Answering Your Peer Review Questions

by | Jul 20, 2022 | Blog

This blogpost addresses commonly asked questions about peer review, a subject that is regularly pondered by users of the Impact & Insight Toolkit.  It is divided into two sections:

  • Thinking about peer review as part of the Toolkit project
  • The practicalities of peer review as part of the Toolkit project


If you would like to read or watch guidance related to peer review, please scroll to the bottom of this blogpost to see a selection of links to helpful material.


Thinking About Peer Review


What is peer review?

Peer review provides fresh professional perspectives from people that aren’t involved in the internal development of projects and enables organisations to understand how their work is perceived within their artform, specialist field or other considered area.  In Culture Counts, the evaluation platform used in the Toolkit project, organisations can see how peer responses compare with the views of audience members and participants.  Peer review is not an examination with a pass mark; it is an opportunity to hear from critical friends who share your desire to improve.


Who can be a peer reviewer for my work?

A peer reviewer can be anybody who is not involved in the curation or creation of your work AND whose professional opinion you would respect on it. Therefore, a suitable peer reviewer for one work might not be suitable for a different work.

To be clear, a peer reviewer does not need to work in the same artform as the work that’s being reviewed; a peer reviewer does not need to work in the arts and cultural sector.  What’s important is that you believe that their professional perspective on your work will provide value to your understanding of its effectiveness.

Consider the following example:

The work is a piece of theatre.  It is about wellbeing in young people with the aim of increasing awareness of the importance of good mental health and the support that’s available to those that feel they could benefit from it.

So, who could be a peer reviewer for this work?  Just a few suggestions would be:

  • A theatre professional
  • A youth worker
  • A teacher
  • A counsellor or therapist
  • Mental health support staff….

As you can see, there are several avenues that can be ventured down when seeking a peer reviewer.


What are the requirements around peer review for Toolkit users?

Anyone that is using the Impact & Insight Toolkit to fulfil funding requirements, or part of a project, may have a set of conditions that their evaluations must meet.  We won’t detail each funding status’s requirements here – that would take up a lot of space!  But please use the links below to read or request requirements:

National Portfolio Organisations and Sector Support Organisations

Creative People and Places National Portfolio

Museum Development Network


How many peer reviewers should we have?

To meet mandatory requirements where a peer review is required, only one is mandated.  However, we would recommend that you engage 3 to 5 peer reviewers, where possible and appropriate, in order to reduce the pressure on that one person’s opinion.


2 business women smiling at a laptopPhoto by Surface on Unsplash


The Practicalities of Peer Review


What is the Peer Matching Resource?

The Peer Matching Resource is a database of sector professionals.  By signing up, they have agreed for Toolkit users to approach them and request peer reviews.  The Peer Matching Resource is hosted on Culture Counts and is only visible to those that are part of the Toolkit project.


Do peer reviewers we want to hear from need to be present on the Peer Matching Resource?

No.  The Peer Matching Resource is simply a resource that you can use to expand your professional network and invite arts and culture professionals that you don’t already know to experience your work and provide a review.  You do not need to use the resource.  If you want to invite someone you already know and think they could provide a valuable and professional perspective, just ask them if they will provide a review.  If they say ‘yes’, you will need to generate a unique link to the survey for them and send it to them, either through Culture Counts or by copying and pasting.


If the Peer Matching Resource has been used to connect with peer reviewers, how do you know if they’ve accepted and subsequently organise the details of their attendance?

The easiest way to see if someone has accepted your invitation is to go on the Summary page of the appropriate survey.  If they have accepted your invitation, their email address will appear under the ‘Peer Assessors’ heading.  You can use this email address to make contact and arrange details of their attendance.  You can see more about this on the relevant video.

As an aside, the link that’s displayed next to the email address is the peer reviewer’s survey link.  This is the link you should send to the reviewer once they’ve experienced your work.


Do we need to pay peer reviewers?

Usually, peer reviewers do not expect to be paid for their time or expertise; however, it is likely that they will expect to be reimbursed for expenses.  It is worth bearing this in mind when considering who you would like to ask to provide a review.  For instance, you might want to think twice about inviting a peer reviewer from Anglesey to review your concert in Eastbourne.  To make reviewing more appealing, we know of organisations that have offered a peer reviewer a ‘plus one’ to their ticketed event and, in some instances, the offer of a little perk. e.g., a theatre might offer a glass of wine at the interval; an art gallery might offer 10% off a booking to a future exhibition…  You see the idea!


Can I add questions to the generated survey for peer reviewers?

Yes, you are absolutely able to add your own questions.  Just like when you create a survey for the ‘public’ to complete, you can add your custom questions to your peer survey too.


When should you send a peer reviewer their survey link?

We recommend emailing your peer reviewer their survey link as soon as possible, once they’ve experienced the work.  Not only is it best to capture views when it’s fresh in their mind for accuracy, the peer reviewer will likely also respond more quickly to the survey request if they’re feeling connected to the work.  i.e., on a high/feeling the buzz/thinking about it.


Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash


This blogpost has responded to many questions we receive about the subject of peer review, with directions to further resources linked below.  But if you still have more questions (we’re sure there will be more to come!) please don’t hesitate to contact us.



Links to guidance and videos, specific to peer review:

Introduction to peer review (written guidance)

Using the Peer Matching Resource (video)

Using the Peer Matching Resource (written guidance – sections 7.2 and 8.2)

Inviting peers outside of the Resource (video)

Inviting peers outside of the Resource (written guidance – sections 7.4 and 8.2)

Designing your surveys, inc. adding custom questions (video)

Designing your surveys, inc. adding custom questions (written guidance – section 6)



Featured image credit: Photo by Antenna on Unsplash