How to Achieve a Five-Star Peer Review from the MERLOT Biology Board.

Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

Have you created a high-quality biology-related material you would like to share with the world? You can submit your resource to the MERLOT collection and achieve a 5-star rating from the MERLOT peer review process. This will increase the visibility, reach and attractiveness of your resource.


Michael Plotkin is a plant biologist and co-editor of the MERLOT Biology board. He has been involved in biology education, including online teaching for years and years, and has recently adopted OER resources. He teaches at Mt. San Jacinto College in southern California.
Dr Pankaj Mehrotra completed his Bachelor of Science ( Honors) in Applied Zoology from University of Delhi, India with a Gold Medal for securing first rank in University at Annual Examination. He further worked on molecular cloning undergraduate research projects funded by Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi, India. He further pursued Master of Science in Integrative Genomics from Black Hills State University, South Dakota, United States of America. He worked on genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics research project at Centre for Conservation of Biological Resources as part of his master degree program and was also worked as a teaching and research assistant i for undergraduate studies and also was involved in a science education teaching workshop as an teaching assistant organised by Center for the Advancement of Math & Science Education. His research findings were presented at regional and national conferences and secured second best poster prize at Branch Meeting of American Society for Microbiology, Colorado. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Sciences from Institute of Medical Sciences from University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom funded by European Marie Curie Research Commission working on immunological properties of Candida albicans, Candida aureus and Candida haemunolii a

