What is peer reviewing?

Peer reviewing is an important element of an evaluation process; it involves gathering feedback on the work you are producing from peers in your sector. A peer can be anyone who has relevant knowledge in a certain field of work.

Peer reviewers should approach evaluations with an inquisitive direction and a professional dialogue, avoiding bias where possible. The aim of peer reviewing is to provide honest feedback to aid the receiving arts organisation in their development and growth.

If you’re inviting peer reviewers to review, you may wish to invite those whose careers align directly with the work you are evaluating, such as inviting a curator to evaluate your exhibition. This is often preferred as these peers will have direct, transferable knowledge and experiences that they can apply to your evaluation. You may, however, wish to invite peer reviewers who have experience in something different to the work you are evaluating, as their knowledge may complement the activity you have produced in a unique way, such as inviting a school teacher to evaluate a theatre in education piece.


Why is peer review important?

Peer reviewers have the opportunity to share their knowledge and join in a sector-wide conversation about cultural value, unique to art forms and subjects matters they have an interest in.

For arts and cultural organisations who are wanting to better understand the impact their work is having on their audiences, gaining insight through peer review can be an incredibly useful and important part of their evaluation strategy. By inviting other professionals to peer review work, constructive critique is invited along with the encouragement of further engagement.

To get the most out of the results you can obtain from peer reviewing, it is advised to build them into a framework that also includes conducting self and public reviews. This triangulation of evidence can ensure that the work is being evaluated from multiple perspectives, obtaining a range of insights which will be invaluable for ongoing organisational growth and development.


How can peer reviewing enhance the arts and cultural sector?

Including peer reviewing into evaluation strategies for arts and cultural organisations helps them to understand the views that a variety of peers hold on their work. This process promotes open discourse with other arts organisations and encourages reciprocal conversation about the sector in your locale.

Engaging in peer review within the sector will provide further insight and make a stronger case for public funding for arts and culture in the UK, in turn benefitting more creative organisations and practitioners over time.


Peer review in the Impact & Insight Toolkit

A very exciting addition to the Impact & Insight Toolkit is the Peer Matching Resource. All NPOs and SSOs who have registered to the Impact & Insight Toolkit have access to this, and anyone with experience in the arts and cultural sector and interested in evaluation is able to register themselves as a Peer Reviewer.

If you are registering as a peer through an NPO or SSO, you can find the sign up page under the ‘Invite’ tab in any of your surveys; if you require any further support in registering peers, do get in touch with your primary contact at Counting What Counts. If you have any queries regarding this element of the mandatory evaluation, please contact your Relationship Manager.

If you are interested in signing up to be a peer reviewer independently of a registered NPO or SSO, we would love to hear from you! Contact us at support@countingwhatcounts.co.uk to get registered as a peer reviewer.


Arts Council England’s Artistic and Quality Assessment

Finally, for those of you who are already familiar with the Impact & Insight Toolkit, you will be aware of the dimensions that Arts Council has asked you to use in your peer surveys. Don’t forget that, if you wish to, you are welcome to add the AQA questions into your Impact & Insight Toolkit survey, adding richness to your evaluation. These can be added to your survey through the use of the logic function within the Culture Counts platform or through setting up a separate survey. Do just get in touch with us if you would like support on achieving this added value.


For more information and guidance on peer review, take a look at our more detailed document on peer review here, or the webinar we led on the subject here.


Photo Credit: Lucas & King “Nothing on You” via YouTube