Stop The Madness of “Independent Scientific Peer Review”
On July 09, 2014 at 04:19PM, Tom at Watery Foundation published the following article:
It would require a whole article to explain why the system of “independent scientific peer review” for establishing minimum flows and levels should be terminated. Briefly, here is what is wrong:
Scheduled at the end rather than at the beginning. The statutorily-mandated “peer review” occurs at the end of the MFL scientific investigations, rather than usefully guiding the effort from the very beginning. This results in wasted work and needless expense.
Deliberately undermines agency credibility. By assuming that WMD scientists can’t be trusted to figure out an MFL without help, the message is that they can’t be trusted on anything.
Paying for nitpicking. It is a very safe bet that the paid members of the peer review panel will find “something” wrong and recommend more research.
Incentivizes wasteful reviews. The WMDs have to practice defensive medicine. They must undertake “peer review” for almost every water body, whether merited or not, because it would look bad to omit it.
Scientific veneer. Ultimately, the governing board of a water management district has to decide what level of change in a flow or level would cause “significant” harm and the appropriate baseline for decision. Not the peer review panel. That final decision is imbued with policy and value preferences, not scientific determinations.
Minimal legal significance. The WMD governing board has to give only “significant weight” to the peer review panel report. In the case of a legal challenge, Administrative Law Judges don’t have to give it even that weight.
The so-called “peer review” process is really about making it as difficult as possible to adopt an adequate minimum flow and level. Those who love peer review panels for MFLs never demand that it precede the issuance of big water water use or wetland permits.