You Decide


“RPES as a Legitimate Evaluation System” versus “RPES as an ARS Tool of Discrimination”


  1.    The Research Position Evaluation System (RPES) is the process used to promote (or hold back)

       research scientists within the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

  1.    Scientists prepare their accomplishments according to specific written guidelines, as described in

       the RPES writeup manual

  1.    A scientist’s RPES scores are based on the Research Grade Evaluation Guide (RGEG) and these

        scores determine the salary levels for research scientists in the ARS

  1.    The InDepth Reviewer never contacts the scientist being evaluated, but instead questions their

         supervisor and co-workers using ARS-232 (ReviewerWorksheet)


  1.    The RPE (promotion) System is based on the RGEG manual, which contains no objective,

          measurable criteria. 

    [How can scientists be judged fairly using only subjective measures?]

  1.    ARS statistics indicate that women research scientists are not recruited, promoted, and/or retained

           at the same rate as their male peers.

    [How can we persuade those who have risen in rank within a biased

     system to ever initiate a “fair” (objective and measurable) method

     for judging ARS research scientists?]

  1.    When I discussed the RPE (promotion) System with ARS personnel, the RPE supporters couldn’t

            recognize (or wouldn’t admit) that the system is subjective. [See an example]


           Increase the accuracy of the system used to promote research scientists within the ARS by:

                    -  Incorporating the h-index system, which offers a more objective, measurable

                       method for comparing a scientist’s impact, rather than relying on the “opinions” of

                       supervisors and co-workers. [Other systems exist for decreasing biases when deciding promotions.]

                    -  Restricting RPES panel membership to exclude employees who have discrimination

                       complaints lodged against them from every female research scientist in their unit.

                             [Embarrassingly, the ARS did not adopt this suggestion when it was at issue from 2007 until present.]

                    -  Establishing defined criteria so that every research scientist knows (from day-to-day)

                        whether they’re on track to be promoted. [This can be easily accomplished by introducing a

                              promotion system based on objective, measurable criteria that are made available to every scientist.]

                    -  Eliminating the RPES veil of secrecy to encourage honest, ethical promotion decisions by

                       those who have already benefitted from the subjectivity of the RPE system.

                             [Federal GS levels are a matter of public record, so secrecy does not benefit the scientist being evaluated.]

                    -  Establishing an effective mentoring system for new scientists to compensate for

                       supervisors who cannot (or will not) perform their agency-assigned mentoring duties

THE REALITY OF RPES  (case studies)