Additional Authors

Curriculum Vitae: James Enderby Bidlack   Career Objective: Academic position in plant biology with an emphasis in physiology and anatomy.   Education   Ph.D., Iowa State University, Plant Physiology Major, Summer 1990. M.S., University of Arkansas, Agronomy, Crop Physiology Option, Summer 1986. B.S., Purdue University, Agronomy, Soil & Crop Option, Spring 1984.   Teaching and Research Experience   August 1990 - present. Assistant (8/90) to Associate (8/98) to Professor (8/02), Biology Department, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma. Responsible for teaching general biology, plant biology, plant physiology, plant anatomy, and molecular cell physiology. Duties also include instruction of students involved in undergraduate research and supervision of Master's Theses.   July 1986-August 1990. Research Assistant, Agronomy Department, Iowa State Univer­sity, Ames, Iowa. Responsible for forage greenhouse experiments, selected labora­tory equipment, and computer maintenance. Supervised and assisted in fiber, digestibility, and carbohydrate analyses of forage samples. Assisted in plot maintenance and evaluation of biomass and corn silage projects. Provided supervision of up to five hourly workers per day.   June 1984-July 1986. Research Assistant, Agronomy Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Responsible for growth chamber and local field plot soybean experiments and laboratory equipment. Assisted in plot main­tenance and application of chemicals to soybean, cotton, and rice field trials located through­out the state.   December 1985-May 1986. Laboratory Instructor, Agronomy Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas.   January 1983-May 1984. Lecture Demonstrator, Help Lab Instructor, and Tutor, Chemistry Department, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.   Technical Skills   Biochemical techniques including protein purification, electrophoresis, spectrophoto­metric enzyme assays, and enzyme characterization. Chemical techniques for preparation of simple organics as well as wet-chemistry and spectral techniques for their qualitative analyses. Computer literacy in Basic, DOS, Fortran, Mainframe SAS, MS-Windows, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT (for Workstation and Server), and many software packages includ­ing Crosstalk, dBase, Excel, Freelance, FrontPage, Harvard Graphics, Lotus 1-2-3, Multimate, MSTAT, Outcome Advisor, PC-SAS, PhotoDelux, PowerPoint, Procomm, SigmaPlot, Word, WordPerfect, and hardware driver programs for Digital Cameras, External Drives, and Scanners. Field, greenhouse, and growth chamber experience in establishment, maintenance, and harvest of alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, bromegrass, chickpea, corn, cotton, cowpea, crambe, gamagrass, orchardgrass, pigeon pea, red clover, rice, sorghum, soybean, sweet basil, switchgrass, and tall fescue. Microcomputer maintenance and networking for IBM compatible (386, 486, and Pentium) systems. Experience including set-up, repair, and interfacing to equipment as well as software and hardware use. Molecular techniques including library plating and screening with hybridized probes, large-scale extraction and purification of DNA from bacteriophage, digestion of purified DNA with restriction enzymes, southern hybridization, preparation of single-stranded template DNA, and DNA sequencing. Technical equipment operation including scanning electron microscopy, spectrophotometry (visible, UV, scanning, single beam, and double beam), GC, GLC, HPLC, atomic emission, atomic absorption, IR, and specific ion electrodes.   Professional Society Memberships   Alpha Chi Sigma, American Associ­ation of University Professors, Beta Beta Beta Honor Society, Botanical Society of America, Gamma Sigma Delta, Mortar Board Honor Society, Oklahoma Academy of Science, Plant Growth Regulation Society of America, Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology, and the Christian Faith, Who's Who in Science and Engineering.   Recent Professional Activities Representing UCO at the Local and National Level April 2013 Attended MERLOT/ET4Online International Conference, Las Vegas, NV April 2012 Presented paper at the MERLOT International Conference, Las Vegas, NV July 2011              Presented paper at the MERLOT / Emerging Technologies Conference, San Jose, CA July 2010              Presented paper at the MERLOT International Conference (via Internet), San Jose, CA Aug 2006              Presented paper at the MERLOT International Conference, Ottawa, Canada Aug 2003              Presented paper at the MERLOT International Conference, Vancouver, Canada Sept 2002             Presented papers at the MERLOT International Conference, Atlanta, GA Aug 2001              Presented paper at the MERLOT International Conference, Tampa, FL March 1998          Participated in USDA-ARS National Program Review of El Reno Research Station Sept 1997             Met with the Acting U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Jan 1996               Served as ILI peer reviewer for the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA   Recent Honors and Awards   April 2012 Student Organization Advisor of the Year for the UCO TriBeta Biology Club April 2012 House Cup Recipient, as part of the MERLOT Biology Editorial Board Team Feb 2006              Outstanding Graduate from Univ Arkansas Dept Crop, Soil, & Environ Sciences Aug 2005              Co-recipient of Neely Excellence in Teaching Award October 2004       Professional Publications and Grants Award from UCO Research Office June 2002             National Recognition from Presbyterian Assoc. Sci. Tech. Christian Faith March 2002          Merit Credit Awards for Service and Teaching from UCO Faculty Nov 2001              Professional Publications Award from UCO Research Office   Publications: A total of 1 textbook, 25 refereed publications, 12 government documents / regional reports, and 75 non-refereed publications and abstracts. Recent refereed publications include: Bidlack, J.E., and S.H. Jansky. 2018. Stern's Introductory Plant Biology, Fourteenth Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Bidlack, J.E., and S.H. Jansky. 2014. Stern's Introductory Plant Biology, Thirteenth Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Bidlack, J.E., and S.H. Jansky. 2011. Stern's Introductory Plant Biology, Twelfth Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Stern, K.R., J. Bidlack, and S. Jansky. 2008. Introductory Plant Biology, Eleventh Edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Bidlack, J.B., and J.E. Bidlack. 2014. Effect of jasmonic acid on biomass and enzyme activity in sorghum and switchgrass. UCO Journal of Undergraduate Research 1:20-24.   Bidlack, J.E., A. Middick, D. Shantz, C.T. MacKown, R.D. Williams, and S.C. Rao. 2006. Weed control in a pigeon pea and wheat cropping system. Field Crops Res. 96:63-70.   Bidlack, J.E., and P.M. Silverman. 2004. An active type IV secretion system encoded by the F plasmid sensitizes Escherichia coli to bile salts. J. Bacteriol. 186:5202-5209.   Rao, S.C., C.T. MacKown, and J.E. Bidlack. 2002. Biomass and nitrogen traits of summer pigeon peas and winter wheat grown for three rotations in containers. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 33:897-912.   Names of Students Involved in Graduate and Undergraduate Projects from 1990 to 2018: A total of 20 graduate and 100+ undergraduate students.                                  External Fund Acquisitions for Undergraduate Education and Research   Bidlack, J.E.  2010.  Biofuel Crop Pest Resistance.  Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program Award in the amount of $4,140 from OSRHE, EPSCoR, and NSF.   Bidlack, J.E. 2000-2002. Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Internships: USDA-ARS-UCO Collaboration. Award included $23,000 from OCAST and $23,000 from the USDA.   Bidlack, J.E. 1993-1995. United States Department of Agriculture. Use of chickpea [Cicer arietinum (L.)] and pigeon pea [Cajanus cajan (L.)] in wheat - legume cropping systems. USDA Grant Number 93-37311-9580. Award included $48,990 for research on use of tropical legumes in wheat - legume cropping systems.    

