Peer Review › The Actors
Peer review is the combination of the activity of several actors: the collective body within which the review is undertaken; the reviewed country; the examiner countries; and the Organisation Secretariat.
The collective body
Peer reviews are undertaken in the framework of the activities of a subsidiary body of the Organisation, such as a Committee or a Working Party. The frequency of the reviews depends on the programme of work of the body, and it can range from the 6-7 year cycle for the Environmental Performance Reviews to the 12-18 month cycle of the Economic and Development Review Committee.
The reviewed country
Usually all countries which are members of the body are subject to the peer review. Certain peer reviews are considered an obligation of membership. Moreover, in some cases, officials of the country may have an interest in peer review, as a means of stimulating reform in their national policies and practices. Participation implies the duty to co-operate with the examiners and the Secretariat by, among other things: making documents and data available, responding to questions and requests for self-assessment, facilitating contacts and hosting on-site visits. The individuals responsible for participating on behalf of the reviewed country could include civil servants from ministries and agencies and at levels of government. On several occasions, OECD has also reviewed the performances of non-member countries, at their request or with their agreement. On occasion, the reviewed country contributes to the financing of the review.
The examiner countries
Peer review implies by definition that officials in the relevant policy field from other countries (peers) will be involved in the evaluation process. Generally, the choice of examiners is based on a system of rotation among the member States, although the particular knowledge of a country relevant to the review may be taken into account. The role of the examiners is to represent the collective body in the early stages of the process and to provide guidance in the collective debate itself. Hence their task includes the examination of documentation, participation in discussions with the reviewed country and the Secretariat, and a lead speaker role in the debate in the collective body. In some cases, the examiners also participate in missions to the country. While individual examiners generally carry out the reviews in their official capacity as representatives of their State, certain reviews require the participation of examiners in their personal capacity. In either case, however, examiners have the duty to be objective and fair, and free from any influence of national interest that would undermine the credibility of the peer review mechanism.
The Organisation Secretariat has the role of supporting the whole review process by producing documentation and analysis, organising meetings and missions, stimulating discussion, upholding quality standards, and maintaining continuity as the keeper of the historical memory of the process. The independence, transparency, accuracy and the analytic quality of work of the Secretariat are essential to the effectiveness of the peer review process. The intensity of the interaction between the examiners and the Secretariat and the degree of involvement of the examiners vary widely. In certain cases, the Secretariat works very closely with the examiners, and the division of labour between them is not always well defined. However, normally the most labour-intensive part of the work is carried out by the Secretariat, which may also have the most expertise in the substantive area of the review.