Peer review of research studies is standard operating procedure in the world of science. So shouldn’t it be a useful addition to government’s regulatory arsenal, as well? Not as envisioned by the White House Office of Management and Budget as part of a sweeping 2003 proposal to require peer review of some studies used in the regulatory process.
OMB’s September 15, 2003 proposal, which rested on the already controversial Information Quality Act, would have required that agencies subject some studies they use during deliberations over regulations to peer review, but it would have omitted from that requirement studies submitted by regulated industries – that is, the studies most likely to be influenced by the financial interests of their sponsors. Moreover, the proposal went far beyond OMB’s statutory authority under the Information Quality Act, insinuating the Act into the development of regulations, even though the already problematic IQA is aimed at information disseminated by the government.
The proposal triggered a tidal wave of criticism, reflected in comments submitted by CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro on December 7, 2003, and in comments from the Natural Resources Defense Council, OMB Watch, Rep. Henry Waxman and colleagues, Professor David Michaels of George Washington University, Sheila Jasanoff of Harvard University, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (jointly submitted), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, former EPA official Victor Kimm, the Federation of American Scientists, the American Public Health Association, and Public Citizen. Separately, a bipartisan group of 20 former regulators submitted a letter to OMB, protesting the proposal.
In response to the criticism, OMB subsequently softened its proposal, improving it, but not quite fixing it. Shapiro described his objections to the revision in May 27, 2004 comments to OMB.
For more information on OMB's Peer Review Proposals, and the Data Quality Act, see our Regulatory Policy page. For more on CPR’s work defending the integrity of science from attacks by industry and its allies in Washington, see our Defending Clean Science page.