How peers assess applications

 All peers approved to sit on a peer panel are provided with an induction by Australia Council officers. The induction includes information about what is involved in being a peer, role and responsibilities, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, how to review and score applications and how to use the online system.

Peers are then given access to a secure online system where they review and score the applications for the rounds they are assessing against the stated selection criteria. 

The number of applications received for each round varies widely across different arts practice and grant categories. A single peer panel might review one grant category, or several. As a general rule, peers are generally not expected to review more than 200 applications during an assessment round. 

 After reviewing and scoring applications individually, the peers then meet as a panel to deliberate. Peer Panel meetings are convened by Australia Council officers. A number of principles inform how the peer panel meetings work: 

  • Only information about applications relevant to the selection criteria should be discussed in the deliberation.
  • The convenor should be firm but fair in managing the discussion, and ensure that all voices are heard.
  • Peers should not assess on a panel where there is identified conflict of interest.
  • If an unforeseen conflict arises in deliberation, the peer must identify the conflict and not assess that application.
  • Australia Council officers have roles in supporting the peer assessment process and providing relevant advice and information to peers, but do not give opinion on the merit of individual applications.

Deliberation is a complex process that varies from meeting to meeting. Throughout the deliberation, peers apply their expertise and thoughtfully consider and debate the relative merits of the applications received guided by the purpose of the grant and the selection criteria. 

By the end of deliberation on a specific grant round the panel arrives at an agreed list ranked from highest to lowest. Depending on the number of applications received, and the nature of the grant, this process may take anything from an hour to more than a day. All applications are reviewed by the peers, but not all applications will necessarily be discussed in the peer panel meeting. 

The meeting will also identify a benchmark within the ranked list of applications. This is the point in the ranking above which all applications demonstrate a sufficient standard of merit against the selection criteria.

Peer panel funding decisions 

The Australia Council does not have the resources to fund every application. Funding available for the round is allocated in ranked order, or until applications fall below the benchmark. Applications above the benchmark but for which no funds are available fall into the category of unfunded excellence. Applications below the benchmark may not be funded, even if the funds for the round have not been fully exhausted.

Assessment decision and feedback 

 After a decision is reached by the peer panel and the applicants are notified, the Australia Council publishes the list of successful applicants and the peers involved in the decision on the Australia Council website.

Australia Council officers may be able to provide feedback to applicants who seek further information about their particular application. Applicants seeking feedback on a successful or unsuccessful funding application should contact the Australia Council.
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