Independent scientific review under the Endangered Species Act

Peer review, more accurately described as independent scientific review, is an essential contributor to the federal wildlife agencies’ ability to meet the “best available science” standard required for determinations under the federal Endangered Species Act. Despite the high risk of extinction experienced by a number of native fishes in the upper San Francisco Estuary and the attending social and economic costs of implementing the Act’s prohibitions, neither federal nor state resource agencies employ independent outside expert review as frequently as would be prudent. Moreover, such reviews when engaged often fail to meet acceptable standards. We describe nine essential attributes of a rigorous independent scientific review that necessarily should be met for agency decisions and documents to be scientifically credible. We note here that those review criteria have not been met in previous reviews of essential regulatory documents and other determinations made by either federal or state resource agencies operating in the Delta. We strongly suggest that the Delta Science Program adopt review procedures described in the article as “attributes of successful scientific advice and review.”       

Murphy DD, Weiland PS. 2019. Independent Scientific Review under the Endangered Species Act. BioScience 69:198-208.


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