The scientific community uses peer review to ensure the quality and credibility of disseminated information. In December 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a bulletin with guidance for federal agencies on two categories of scientific information that are subject to peer review:
- Influential scientific information
- Highly influential scientific information
The bulletin also directed federal agencies to develop agency-specific processes for peer review.
Department of the Interior Guidance
Department of the Interior (DOI) information quality guidance implements the OMB guidance and explains influential scientific information and highly influential scientific assessment.
Influential Scientific Information
“Influential” scientific, financial, or statistical information is information that reasonably can be determined to have a clear and substantial impact on:
- important public policies, economic or other decisions
- important private sector economic or other decisions
- a broad, rather than a narrow, range of parties (e.g., an entire industry or a significant part of an industry, as opposed to a single company)
The DOI observes further that even if a decision or action by an agency is itself very important, a particular piece of information contributing to the decision making may or may not be "influential." Similarly, the intensity of possible impact plays a role—information that affects a broad range of parties, with a low-intensity impact, or information that affects a narrow range of parties, with a high-intensity impact, likely is not “influential.” DOI bureaus and offices may designate certain classes of scientific, statistical, or financial information as "influential" or not in the context of their specific programs. DOI bureaus and offices will determine whether scientific, statistical, or financial information is “influential” on a case-by-case basis, using the principles articulated in the DOI guidelines.
Highly Influential Scientific Assessment
Scientific, financial, or statistical information is a “highly influential” scientific assessment if it meets one of these criteria:
- has a potential impact of more than $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector or
- is novel, controversial, or precedent-setting, or has significant interagency interest.
One way disseminated information can exert economic impact is through the costs or benefits of a regulation that is based on the disseminated information. In other cases, the qualitative aspect of this definition may be most useful when it is difficult for an agency to predict the potential economic effect of dissemination. In cases of novelty, it may be either the approach used in the assessment or the interpretation of the information itself that is novel or precedent-setting. Finally, when methods or interpretations are a source of controversy among interested parties, conducting peer review may help establish the bounds of the scientific debate.
National Park Service Guidance
National Park Service (NPS) guidance offers more detail and defines three terms for scientific information in the NPS context:
- Informative Scientific or Scholarly Information: Scientific or scholarly information that serves to inform scientific, scholarly, and management awareness and decision making generally, but that does not provide the sole or major component of information used in decision making and does not, by itself, lead to a change in the direction of decision making or to a decision that creates a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions.
- Influential Scientific or Scholarly Information: Scientific or scholarly information that the Service reasonably can determine will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions but does not meet the definition of “highly influential scientific assessment.” Influential scientific information is a subset of “informative scientific information.” Information is influential in determining important policies or decisions if the same decision would be difficult to reach in the absence of the information. Information has a clear and substantial impact when the specific information serves as the principal basis for a decision that affects significant numbers of private sector entities outside parks or not associated with NPS assistance activities.
- Highly Influential Scientific or Scholarly Assessment: A scientific or scholarly assessment that could have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any year or is novel, controversial, or precedent-setting or has significant interagency interest. Such an assessment is a subset of “influential scientific or scholarly information.”
The DOI Peer Review website has more information about OMB’s scientific peer review requirements, with links to the peer review agenda websites of DOI offices and bureaus.
National Park Service Peer Review Agenda
The NPS conducts applied scientific and scholarly studies to inform decision making by individual park and office managers about:
- specific park management actions,
- scientific questions associated with inventory and monitoring in small groups of parks,
- public use and enjoyment of parks,
- or other bureau programs.
Scientists, scholars, and members of the public may find the information these scientific and scholarly studies produce to be of interest.
The NPS maintains this webpage to report peer review plans and peer review results for influential scientific information and highly influential scientific assessments. The page is updated when influential scientific information is planned for peer review. Reviews prior to 2020 are included in the peer review archive.
However, in most cases, NPS decisions relate to planning, resource stewardship, or visitor use management in individual parks; specific park regulations; and other park-specific activities involving only one or a few parks. In some cases, the decisions relate to guidance developed for NPS assistance programs, such as national landmark or historic structure recognition or various types of conservation assistance. In general, scientific and scholarly activities commissioned to inform a specific park or program decision do not meet the NPS definition of "influential scientific information" and so are not included on this webpage.
Last updated: August 25, 2020