ALTERNATIVES TO INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW: A CASE STUDY
There is a need for review processes that can assist projects that do not require independent peer review. Termed “technical review,” these processes can be designed for specific projects that require experts to review the project and make recommendations. This article describes an example of the development of this type of review. As a sample case, a process for signing conservation agreements between government agencies and landowners/users is explained. Solutions for preserving habitat and promoting the population of two threatened species, the Lesser Prairie Chicken and the Sand Dune Lizard, are proposed and a process for having experts weigh these solutions and make recommendations to the concerned parties is mapped out. Independent peer review would not be a good fit for these reviews due to short turn-around time and lack of need for finding peers with no conflict of interest. Development of this project-specific process is an example of how to create a technical review process that functions exactly as needed. The process delineated in the article has generated widespread interest. In the first 6 months of the existence of the agreements, 36 parties have signed letters of intent to participate. Both the government agencies involved and the landowners/users agree that the process is fair. There has been insufficient time since implementation of these measures to quantify the effects on the target species population. This straightforward technical review is inexpensive to implement, tailored to accomplish the goals of the participants, and effective. Due to the nature of the project and the high volume of reviews associated with it, the technical review procedure that was developed is a perfect fit.