Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Peer Review and Regulatory Reform

August 2000

Citation: ELR 10606

Author: Lars Noah

In recent years, lawmakers of all sorts have become interested in scientific peer review, and have the hope that scrutiny by independent experts can improve the quality of their own decisionmaking. As the phrase implies, peer review refers to the process of having work scrutinized by fellow experts, and it has long served as a quality control mechanism for the scientific community. Traditionally relegated to research funding and publication decisions, peer review recently has become of interest to regulatory agencies making decisions in the face of scientific uncertainty as well as to judges struggling to make sense of conflicting claims by expert witnesses. Although noteworthy, these applications remain fairly ad hoc to date.

More significantly, Congress has come to view expert peer review as a method for improving agency decisionmaking.1 In the last several years, for example, regulatory reform proposals have included requirements that agencies call on independent scientists to check their work. The latest incarnation, the Regulatory Improvement Act of 1999 (S. 746), was reported out of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs last summer.2 Like predecessor bills, S. 746 would mandate that agencies prepare risk assessments in many cases, and it would require some form of independent expert scrutiny of these and similar analyses.3

The author is a Professor of Law at the University of Florida.

You must be a News & Analysis subscriber to download the full article.

You are not logged in. To access this content: