THE ROLE OF PEER REVIEW IN POLICY DECISIONS
There is a universal recognition that science upon which policies are based must be reliable or, as we call it, Best Available Science (BAS). Peer review is acknowledged to be an effective process to ensure that policy decisions are based on BAS. Despite the recognition of the value of peer review there appears to be some confusion on what is peer review and how it is to be used in policy decisions. This article identifies several categories of peer review and their respective applications. These include: 1) independent peer review for publication in scientific journals, 2) independent peer review for evaluating projects submitted for funding by governmental and other agencies, 3) independent peer review of documents prepared by various agencies as a foundation of regulatory and other decisions, 4) independent peer review of competency of individuals and organizations to be given permits or license to perform specific tasks, 5) review of various activities using a process that does not meet requirements of independent peer review, and 6) review within an organization, sometimes referred to as a vertical review. This article describes the foundation of independent peer review, addresses various variations of the currently used processes, and identifies strengths and weaknesses of each process. It also describes the contribution of each type in policy decisions and concludes that a sound policy decision must use science that has been directly or indirectly subjected to independent peer review.
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