BOEM Environmental Studies Program (ESP) Peer Review
In 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued “Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies.” The guidelines were mandated by Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law 106-554). In 2004, OMB issued the Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (Bulletin), which states that “important scientific information shall be peer reviewed by qualified specialists before it is disseminated by the federal government.” (70 FR 2664, January 14, 2005). The Bulletin directs Federal agencies to develop agency-specific procedures for scientific peer review that are consistent with its guidance. It requires bureaus to conduct a “systematic process of peer review planning“ and provide access to information products for official dissemination that will be peer reviewed as either influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments. The Bulletin defines these two categories as follows:
- Influential scientific information: scientific information that will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions. Information dissemination can have a significant economic impact even if it is not part of a rulemaking. For instance, the economic viability of a technology can be influenced by the government’s characterization of its attributes. Alternatively, the Federal government’s assessment of risk can directly or indirectly influence the response actions of state and local agencies or international bodies.
- Highly influential scientific assessment: a scientific assessment is considered highly influential if:
- its dissemination will have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector, or
- that the dissemination is novel, controversial, or precedent-setting, or
- that it has significant interagency interest.
The Bulletin defines “scientific assessments” as “an evaluation of a body of scientific or technical knowledge, which typically synthesizes multiple factual inputs, data, models, assumptions, and/or applies best professional judgment to bridge uncertainties in the available information. These assessments include, but are not limited to, state-of-science reports; technology assessments; weight-of-evidence analyses; meta-analyses; health, safety, or ecological risk assessments; toxicological characterizations of substances; integrated assessment models; hazard determinations; or exposure assessments. Such assessments often draw upon knowledge from multiple disciplines”.
BOEM’s ESP does not regularly produce scientific assessments as defined by the OMB Bulletin. Instead, the ESP generally produces individual study efforts that are later utilized and synthesized in a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other reviews following processes of the laws for which the reviews are done.
To address this issue, BOEM’s ESP defines “influential scientific information” as an ESP-funded research effort that:
- addresses subjects of high public interest that look to understand direct or indirect impacts of BOEM regulated activities;
- has the potential to directly impact an Outer Continental Shelf energy or mineral siting decision;
- could directly influence the selection of a specific “alternative” in a NEPA document, or;
- has the potential to significantly change or influence public or industry investment or activity.
BOEM’s ESP additionally defines “highly influential scientific information” as an ESP-funded research effort whose results:
- are highly likely to change or significantly influence public or industry investment or activity;
- are likely to be controversial or if the study itself is meant to address a topic of controversy;
- will be used to develop or change regulations or laws.
ESP Peer Review Policy
After the ESP annual National Studies List (NSL) is approved, ESP management and staff will evaluate the NSL to identify “influential” or “highly influential” studies.
Once a determination of “influential” or “highly influential” is made, the BOEM lead for the research effort will consult with the BOEM Scientific Integrity Officer (BSIO) to develop a peer review plan.
Several appropriate options for peer review are outlined below, and the option selected should be commensurate with the potential impact or influence of the study and its results.
Options for ESP studies include peer reviews:
- Internal to a study, conducted by ESP and BOEM program scientists familiar with the project and with appropriate expertise and experience. No formal report is provided, reviewers serve to provide review, comments, and corrections to the BOEM lead and project team. (Influential)
- Internal to a study, conducted by a contracted panel with appropriate expertise and experience. No formal report provided, reviewers serve to provide review, comments, and corrections to the BOEM lead and project team on an individual basis. (Influential)
- External to a study, and conducted by 2-3 BOEM or DOI scientists from unrelated parts of the agency or bureau with appropriate expertise and experience. They may provide an informal report, or provide review, comments, and corrections to the BOEM lead and project team. (Influential)
- External to a study, and conducted by 2-3 BOEM or DOI scientists from unrelated parts of the agency or bureau with appropriate expertise and experience. A formal peer review report is delivered, and responded to by the BOEM lead or project team, and posted to the ESP peer review website. (Influential)
- An external, formal peer review conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine or other contracted expert panel meeting all requirements of the Bulletin. A formal peer review report is delivered, and responded to by the BOEM lead or project team, and posted to the ESP peer review website. (Highly Influential)
The table below provides a list of information products for official dissemination that will be peer reviewed as either influential scientific information or highly influential scientific assessments.
Highly Influential Scientific Assessments
Working or Final Title
Peer Review Plan
Completed Peer Review Summary Document
Comment Response Document
Air Quality Modeling in the Gulf of Mexico