PCSAS’s approach to reviewing applications is modeled after the federal grant review panels at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Each applicant program is assigned a primary and a secondary reviewer, whose identities remain confidential. These reviewers are expected to evaluate the program’s application materials and prepare a preliminary report, which is made available to all RC members prior to a meeting. In addition, applicant programs are assigned a two-person team of site visitors, who also write a review for the committee. RC members are expected to become familiar with the materials and reviews for all applicant programs, not only those assigned to them. The designated reviewers and site visitors begin the committee’s deliberations on each applicant by presenting their summary findings. Then, the full committee discusses the program’s perceived strengths and weaknesses. Finally, each RC member independently assigns a qualitative evaluation to the application and recommends a specific decision, either to accredit or to deny accreditation. RC members are expected to use a standard scale to anchor their evaluations, rather than making comparative evaluations based on a specific set of applications. RC decisions are based on the summative qualitative judgments of RC members regarding each applicant’s overall quality and outcome record.
The RC has sole responsibility for all accreditation decisions and actions by PCSAS on specific applicant programs. All official decisions and actions by the RC require a quorum of at least two-thirds of the members. A favorable accreditation decision requires that at least a majority of eligible RC members vote in favor. Only RC members who are present throughout the review of a given program’s application are eligible to vote on that program’s accreditation decision. Votes on accreditation, whether categorical or in the form of ratings, are by confidential ballot. RC meetings are not open to the public. The proceedings are not recorded, and reviewers are required to keep the proceedings confidential. RC reviews and decisions must be free from any outside influences that would undermine their integrity. RC procedures include protections, patterned after those of NIH, against unwarranted influences due to conflicts of interest. Ordinarily, RC decisions are final, although in rare cases of factual or procedural errors, the RC may elect (by a vote of at least one-third of the members) to re-review a program’s original application, without amendment, at the next opportunity. (See the Appeal Policy.) Normally, a program that received a negative decision would need to “revise and resubmit” its application, based on the RC feedback, for future consideration.
Only the Executive Director is empowered to communicate on behalf of PCSAS regarding the review process, the evaluations, or the outcomes. These communications are done in a manner that protects the confidentiality and integrity of the process. Following each RC meeting, the Executive Director assembles the relevant review materials and drafts correspondence informing applicant programs of the RC’s evaluations and decisions.
The PCSAS Board does not have the authority to interfere with, or override, the RC’s accreditation decisions regarding individual applicant programs. While respecting the autonomy of the RC’s reviews and decisions, however, the Board must exercise its continuing responsibility to oversee and protect the integrity, fidelity, aims, and viability of PCSAS. The Board is responsible for setting and maintaining the general aims, principles, criteria, procedures, and policies to be implemented by the RC. The Board also is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the RC’s performance; for appointing RC members; for revising the aims, principles, criteria, procedures, and policies as appropriate; and for informing CHEA, doctoral programs, relevant organizations, and the public at large of its oversight and quality control activities. To ensure the transparency of PCSAS accreditation, the Board is expected to issue an annual report of the organization’s activities and any policy or procedure changes to interested institutions, programs, and agencies. To promote continuous quality improvement, the Board is also expected to seek periodic feedback and evaluation from the institutions and programs with which it has dealings.
Next: The PCSAS Application Process for Existing Clinical Psychology Programs