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External Scientific Peer Review

All California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) organizations are required by law to obtain an external scientific peer review when proposing a rule that contains a scientific element or is based in science (this does not apply to emergency rules). The External Scientific Peer Review Program (Peer Review Program) provides CalEPA organization employees the resources and services necessary to meet this statutory requirement during the rulemaking process. 

The Peer Review Program provides guidance and resources intended to help CalEPA organization employees through the process of obtaining a peer review. If you are a CalEPA organization employee we would like to learn about your peer review proposal as early as possible. Please contact us for more information on the peer review process.

About the External Scientific Peer Review Program

What Is External Scientific Peer Review

External scientific peer review is the process of commissioning external experts to critically review the scientific basis or portion of proposed new policies, plans, or regulations (rules) or changes to existing rules by the CalEPA organizations. The peer reviewer’s responsibility is to determine whether the scientific elements underlying a proposed rule are based upon sound scientific knowledge, methods, and practices.

When the Program Began

Governor Pete Wilson signed Senate Bill 1320 (Sher) into law in 1997, incorporating external scientific peer review into the California Health and Safety Code, Section 57004. This law requires external scientific peer review of the scientific foundation of a proposed environmental rule or proposed changes to existing rules. As mentioned above, this law applies to all regulatory organizations under CalEPA. The Peer Review Program was initiated within CalEPA in 1998.

Why Peer Review Is Important 

External scientific peer review is an important part of the CalEPA rulemaking process. Peer review provides a trusted form of scientific collaboration and is a hallmark of scientific work. The peer review process is an independent and trustworthy assessment regarding the validity and quality of our rulemaking development. Peer reviews can help the CalEPA organizations demonstrate the scientific foundations of their actions and provide the public and regulated community access to the science CalEPA organizations depend on to make rules or change existing rules.

Section 57004 requires highly-qualified external experts to perform impartial, independent peer reviews. This process ensures that all proposed CalEPA rulemakings meet accepted standards and prevents influence on rulemakings stemming from irrelevant findings, unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations, and personal views.

Who Oversees the Program

The Peer Review Program has been housed in the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) since 1998. The first guidance documents to implement the Peer Review Program were developed internally for the State Water Board and nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards. CalEPA implemented the guidelines as developed by the State Water Board and granted program oversight to the State Water Board.

The Peer Review Program manages the contract and associated processes CalEPA organizations use to comply with Section 57004 when the organization determines that formal external scientific peer review is appropriate under the law.

The University of California, Berkeley (UC), has helped implement the Peer Review Program as the external scientific peer review entity (contractor) since program inception. The contractor identifies highly qualified external experts to perform impartial, independent peer reviews when requested by a CalEPA organization. The contract with the UC lays out the process the CalEPA organizations, the Peer Review Program, and the contractor use to obtain a peer review.

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Contact Us by Email

Carol Perkins
Manager, CalEPA External Scientific Peer Review Program
Office of Research, Planning, and Performance
State Water Resources Control Board

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