresponding scores to support the review.  Peer reviewers will also work collaboratively with fellow panelists and Department staff to finalize each technical review form and maintain confidentiality and discretion throughout the review process. Each peer reviewer will be assigned to a panel comprised of three peer reviewers, and each peer reviewer panel will be required to evaluate approximately ten (10) applications that are each a maximum of 65 double-spaced pages in length, plus up to 16 additional pages for any competitive preference priorities the applicant may have addressed.

Please carefully consider your decision to commit to the peer review process because it can be a laborious and time-consuming process that requires your full and consistent participation for the entire duration of the process, and you must adhere to specific deadlines/targets.  Peer reviewers will be expected to work diligently and be reachable each day of the peer review between the hours of8:00 a.m. ? 5:00 p.m. (Washington, DC time).  Please note that Department staff reserves the right to dismiss any peer reviewer who is not performing up to these expectations (e.g. quality and timeliness of work) and will only compensate peer reviewers after all tasks have been successfully completed according to targets/timelines ? no partial payments will be rendered.  A complete review of each application consists of a thorough analysis of the application, productive panel discussion, adequately addressing requested changes and corrections, and final clearance by Department staff.  Again, peer reviewers will not receive any compensation if evaluations have not received final clearance by Department staff and all terms and conditions of the contract are not adhered to, as outlined in this letter.

Since peer reviewers are required to develop electronic evaluations of each assigned application using the Department?s G5 e-Reader System at: http://www.g5.gov, peer reviewers must have:  (1) access to the Internet from your local review site via broadband or DSL (not a dial-up connection) to be able to talk on a land line telephone or a cell phone with strong connectivity  AND access the Internet concurrently; (2) Internet Browser IE 5.5+, Netscape 6+ or FireFox 1+ (note: e-Reader is best viewed using Internet Explorer 5+); (3) Acrobat Reader for opening PDF documents; (4) Microsoft Word (if PDF package is not available); (5) cookies and JavaScript enabled in your browser; and (6) a laser printer.  Please go to the G5 Web site to obtain additional information.  The site includes contact information for technical assistance, a users? guide and a demonstration program to assist peer reviewers in operating the software.

Review Structure and Timeline

Review Web site.  The Web site for the review (www.reviewgrants.com/sss) will be available to peer reviewers throughout the entire peer review process.  This site will contain valuable information about the review, such as the peer reviewers? guide, alerts, required forms, Federal Register notice(s), etc.

Peer Reviewer Orientation.  A live peer reviewer orientation webinar will be held on February 18, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. (Washington, DC time) and a recording of the live webinar will be available at 3:00 p.m. (Washington, DC time).  Peer reviewers must fill out and submit a brief questionnaire after participating in the peer reviewer orientation.  The form should be submitted online no later than February 23, 2015.  Only peer reviewers who participate in the live or recorded orientation and submit the questionnaire will eligible to be selected to participate in the peer review process.

Structure of Review Sessions Week 1 (Remotely at home):
Peer reviewers will download assigned applications from G5 and work with Department staff to resolve any issues that may arise during that process.  Department staff will also reach out to peer reviewers during this week to briefly reiterate the review process (e.g. timelines/targets, conflicts of interest, application assignments, process clarifications, technical issues with G5).
Peer Reviewers will be expected to prepare a draft technical review for each assigned application and to panel each of the ten applications prior to arriving to the hotel to finalize all submissions.

Week 2 (On-site review in metropolitan Washington DC):
Peer reviewers will finalize draft evaluations for each application, make adjustments to comments and scores (if necessary), and complete/finalize evaluations in G5.

Panel Review #1
Applications Available to Panel Reviewers                                       March 5, 2015
Peer Review                                                                             March 9-13, 2015 (e-reading)
March 15-20, 2015 (on-site in Washington, D.C.) Panel Review #2
Applications Available to Panel Reviewers                                       March 19, 2015
Peer Review                                                                             March 23-27, 2015 (e-reading)
March 29?April 3, 2015 (on-site in Washington, D.C.) Panel Review #3
Applications Available to Panel Reviewers                                       April 2, 2015
Peer Review                                                                             April 6-10, 2015 (e-reading)
April 12-17, 2015 (on-site in Washington, D.C.) Panel Review #4
Applications Available to Panel Reviewers                                       April 30, 2015
Peer Review                                                                             May 415, 2015 (e-reading)

Honoraria

Peer reviewers will receive an honorarium of $1000.00 per panel of completed applications (see definition below), plus $100.00 for supplies (paper/ink), for any applications that you will need to print.  (You will not be compensated for the printing of additional copies of the applications.)  Potential peer reviewers who participate in the SSS Peer Review Orientation webinar and are subsequently selected as alternates and not assigned to a panel will receive an honorarium of $100.00.

How to apply to serve as a peer reviewer:

If you would like to be considered as a peer reviewer for the FY 2015 SSS peer review process, you must complete the next two steps:

1.      Please visit www.reviewgrants.com/sss/reader by Friday, February 6, 2015 and complete your reader profile.
2.      Be sure you have an active G5 account. You may register as a reader in G5 by visiting: https://www.g5.gov
We will notify you via email if we select you as a peer reviewer, or as an alternate peer reviewer for this competition, no later than Friday, February 13, 2015.  At that time, selected peer reviewers and alternates will be sent additional information about the e-Reader and on-site review process, including information on how to participate in the SSS Peer Reviewer Orientation conference call on February 18, 2015.  Those peer reviewers that are assigned to a panel will then be sent information pertaining to travel reservations to Washington, D.C.
Thank you for your interest in serving as a peer reviewer for the SSS Program.

Again, we encourage you to think carefully about your availability and the required commitment to this process.  Peer reviewers must be available and committed to devote a significant amount of time to this process that consists of a lengthy analysis and discussion of the merits of the assigned applications and extensive collaboration with the other panel members and/or Department staff  in order to ensure that comments and scores are correct and provide useful feedback to applicants.  All activities must be completed by the specified dates.    As a peer reviewer, you will be compensated for your services; and therefore, you are considered as a “temporary” Federal contractor.  You will be expected to comply with all of the requirements and expectations addressed in this document.

Sincerely,
Eileen S. Bland
Acting Senior Director
Student Service

* A complete review of each application consists of a thorough analysis, productive panel discussion, adequately addressing requested changes and corrections, and final clearance by Department staff.

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