Do policy-makers find commissioned rapid reviews useful? Moore G et al Health Research Policy and Systems 2018 16:17
Rapid reviews are increasingly used by policy agencies to access relevant research in short timeframes. Despite the growing number of programmes, little is known about how rapid reviews are used by health policy agencies. This study examined whether and how rapid reviews commissioned using a knowledge brokering programme were used by Australian policy-makers.
This study used interview data to examine the use of 139 rapid reviews by health policy agencies that were commissioned between 2006 and 2015. Transcripts were coded to identify how rapid reviews were used, the type of policy processes in which they were used, what evidence of use was provided and what reasons were given when rapid reviews were not used. Fisher’s exact test was used to assess variation between types of agencies.
Overall, 89% of commissioned rapid reviews were used by the commissioning agencies and 338 separate instances of use were identified, namely, on average, three uses per review. Policy-makers used reviews primarily to determine the details of a policy or programme, identify priorities for future action or investment, negotiate interjurisdictional decisions, evaluate alternative solutions for a policy problem, and communicate information to stakeholders. Some variation in use was observed across agencies. Reasons for non-use were related to changes in organisational structures, resources or key personnel in the commissioning agencies, or changes in the broader political environment.
This study found that almost all rapid reviews had been used by the agencies who commissioned them, primarily in policy and programme development, agenda-setting, and to communicate information to stakeholders. Reviews were used mostly in instrumental and conceptual ways and there was little evidence of symbolic use. Variations in use were identified across agencies. The findings suggest that commissioned rapid reviews are an effective means of providing timely relevant research for use in policy processes and that review findings may be applied in a variety of ways.