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EU project develops tools to aid in evidence-based policymaking

EU-funded researchers have released a set of tools designed to help policymakers ensure that their decisions are informed by the best research evidence available. Details of the tools, designed by the SUPPORT ('Supporting policy relevant reviews and trials') project, are publ...

EU-funded researchers have released a set of tools designed to help policymakers ensure that their decisions are informed by the best research evidence available. Details of the tools, designed by the SUPPORT ('Supporting policy relevant reviews and trials') project, are published in a special supplement of the journal Health Research Policy and Systems. The SUPPORT project received EUR 1.2 million from the International Cooperation budget line of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). 'Policymakers and those supporting them often find themselves in situations in which better knowledge about ways to find and use research evidence would help them to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently,' the researchers write in the introductory paper. 'In this series, we describe how more systematic processes can be used to support evidence-informed policymaking, identify needs for research evidence, find and assess evidence to address these needs, and go from research evidence to decisions.' Although the tools are aimed primarily at policymakers, the team notes that they may also prove useful to other groups such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to influence policymakers. The tools have been designed for use in all countries, including low- and middle-income countries, although the researchers point out that many of the issues and opportunities encountered by those seeking to apply research evidence to policy decisions are similar across all settings. All articles begin with a set of scenarios that illustrate how the tools can be used and how they can help the reader decide on the level of detail they require. The first articles in the series are centred on a set of questions that should inform readers about evidence-informed policymaking, and outline different situations where research evidence can be helpful. The second set of articles looks at the different types of evidence needed at different stages of the policymaking process. In a third set of articles, the project team teaches readers how to find research evidence, assess its quality, and decide whether or not it can be applied to the local situation. Having found the research evidence needed, the fourth and final set of articles examines how policymakers can engage other stakeholders in the decision-making process. In particular, the researchers point out that 'research evidence is only one factor that can influence the policymaking process'. One paper explains how policy dialogues can be used to allow research evidence to be considered along with the views, experience and knowledge of the people who will be affected by the decision under discussion. The last set of articles concludes with a discussion on how to use research evidence, how to deal with insufficient research evidence, and how to plan the monitoring and evaluation of policies. The project partners note that many of the tools outlined in the supplement have already been tested extensively in the field around the world, and they invite readers to provide feedback on all the tools. 'We are disseminating the full set of tools in anticipation that wider use and application will inform further adaptation,' they write.