Peer Review:

EPA Needs Implementation Procedures and Additional Controls

RCED-94-89: Published: Feb 22, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) peer review policies for its published scientific and technical materials, focusing on EPA: (1) efforts to implement a uniform peer review policy; and (2) controls over documents sent to outside reviewers.

GAO found that: (1) although EPA has issued a peer review policy statement requiring that technically-based products undergo peer reviews, EPA has not defined technically-based products, specified peer review implementation procedures, or defined the scope, timing, and cost of peer reviews; (2) although EPA has established a work group to develop specific implementation procedures, it has not established milestones or deadlines for the group; (3) EPA does not have consistent procedures to ensure that products sent to external peer reviewers are clearly identified as draft products and are not perceived as agency policy; (4) EPA work groups have not addressed the problems associated with the premature release of draft documents; and (5) EPA needs to obtain written agreements with outside peer reviewers that prohibit the release of draft documents without agency approval and strengthen managers' accountability over peer review decisions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA issued an agencywide peer review policy and implementation program on June 7, 1994. The new policy set a schedule for developing, completing and implementing agencywide peer review procedures.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should set a schedule for developing, completing, and implementing agencywide peer review procedures.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Formal office-specific standard operating procedures were developed and implemented effective October 1, 1994. The new procedures set controls necessary to discourage premature disclosure of EPA documents by external peer reviewers.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should develop and implement controls that protect against the premature release of documents by external peer reviewers.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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