Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM
THE ROLE OF INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW PANELS IN THE MANAGEMENT OF FORESTED LANDS
Forest management is a contentious undertaking made more difficult when scientists with vested interests advocate particular policy alternatives. To help avoid the use of science to advocate rather than evaluate, governments have increasingly legislated the use of the best available science when drafting policies related to the protection of critical areas and standards. One definition of best available science, in this case by the State of Washington, is "...research conducted by qualified individuals using documented methodologies that lead to verifiable results and conclusions." Reliance on results published in rigorously peer-reviewed journals and monographs is one way to identify the best available science. The information needed to support policy, planning, and regulatory decisions, however, may not merit publication in journals that value novel and provocative contributions over mundane, albeit sound, science. Instead, the information needed to support policy decisions is more likely to be found in open-file reports, internal memoranda, and other documents that do not bear the imprimatur of peer review. It can be difficult for policy makers to determine whether this gray literature constitutes the best available science. Hazard maps made by different but similarly qualified geologists, for example, can bear little resemblance to each other. The results of process-based computer models can be sensitive to underlying assumptions and choice of input, and therefore very subjective tools. One solution is to increase the use of independent and interdisciplinary peer review or advisory panels of disinterested scientists who are nominated, vetted, and selected via a participatory process with active stakeholder involvement. In our experience as members of a review panel convened to help answer forest management questions in northern California, this process has the potential to 1) help formulate scientific questions in policy-relevant form; 2) clarify results and conflicting opinions among scientists; 3) identify management options and their consequences without advocating particular policy decisions; and 4) assess the adequacy of current and future data collection plans.