How commissioners use research evidence

Posted 2018.04.19

How commissioners use research evidence


Researchers want their work to be used and useful, but may not always understand the context in which decisions are made. Most health and care organisations aim to base decisions on the best available evidence, but accessing and interpreting the right evidence at the right time is hard. Researchers need to do what they can to make their research as useful as possible to those making decisions under pressure.


This highlight from the NIHR Dissemination Centre looks at how commissioning organisations make sense of and use research information when making decisions. The findings provide some practical pointers for researchers to make their work more accessible and relevant to commissioners and managers.


  • Managers of all backgrounds find it hard to make sense of and apply evidence in their everyday work
  • Studies show that managers tend to make less use of formal research. They value examples and experience of others, as well as local information and intelligence
  • Senior managers rely on a small conversational circle and trusted colleagues to identify and interpret evidence
  • Evidence does not speak for itself. Organisations need skills, not just technical around critical appraisal capacity, but also to engage experts and frame research for different audiences
  • One study evaluating a service providing evidence briefings for commissioners found poor uptake and use of research for decision-making
  • Having skilled individuals, like public health staff, on the spot to contextualise and interpret evidence helps managers use evidence when making decisions about systems and services
  • Timing is key - having good enough evidence at the right time trumps perfect research which arrives too late for decision makers to use


The link below summarises the findings and includes practical questions for researchers and commissioners to consider.


Evidence at a glance: how commissioners use research