Peer Review:

EPA's Implementation Remains Uneven

T-RCED-97-95: Published: Mar 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1997.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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GAO discussed its recent report on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) implementation of its peer review policy, focusing on EPA's: (1) progress in implementing its peer review policy; and (2) efforts to improve the peer review process.

GAO noted that: (1) despite some recent progress, peer review continues to be implemented unevenly; (2) although GAO found some cases in which EPA's peer review policy was properly followed, it also found cases in which key aspects of the policy were not followed or in which peer review was not conducted at all; (3) GAO believes that two of the primary reasons for this uneven implementation are: (a) inadequate accountability and oversight to ensure that all relevant products are properly peer reviewed; and (b) confusion among EPA's staff and management about what peer review is, its importance and benefits, and how and when it should be conducted; (4) EPA officials readily acknowledge this uneven implementation and, during the course of GAO's work, had a number of efforts under way to improve the peer review process; (5) although GAO found these efforts to be steps in the right direction, it concluded that EPA was not addressing the underlying problems that GAO had identified; (6) accordingly, GAO recommended that EPA ensure that: (a) upper-level managers have the information they need to know whether or not all relevant products have been considered for peer review; and (b) staff and managers are educated about the need for and benefits of peer review and their specific responsibilities in implementing policy; (7) EPA agreed with GAO's recommendations and has several efforts under way to implement them; (8) for example, EPA plans to initiate a peer review training program for its managers and staff in June 1997; and (9) while it is still too early to be certain if these efforts will be fully successful, GAO is encouraged by the high-level attention being paid to this very important process.

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