• Conducting a Technical Peer Review -Part 1

  • Recently a colleague asked me if I have a checklist for conducting peer reviews of environmental reports. Although I don’t have an actual checklist or formal process, there are a number of deliberations that I usually go through when conducting a peer review. Here then are some of the basic considerations I go through before undertaking any peer review.

    As a peer reviewer, I must first ask myself - do I possess the necessary expertise and technical knowledge to conduct a sound, rational and defensible review? If not, then I will respectfully decline that review, and suggest a reviewer with the required skill set. Prior to any peer review, one must also ensure there is no actual or perceived conflict of interest in conducting the peer review (e.g. past participation with the specific project, subject property, or the report author or project stakeholders). Such prior involvement could entail a conflict of interest, in which case I would recuse myself from the review to avoid any perception of bias.

    With my client’s permission, I will attempt to notify the report author that I have been retained to conduct a peer review of their report. This is done as a professional courtesy, and also in the event that I have questions or concerns. Often, minor technical concerns can be resolved, or at least put in to proper context with a quick conversation between the original author and the reviewer.

    When people submit reports for certification through AESAC as a Certified Environmental Site Assessor (CESA), I am specifically looking for compliance with CSA Standards for Environmental Site Assessment, although I do consider technical matters, general appearance, spelling, grammar etc. that should all demonstrate a professional looking report. For professional report review (i.e. consulting services), the extent and depth of the review depends on whether I am doing a formal peer review of another consultant’s report (which can get very detailed), or if I am being retained by the report author to provide internal review (which can range from general QA/QC review to full report sign-off, provided I have been sufficiently involved with that project from the outset to be able to sign off).

    When conducting a third party technical peer review, I will consider the scope of the report, the involved stakeholders and their requirements, who my client is and their involvement/requirements, the complexity of the property (history, size, activities, known or suspected impacts), the end use of the report (due diligence, financing, development, sale/purchase, regulatory, litigation etc.), and the current and future use of the property.  For the purposes of completing an internal or QA/QC for the report author, I will consider the above noted items; plus the specific and contracted expectations, obligations, and responsibilities of myself and the report author (i.e. do they want review for QA/QC, additional guidance/advice, or full report sign-off). In some cases, I will visit and inspect the Site personally, especially in cases of litigation, or where my client is considering a property purchase based on the findings of a third party report, and my review thereof.

    In my next blog I will discuss some of the more technical and project specific aspects of the peer review process.


    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca