Program Evaluation: Define Review Purpose and Scope

The first step in preparation for a particular peer review is to determine the specific purpose and scope of the review within the context of other review and management activities. Improving program management and demonstrating public accountability, providing an honest independent technical review of the projects and program, and communicating the value of the programs to the larger public are all potentially important outcomes of peer reviews.

Reviews may be prospective (looking forward and assessing plans or likely success) or retrospective (evaluating what has already happened), and often have elements of both. Consider what decisions you make and where information would be useful. Peer review recommendations, combined with other data, help provide the basis on which managers: 

  • Decide to select, continue, modify, or redirect program portfolios;
  • Assess program performance and productivity;
  • Identify closures or new opportunities;

Peer reviews may also,

  • Strengthen the community around a subject area (e.g., subject areas such as research, deployment, or business management); and/or
  • Provide critical information to a program that is under particularly close congressional scrutiny or has major problems previously identified.

Deciding what to review and when to review it should be done on a multiyear basis, although unforeseen circumstances may also require review on an ad hoc basis. The EERE minimum requirement is that all programs and key projects be assessed, on average, every two years. In general, all projects in a given topical portfolio will be considered for review, regardless of their stage of maturity, with the primary focus on the key projects, typically comprising 80-90% of the program budget, and earmarks. Peer reviews may be held multiple times over the course of a project—to determine if initial assumptions and directions are reasonable, to identify possible mid-course corrections, and to determine if objectives were met.

Learn about other peer review preparation activities.