The effectiveness of peer review relies on the influence and persuasion exercised by the peers during the process. This effect is known as “peer pressure”.
The peer review process can give rise to peer pressure through, for example:
a mix of formal recommendations and informal dialogue by the peer countries;
public scrutiny, comparisons, and, in some cases, even ranking among countries;
and the impact of all the above on domestic public opinion, national administrations and policy makers.
The impact will be greatest when the outcome of the peer review is made available to the public, as is usually the case at the OECD. When the press is actively engaged with the story, peer pressure is most effective. Public scrutiny often arises from media involvement.
Peer pressure does not take the form of legally binding acts, as sanctions or other enforcement mechanisms. Instead, it is a means of soft persuasion which can become an important driving force to stimulate the State to change, achieve goals and meet standards.
Peer pressure is particularly effective when it is possible to provide both qualitative and quantitative assessments of performance.
The quantitative assessment might take the form of a ranking of countries according to their performance, and the drawing of real scoreboards reflecting such rankings.
An example is the OECD Jobs Strategy
, a programme which sets out principles and benchmarks, carries out quantitative analysis and ranks country according to their performances in reducing unemployment.
Another example, outside the OECD, of a very effective scoreboard is the Internal Market Scoreboard, maintained by the European Commission, which ranks the EU Members States according to their performance in the completion of the internal market.
A variation of this system is the “naming and shaming” technique, which singles out poor performers. However, these methods are appropriate and produce positive results only when the “rules of the game” are clear and the countries accept them. In other cases, this type of approach could risk shifting the exercise from an open debate to a diplomatic quarrel to gain position on the scoreboard.