Extension Scholarship and Peer Review: Let's Get Better Together
Last week we started to break down what we mean when we use the term “Extension program”. Included in that discussion was the role that materials and resources informed by research and evidence (such as factsheets, bulletins, curriculum, webpages, and other published media like videos and webinars) play in programming. These creative works are a form of Extension scholarship and generally involve a good bit of work to produce. And, they are typically made better when reviewed by others. It is this practice that we refer to as ‘peer review’.
Peer review can be formal or informal and neither type need be difficult. Both types help us collectively get better. For example, let’s say you crafted some ‘one time use’ educational materials for an event you plan to conduct next week. You might contact a few colleagues to share some background info on the event, describe the audience and your anticipated outcomes, and ask them if they are willing to provide some informal feedback. This approach can often be helpful in showing us something overlooked.
Other forms of scholarship warrant more formal review. For example, our creative outputs of a more ‘lasting nature’ can benefit from a more systematic review process to ensure quality, consistency, accuracy, etc. When we are involved in the production of materials as part of a larger on-going effort, we do well to think through and describe the review process in writing to inform authors and reviewers of our specific expectations regarding such creative productions. One such example that immediately comes to mind is the e-Fields Research Video review process, scoring criteria, and 'review squad' (yes, we are even creative in how we name our committees!)
Making the time to create such educational materials is hard enough. Trying to understand and navigate the process of peer review shouldn’t make it any harder. To help simplify this aspect of Extension scholarship, we have recently revised and updated the background information and step-by-step guidance found here. I encourage you to take a moment to become familiar with what is shared and feel free to contact me or the appropriate assistant director if you have any questions. Let’s get better together!