Peer ConsultationThe Purpose of Peer Consultation in VCCEP
For VCCEP, the purpose of the peer consultation is to provide a forum for scientists and relevant experts from various stakeholder groups to exchange views on the sponsors's chemical assessments and in particular on the recommended data needs. Another purpose of the peer consultation is to provide these views to an independent third party that can compile them in a report in an impartial manner.
Initially, the independent third party identifies and invites scientists and experts to serve on a Peer Consultation Panel and organizes a public meeting where views can be exchanged and where the public may also comment. The Peer Consultation Panel is asked to discuss whether the potential hazards, exposures, and risks to children have been adequately evaluated in the chemical assessment under discussion. The Panel is also expected to provide scientific input on any additional hazard and exposure data that the individual Panel members consider necessary. The peer consultation is not intended to be a consensus based process, but identifies areas of agreement and disagreement, and provides the supporting scientific rationale.
After the peer consultation, the independent third party compiles the results and comments from the meeting and submits them in a report to EPA. After considering this report and the sponsor's chemical assessment, the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics at EPA decides, after consulting with other Agency offices, what data from the next tier are needed. EPA then notifies the sponsor and the public of this decision.
Additional information on the peer consultation process can be found in the December 2000 Notice.
TERA's Role in the Peer Consultation
Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) was awarded a cooperative agreement by EPA which enables it to design, develop and manage a peer consultation process that serves as a public scientific forum. TERA's primary role in managing the peer consultation is to ensure that it is a rigorous, science-based process for reviewing VCCEP assessments that stakeholders recognize as impartial and of significant technical merit and value. TERA's role in managing the peer consultation is undertaken primarily at the request of and for the benefit of non-federal VCCEP stakeholders, particularly the sponsors of VCCEP chemicals. The principal purpose of the cooperative agreement is to provide the non-federal stakeholders with an impartial, scientifically rigorous review of the VCCEP documents. Any benefits EPA receives from TERA's efforts on behalf of the non-federal stakeholders will be incidental to this purpose.
The Federal Register notice published on December 26, 2000 launching the VCCEP, in retrospect, prematurely refers to a "third party contractor" that will manage the peer consultation. After further consideration, OPPT decided that it would be better to have an independent, scientifically rigorous review of the assessments. It is important to understand that TERA will not function as an EPA contractor as it manages the peer consultation. As a recipient of a cooperative agreement, TERA enjoys a degree of independence from EPA that a contractor does not have. The legal relationship between EPA and TERA under a cooperative agreement precludes EPA from providing instructions to TERA with regard to how to conduct or manage the peer consultation, or otherwise directing TERA as if it were an EPA contractor. Stakeholders may contact EPA at (202) 564-7627 if there are questions regarding TERA's role in the VCCEP peer consultation.