Scientific Peer Review

Nov 27, 2012

On November 15th, Steven Courtney, Director of RESOLVE’s Collaborative Science Program, provided a webinar training for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on how to conduct peer review. His presentation, part of the Office of the Science Advisor Webinar Series, explained why open transparent science is in everyone’s best interest. Peer review is an important component of showing the public that the best available science is being used, and that there is a commitment to improved management and communication.

Steven is a recognized expert in managing a peer review process. He has led numerous scientific peer reviews for issues that are contentious and/or have national implications, including peer reviews on the Northern Spotted Owl, the Forest Service Land Planning Rule, and cases involving allegations of breaches in scientific integrity.

The FWS is directed by federal law to use the “best available science” in Endangered Species Act determinations and other regulations, and peer review is a powerful tool to ensure this is the case. In addition, peer review is just good practice. For agencies, good peer review can evaluate competing scientific opinions, support policy development, and strengthen the confidence of decision-makers and the public in a particular decision.

The peer review process and how it is managed is critical to a sound and defensible final product. In his presentation to FWS, Steven lays out guidelines the agency must consider when undertaking a peer review. Most importantly, the peer review must be seen as transparent, unbiased, and fair.

RESOLVE holds one of three nation-wide contracts to provide scientific support services to FWS (and the other Department of Interior agencies), and provides peer review and scientific support on an on-call basis. RESOLVE has a network of more than 1,000 scientists at academic and other institutions, who have committed to providing peer review to support the our mission of collaborative science.

A copy of his presentation is archived here. Steven has also co-written a report for FWS, “Overview of Scientific Peer Review”, which can be downloaded here.

Debbie Lee

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