69 Stan. L. Rev. 1 (2017)
Does Peer Review Work: An Experiment of Experimentalism

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                                  ARTICLE


                Does Peer Review Work?

      An Experiment of Experimentalism


                                Daniel  E. Ho*


Abstract.  Ensuring  the accuracy and  consistency of  highly decentralized and
discretionary decisionmaking is a core challenge for the administrative state. The widely
influential school of democratic experimentalism posits that peer review-the direct and
deliberative evaluation of work product by peers in the discipline-provides a way
forward, but systematic evidence remains limited. This Article provides the first empirical
study of the feasibility and effects of peer review as a governance mechanism based on a
unique randomized  controlled trial conducted with the largest health department in
Washington  State (Public Health-Seattle and King County). We randomly assigned half
of the food safety inspection staff to engage in an intensive peer review process for over
four months. Pairs of inspectors jointly visited establishments, separately assessed health
code violations, and deliberated about divergences on health code implementation. Our

* William Benjamin Scott and Luna M.  Scott Professor of Law, Stanford Law School;
  Address: 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305; Tel: (650) 723-9560; Fax: (650) 725-
  0253; E-mail: dho@law.stanford.edu. Thanks to Zoe Ashwood, Adrianna Boghozian,
  Aubrey Jones, and Sam Sherman for terrific research assistance; to Becky Elias, manager
  of the Food Program in King County for bold and wise leadership with the intervention;
  to the supervisors and technical seniors in King and Pierce Counties (particularly Rachel
  Knight, Katie Lott, Eyob Mazengia, Dan Moran, Jill Trohimovich, Todd Yerkes, and Phil
  Wyman)  for thoughtfully collaborating on the intervention; to Mark Bossart and Brad
  Costello for help with accessing data; to the inspection staff in both counties for
  participating in the peer review trial; to participants at the Faculty Workshop at Stanford
  Law School, the Law and Economics Workshop at the University of Chicago Law School,
  the Law  and Field Experiments group at Yale Law School, the Administrative Law
  Forum  at Berkeley Law School, the Faculty Colloquy at the University of Tulsa College
  of Law, the statistics seminar at RAND Corporation, the Faculty Enrichment Series at the
  University of Arizona College of Law, the National Environmental Health Association
  Annual Educational Conference, and the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies at Duke
  Law School; and to Joe Graham (Food Safety Program Supervisor in Washington State),
  Michael Asimow,  Ian Ayres, Omri Ben-Shahar, John Braithwaite, Andy Coan, Josh
  Cohen, Dick Craswell, Mike Dorf, Becky Elias, David Engstrom, Dan Farber, Stephen
  Galoob, Nadia Hermez, David Hausman, Deborah  Hensler, Aubrey Jones, Bob Kagan,
  Mark  Kelman, Rachel Knight, Katie Lott, Rob MacCoun, Anup Malani, David Marcus,
  Toni Massaro, Bernie Meyler, Jennifer Nou, Anne Joseph O'Connell, Lisa Ouellette,
  Chuck  Sabel, Jane Schacter, Jodi Short, Bill Simon, Jason Solomon, Norm Spaulding,
  David Studdert, Dane Thorley, Laura Trice, Marty Wells, and Phil Wyman for helpful
  comments  and conversations. No county provided any funding for this research.


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