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The Review Process

The review process is designed to acquire multiple opinions about incoming proposals while reducing paperwork and minimizing the amount of time between when a good research design reaches us and when the experimental data are in investigators' hands. We wish to ensure efficient, effective, and responsible project management and to promote fair, inclusive, and open participation. We are committed to making new opportunities and new knowledge available to a broad array of social scientists.

The review process for proposals to earn time on TESS resembles that of leading scientific journals. The core of the review process is our Associate PIs who play a role similar to that of an editorial board. They help us solicit reviews and advise us on the quality of proposals we receive. To help TESS benefit from diverse expertise and achieve broad exposure, we have purposely recruited highly visible scholars from across the social sciences to act as advisors for proposals in their areas of expertise.

  1. What happens after I submit a proposal?
  2. How long will I have to wait to hear whether or not TESS accepts my proposal?
  3. How are resubmissions of previous proposals treated?
  4. Can I resubmit my rejected proposal to TESS?
  5. How many proposals will TESS accept?

What happens after I submit a proposal?

Upon receipt, we ask an appropriate Associate PI to provide us with the e-mail addresses of two prospective reviewers. The Associate PI is chosen from the proposer's home discipline. For co-authored proposals, we will choose an Associate PI from the home discipline of the first named author. We contact reviewers electronically, attaching preformatted request letters outlining the criteria for review. Completed reviews are received electronically by the co-PIs, and shared electronically with the appropriate Associate PI to obtain his or her advice about whether the project is both worthy and ready to earn a place in the study.

Our review process is double-blind. The two referees will review proposals without knowledge of the identity of potential user, and the reviews will be returned to the potential users stripped of their identities as well. The Associate PIs and co-PIs will know the identities of potential users so that they can use that information to make sure all proposals receive fair consideration. The PIs will take care of conveying the good or bad news back to the potential users.

In some circumstances, we also may ask for additional pre-testing of proposed projects. This includes sometimes offering to work with proposers to pre-test measures using Amazon Mechanical Turk in cases where the PIs deem it desirable to evaluate or strengthen a project.

In sum, our organizational goal is to minimize both paperwork and the amount of time between when a good research design reaches us and when the experimental data are in investigators' hands.

This flowchart summarizes the review process for TESS.

How long will I have to wait to hear whether or not TESS accepts my proposal?

Our goal is to have an answer in investigators' hands approximately a month after receiving an application. At that point, TESS will state that the proposal is rejected, invite the proposer to send a revised version of the proposal for further review (i.e., revise and resubmit), or provisionally accept the proposal. Investigators who make submissions during or just before holiday periods and the summer months will likely experience longer waits.

How are resubmissions of previous proposals treated?

If you receive a "revise and resubmit" decision on your initial proposal, submit the revised version in the regular manner, through this web site. During the submission process, you will have an opportunity to check a box denoting the proposal as a resubmission. Do this. In most cases, the "R&R" letter from TESS will also instruct you to address reviewer concerns on an additional page. Please submit your response letter and your revised proposal letter as a single document. Such letters also specify how we will process the revised submission (e.g., whether we will send it back to one or both of the initial reviewers).

Can I resubmit my rejected proposal to TESS?

TESS's policy is that all decisions are final and not open to appeal.  Also, we do not accept re-submissions of declined proposals unless the new proposal differs fundamentally in the research question asked and/or the study's design

How many proposals will TESS accept?

For researchers, TESS is free. As a result, the number of requests for our services are typically far greater than the number of opportunities we can supply. Among the consequences of this:

1. Our ability to provide opportunities for so many people depends on the internal economies of scale generated by having researchers share data collection instruments. We are open to a wide range of innovative ideas, but are constrained financially in what we can do regarding any single proposal. For proposals that go beyond our basic offering we require a higher review standard.  In addition, for options that impose unusual costs (such as streaming video presentations), we may make acceptance contingent on the proposer agreeing to pay the additional costs.

2. In the event that the number of proposals received overwhelms the administrative capacity that our funding allows, we may find it necessary to revise the requirements for proposal submission. So please be sure to check this page for updates before submitting future proposals.


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