Engaging Expert Peers in the Development of Risk Assessments
The participation of external technical experts in the development of risk assessment documents and methodologies has expanded and evolved in recent years. Many government agencies and authoritative organizations have experts peer review important works to evaluate the scientific and technical defensibility and judge the strength of the assumptions and conclusions ( OMB, 2004; IPCS, 2005; IARC, 2006; Health Canada, 2007; U.S. EPA, 2006). Expert advice has been solicited in other forms of peer involvement, including peer consultation in, for example, the U.S. EPA's Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program (VCCEP). This article discusses how the principles and practices of peer review can be extended to other types of peer involvement activities (i.e., peer input and peer consultation) to develop high-quality risk assessment work products. A comprehensive process for incorporating peer input, peer consultation, and peer review into risk assessment science is outlined. Four key principles for peer involvement—independence, inclusion of appropriate experts, transparency, and a robust scientific process—are discussed. Recent examples of peer involvement in the development of Health Canada's Priority Substances and Domestic Substance List (DSL) programs under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) serve to highlight the concepts.