Scientists issue statement on scientific peer review

07/15/04

The issue of scientific peer review has received a significant amount of attention from both Congress and the Administration. When it comes to peer review of in-house agency science and the body of science underlying management decisions, it has become clear that, in some cases, significant confusion exists regarding what constitutes good, adequate and much needed review versus review that may be ineffective or counterproductive. In an effort to provide assistance in this regard, 13 scientific organizations representing over a quarter million individual scientists have issued a statement on scientific peer review.

The American College of Preventive Medicine, American Fisheries Society, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Public Health Association, American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, Crop Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America (ESA), Estuarine Research Federation, Institute of Food Technologies, Society for Conservation Biology, and Soil Science Society of America, all endorsed the statement, which was developed by ESA.

"We believe a clear statement from a large portion of the scientific community on scientific peer review will be helpful to policy makers," said Ecological Society of America President William Schlesinger.

In particular, the statement is intended to provide a useful tool for Members of Congress and their staff to evaluate proposed peer review regimes using criteria developed by scientists. In addition, the groups hope that scientists themselves may find the statement a useful reference when providing input to policy makers on peer review regimes.

"Our statement both supports the concept of peer review and intends to inform policy makers about how it is best applied," explains Schlesinger. "While scientific peer review is an important tool for decision makers, a poorly designed process can do more harm than good."

The statement, endorsed by the 13 scientific organizations offers a list of important considerations for government scientific peer review of agency-produced science and the body of science underlying management decisions including:

  • The first priority in choosing reviewers should be to engage the most competent scientists.

  • Scientific peer review should be insulated from politics as much as possible.

  • Even the best scientific peer review cannot give policy makers the 'right' answer.

  • Scientific peer review must maintain programmatic flexibility.

  • All scientific peer review must be based upon an assumption of integrity.

  • Efforts to revise the process of peer review should acknowledge the differences in professional culture that often divide scientists, policy makers, and the public.

The full statement is available at: http://www.esa.org/pao/esaPositions/#pstatements

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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