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The Assessment Process

Question Development

The SFRA is a question-driven assessment. The questions around which the Assessment is structured must 1) address important aspects of southern forests, and 2) be feasibly completed in a two-year time frame using existing information. The SFRA organizers launched an extensive 6-month process of public involvement and discussion to arrive at 23 Assessment Questions in five broad areas. Each Question is accompanied by a list of detailed issues to be considered by the Question Managers as they conduct their analyses.

Peer Review

The Assessment report is science-based. To ensure technical rigor, each chapter, (and the Summary) has been anonymously reviewed by a minimum of three technical experts in the topic prior to release of the Draft Report. The Assessment's interagency organizers asked up to 6 technical experts per chapter to participate in the review process, over 100 in all, drawing the experts from a pool of candidates nominated by Assessment team members and the public. Reviewers include experts from state and federal agencies, academia, conservation organizations and forest industry, but their names are kept confidential to encourage a candid and critical review process. Question Managers have carefully considered all review comments and used them to improve their Chapters.

Technical Edit

The Assessment seeks to reach broad audiences with its Report. Therefore the Assessment's Editor reviews all portions of the report upon first submission and recommends to the Question Managers ways to improve clarity, writing style, structure, and readability. Each Chapter receives additional reviews after every cycle of editing by the authors including those following the reviews by technical experts and the public.

Public Review

The Assessment has solicited public input in formulating the questions to be addressed, and solicited feedback on the methods used to address them by hosting a series of workshops and by posting Question work plans on the web site. Broader scientific input was also encouraged by hosting the conference "Sustaining Southern Forests: The Science of Forest Assessment." Public review was sought for the report itself before its final publication in printed form. To keep the process convenient, timely and cost-effective, we release the Draft Report via the Assessment's web site with additional forms of distribution available upon request. Comments on the draft report were welcomed either via the web site's public message board or through other routes. However, since all work will have been peer reviewed prior to release of the Draft Report, the public was asked to focus their comments on making the report more clear and understandable. Substantial additional technical analysis by the Assessment Team should not be expected.


The Assessment uses different media to ensure the widest possible outreach to the interested public. Outreach has included public meetings, visits to interested organizations, interviews with reporters and a mailing list. Arguably the most important vehicle for public outreach has been the SFRA web site, which posts information on all stages of the Assessment process, its intermediate products and decisions, working materials, data sets and final products. To control distribution costs and turnaround times the Assessment designed the Draft Report for distribution as web pages, with major sections also available as PDF files (Adobe Portable Document Format). Only the Draft Report's Summary Chapter was printed ahead of time for limited distribution to contributing agencies and other government audiences.

Following public input, revision, and re-editing of the Draft Report, the Technical Report and Summary Report are available online but are also published by the Southern Research Station as General Technical Report SRS-53 and SRS-54. As with the Draft Report, the contents of both reports are also available for download as PDFs.

In early 2007 the first update to the original reports was published, entitled "The U.S. South’s Timber Sector in 2005: A Prospective Analysis of Recent Change." This update was in response to a request by State and Private Forestry (R8) and the Southern Group of State Foresters and dealt with changing conditions in timber markets of the U.S. South. The print version of the report is published by the Southern Research Station as General Technical Report SRS-99.

Publishing content to both printed and electronic media poses special challenges, so minor differences may exist between the products. Please contact the webmaster if you see areas in which accessibility can be improved or where web content differs from the printed version or PDF.

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created: 4-OCT-2002
modified: 19-MAR-2007