WHAT IS THE ROLE OF AN EXPERT PANEL IN AN EVALUATION?
What is an expert panel?
An expert panel usually comprises independent specialists, recognised in at least one of the fields addressed by the programme under evaluation. The panel specialists arrive at conclusions and recommendations through consensus. Depending on the project proposal, these recommendations deal with the implementation or the impact of a programme, or part of it. When consensus is not reached for particular questions, the panel must report on the various perspectives of the experts.
The expert panel is specifically appointed for the evaluation, and in conformity with standard procedures. The panel holds meetings and provides conclusions and recommendations in accordance with a precise and replicable working plan, which accounts for its reliability.
This tool is therefore designed to take advantage of the experts' knowledge in assessing policies, programmes and projects implemented in the field of their expertise.
Various types of expert panels in evaluation
International funding institutions such as the World Bank, the European Commission, Scandinavian countries, Canada and the United States regularly appoint expert panels to evaluate programmes.
In environmental evaluations, funding institutions such as the World Bank use expert panels to assess the quality of the service providers' work and suggest improvements. These panels examine the evolution of the project studies, from their preliminary stages to completion, including the first years of implementation.
The Delphi Method is another type of expert panel used for evaluation, based on an anonymous and repeated postal survey with experts (see Means Documents).
Where does the expert panel come from and how has it evolved?
The panel's origin
The concept of the expert panel originates in the research field. It derives from the peer review of scientific work processes or programmes, where expert panels have developed as an evaluation tool.
Two main developments over the past few years are noteworthy.
- The panel's composition continues to diversify. Whereas the expert panel's missions were originally focused on limited areas of inquiry, their content and the panel's composition have been progressively diversified. Thus, in addition to programme specialists, economists, evaluation specialists and representatives of programme users are now appointed to panels, with a view to assessing all aspects of the evaluation.
- The design of the panel's tasks has become more professional. The emergence of rigorous methodologies (and additional studies conducted by independent consultants verifying the panel's conclusions) has increased expert panel's credibility and changed expert panels into a reliable evaluation tool. These improvements have progressively given the expert panel the characteristics of a professional evaluative tool.
To find out more:
- Examples: specific references on the contribution of expert panels to country/region evaluations