Frequently Asked Questions

Why are peer reviews important?

Peer reviews of our science programs are essential for ensuring we deliver the best available science and earn the public’s trust in our science and management. NOAA uses peer reviews as an opportunity for scientific exchange, while maintaining and improving standards, improving performance, and increasing scientific credibility.

Peer reviews are an important feedback mechanism needed to provide fresh ideas and contributions toward constantly improving fisheries science programs. In turn, the newly established agency-wide peer review process will help NOAA Fisheries more effectively standardize and advance science nationally throughout all our science centers. Results will also provide guidance for future science investments both regionally and nationally.

What will the peer reviews examine?

NOAA’s plans for the peer review are well-constructed and methodical, covering key elements of our science enterprise—data collection/quality, stock assessment methods, protected resources, ecosystems, habitat, climate impacts and adaptation, and socioeconomics. There will be room for emerging topics in future review cycles.

Which area will NOAA Fisheries examine first?

The first 2 years of the 5-year cycle—2013-2014—will focus on fisheries stock assessment processes. The 2013 reviews will focus on data collection and quality. Experts will review each of our science centers to, among other things, identify how to resolve survey and fishery data limitations and identify the highest priority needs for improving fisheries data.

Following the data focused reviews, the 2014 reviews will focus on stock assessment methods. NOAA Fisheries will develop a program review of the stock assessment methodology, carefully evaluating areas such as reducing uncertainty in assessment methods and use of assessment information for the provision of management advice. Reviewers will look at analytic approaches for stock assessment in each region with the intention of identifying best practices and facilitating improvements as appropriate. Explicit consideration of environmental factors within the stock assessment process will be an important aspect of these reviews.

How will the process work?

The review process begins with NOAA Fisheries selecting the science topic area and defining the scope of the review. Based on this information, we select independent experts in the topic area that are unassociated with the science center and invite them to participate in the review as members of a peer review panel. Each science center will dedicate several months to preparing background information and presentations to make to the review panel during a week-long review. In addition to presentations, reviewers will have time to discuss the state of the science with management and staff, as well as prepare their individual review report and recommendations. The review panel chair will summarize the reports and recommendations. NOAA Fisheries will consider and respond to recommendations during the following year.

How long will the review process take?

This 5-year cycle will involve each of the agency’s six science centers and the headquarters Office of Science and Technology in independent peer reviews of a new topic every year. The reviews will occur on the same topic every five years to ensure progress. A process of this type is, of necessity, time consuming and deliberative, but it is the best way for us to fully evaluate our approaches, identify opportunities for improvement, and learn from the successes and challenges found across the nation.

At what points in the review process can the public engage?

Much of each review’s presentations and discussions will be open to the public, and the agenda for each NOAA Fisheries science center review will list specific opportunities for public engagement. We will structure each review to allow opportunities for interested individuals to make presentations or otherwise provide input to the reviewers.

How will we know the results?

We will publish results of each science center’s review on NOAA Fisheries science center and national websites, as well as a national synthesis of lessons learned from the reviews.