Extended Abstract

If you have authored a life science-related resource you would like to share with the world, you might consider submitting your work to the MERLOT Biology collection. MERLOT will accept all apppropriate submissions. The benefits of including your work in the MERLOT collection include the satisfaction of providing a professional service to your colleagues and to students who may use your resource; participation in a global community of educators; and the opportunity to receive a detailed peer review. By considering the factors that would warrant a high rating from MERLOT, where your work will be assessed from a global perspective, you will likely also discover improvements to your product that improve local use.

After a resource is submitted to MERLOT, it can be rated by users. In addition, the biology editors (curators of the biology collection), who are experts in a range of life science disciplines conduct a peer review. After several reviews are completed, a composite review will be completed, the results of which become available and are summarized in a standard 1-5-star review. The benefits of receiving are five-star review include an increase in the visibility and attractiveness of the resource to the MERLOT community of educators. Five stars signifies high quality and consequently five-star resources tend to have more views in MERLOT than lower rated items. If you are submit your work to MERLOT, you can improve the likelihood of achieving a five-star peer review.

The Biology Board peer review process involves assessment of resources in three general areas: Content Quality, Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool, and Ease of Use.

Content Quality includes the typically indicators for academic resources, such as accuracy of information, sources, clarity and intelligibility to potential users. If you believe your work presents excellent content, then the challenge is to achieve a high rating for the other two areas of the peer review.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool focuses on the educational value of the resource. We consider the resource’s potential to promote conceptual understanding, how the resource might manifest high-impact learning, and whether the resource is versatile (for instructors in class, for students in or out of class, and for the wide range of people who might use the resource.

Ease of Use assessment focuses on the clarity of instructions and guidance for using the resource, clear organization and consistent layout, intuitive navigation, accessibility for all users, and proper functioning of links, buttons, animations, and other features of online resources.


Here are a set of important considerations for achieving a five-star peer review:

-include teaching/learning goals or objectives, and identify the intended or suggested use of the resource, if this is not obvious.

-identify any background or prerequisite knowledge the resource requires users to have.

-be sure the resource is accessible (e.g., closed captioning for videos, headers in tables, appropriate use of color and contrast). Many institutions require accessibility for people with disabilities and instructors often appreciate these features built into a resource.

-check all links and buttons to be sure they work correctly.

-have a diversity of colleagues or students check the organization, layout, and navigation of the resource to test how well it "plays" for them.

-promote interactivity, engagement, and visual appeal as much as appropriate and possible.


 If the guidelines described here are considered, we believe that authors are likely to achieve a five-star rating. The MERLOT Biology editorial board contacts authors upon the completion of a composite review (based on several individual reviews) and shares the outcome. Some reviewers may have additional constructive comments for the authors as well. We respond to questions or concerns about the review and, if the authors are willing to make revisions, we are happy to re-review the material.

We, the Biology editorial board of MERLOT, strongly encourage any content creator in the life sciences to submit their work for inclusion in the MERLOT collection. Beyond the pro-social aspects of contributing to a global community of educators, the peer review process will provide a great ancillary benefit.