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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Peer Review Definitions
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Brief Overview of Key Definitions (the complete definitions can be found in the USDA Peer Review Guidelines at by searching for “USDA Peer Review Guidelines.”


  • Influential scientific information means scientific information the agency reasonably can determine will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions.  Executive Order 12866 defines an economically significant rulemaking as one that is likely to result in a rule that may have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities.


    • Scientific assessment, a subset of scientific information, means an evaluation of a body of scientific or technical knowledge which typically synthesizes multiple factual inputs, data, models, assumptions, and/or applies best professional judgment to bridge uncertainties in the available information.  Examples of scientific assessments include state-of-science reports; technology assessments; weight-of-evidence analyses; meta-analyses; health, safety, or ecological risk analysis; toxicological characterizations of substances; integrated assessment models; hazard determinations; and exposure assessments.


  • Highly influential scientific assessment means that ARS has determined that dissemination of the scientific assessment could have a potential impact of more than $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector; the scientific assessment is novel, controversial, or precedent-setting; or the scientific assessment has significant interagency interest.

Last Modified: 12/9/2009
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