The Office of Science and Technology of US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Management Program, manages what is perhaps the world’s largest research and demonstration program in environmental technology. A novel Independent Peer Review Program (PRP) was instituted in 1996. The PRP has demonstrated significant value in response to external criticism and review, as well as an invaluable management tool.
From the onset, the PRP has been managed by a competent and credible organization that is independent of the DOE. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute for Regulatory Science, both independent non-profit organizations, manage the program. The PRP provides decision-makers with uniform, independent, and unimpeachable technical reviews to assess the scientific and engineering merit of technology development in support of environmental restoration.
The PRP process involves establishing a Review Panel tailored for each specific peer review, which is disbanded once the review is completed. The success of the PRP depends primarily upon the careful selection of peer review criteria. General criteria are identified and used to assign specific criteria for review of each project. The general categories of criteria are technical validity; relevancy; economics; safety, risk, and related topics; personnel and facilities; and overall assessment. The product of the technical peer review is a Technical Peer Review Report, which also incorporates DOE’s response to the report of the Review Panel. The report is included in an ASME Annual Report, which includes the final reports for all peer reviews conducted during the year.
Over 175 technology projects have been peer reviewed to date, with 30–40 technologies being reviewed each year. About six percent of the technologies reviewed are rejected as result of the reviews.
This paper discusses details of the DOE’s peer review program and its contributions to the improvement of its technology development program. Furthermore, it addresses how the DOE was able to gain the insight and analysis of experts in an unbiased setting, therefore providing its stakeholders with better results for their investment.