Independent Scientific Review Under the Endangered Species Act
Posted in Publications

In an article published online this week in BioScience, the American Institute of Biological Sciences' scholarly journal, Drs. Dennis Murphy and Paul Weiland contribute to the literature on independent scientific review, focusing on the review of federal agency determinations under the Endangered Species Act. They describe the types of decisions that can benefit from independent scientific review. They also describe past shortcomings in undertaking such reviews, relying on specific examples from past reviews. Identification of such shortcomings feeds into the principal contribution of the article to the literature: identification of nine attributes of successful review. These attributes, described in greater detail in the article linked here, include:

  • The call for independent science review panels to function as deliberative bodies, with three or more participating reviewers,
  • Panel representation should offer a balance in skills and expertise, with panelist selection limited by conflict of interest rules,
  • Use of a third-party science neutral to administer the review,
  • The development of a robust and clearly delineated task for the panel,
  • Provision to the panel of sufficient background and other materials to provide context, including materials identified by relevant stakeholders,
  • Provision of materials that allow the panel to discern the process that the agency followed to make its determination,
  • Setting review time and resources sufficient to complete the task,
  • Setting a schedule that is appropriate to the tasking and is neither too late to foreclose incorporation of review input into agency determinations nor too early to allow for meaningful review, and
  • Requiring the responsible agency to respond to the review in writing.

The authors explain that these nine attributes of successful independent science review should be viewed as a unit. They go on to state that their adoption will contribute to agency efforts to use the best available scientific information, thereby increasing both the legitimacy of agency determinations and the likelihood such determinations will meet pertinent legal requirements.

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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