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REL Work in Progress

All regional educational laboratories (RELs) provide technical assistance through applied research and development projects. These projects are targeted primarily to educators and policymakers at the state and local level.

To ensure that REL scientifically based work meets the IES standards for research and evaluation, all REL study plans and final reports are required to pass a rigorous external peer review process established under NCEE.

Quality Assurance for Published REL Reports

Peer review is used to evaluate reports in virtually all fields of science-from medical studies that examine the effectiveness of drugs to articles about the discovery of new planets or ancient species. Scientists use the peer review process to ensure that the information they report is accurate, relevant, original, and supported by appropriate evidence. Simply put, peer review is a method by which scientists who are experts in a particular field examine another scientist's work to verify that it makes a valid contribution to the evidence base. With that assurance, a scientist can report his or her work to the public, and the public can trust the work.

All Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) reports are required to undergo rigorous external peer review. This ensures that all reports meet the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) standards for scientifically valid research before being published as online reports on the REL website at In this way, policymakers and practitioners, the primary users of REL reports, can be assured that these reports have met high standards for scientific quality, and that the information in the reports is valid and reliable, and therefore can be trusted.

Research that is published without undergoing rigorous peer review may not be vetted for the appropriateness of the data, sampling procedures, process used for data collection, analytic methods, and/or how the interpretations are drawn. Such reports may reach conclusions that are not supported by reliable evidence, oftentimes suggesting policy prescriptions that go far beyond the actual evidence. As a result, policymakers and practitioners in their role as decision-makers can be faced with confusing claims in publications that are not peer reviewed. Without peer review, it is often difficult for the non-researcher to sort valid factual claims supported by evidence from unwarranted conclusions based on opinion or an unscientific approach. The bottom line is this: peer review matters—it takes the guesswork out of interpreting research findings.

Peer review is a critical component of the quality assurance process at IES. All completed major REL products is subjected to peer review prior to public release. This involves review by content and methodology experts who have no conflicts of interest related to the product being reviewed. The peer review focuses on relevance and significance of the product, the data and analysis methods used, and the presentation of the goals, data and methods, and findings. Published products are expected to meet the following criteria:

Relevance and significance:

  • The study addresses a well-defined question that can be investigated empirically
  • The findings are relevant, accessible, and useful to the target audience
  • The study uses and builds on the existing research base and offer new knowledge

Data and methods:

  • The data sources are clearly and completely described and appropriate for addressing the research questions
  • The methods used in the analyses are clearly identified, appropriate for the research questions, and implemented correctly
  • The strengths and limitations of the data and methods are clearly stated

Presentation of findings:

  • The results of the study provide credible answer to the research questions
  • The findings are presented accurately and objectively
  • Major limitations of the study findings are well documented

The RELs submit projects on a continuing basis throughout the year on a variety of topics. IES invites you to look over the project descriptions to get a sense of the work underway in your region or other regions.