Information for Commissioners of APRU Evidence Reviews

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The Applied Policy Research Unit (APRU) is intended to impact decisions that directly affect health service planning and policy by supporting decision makers with targeted research support. You can find more about APRU here.

The following section is intended to assist those agencies and decision makers who wish to commission an evidence review from APRU to consider and clarify their needs and the anticipated role of the evidence sought. APRU offers a variety of evidence support products, from Rapid Responses [PDF pop-up] to policy questions through comprehensive realist reviews on a complex health service issues.

1. Purpose

The purpose of the evidence review should be well defined, allowing the research team to work with you to create a meaningful and effective research question.

Question to consider include:

  • What is the specific health services issue to be addressed by the policy or program in question?
  • What policy or programming change is being considered?
  • How will a review of existing evidence be used to inform the policy or program decision?
  • At what stage in decision making will the review used?
  • Who will use the review?

2. Scope and Depth

It can be tempting to want all the available data on a topic analyzed in a systematic way. Indeed, a highly rigorous approach may be necessary for some topics and purposes. However, if you do not require a systematic analysis of all existing research evidence, you might consider parameters that limit the scope and depth of the evidence review.

Question to consider include:

  • Will a summary of key research offer enough evidence to support your policy or program decision?
  • Which aspects of the evidence need to be considered?
  • What kinds of evidence are most useful for answering your questions? Scholarly work, grey literature, statistical databases, and expert opinion can all be useful for different purposes.
  • How recent should the evidence be? A comprehensive review might go back 25 or more years, but a review of more recent evidence may be more time and cost efficient while serving your purposes.

3. Timeline

The timeline of the review can have an important impact on the intended scope of the review and on the resources required to complete it. A Rapid Response [PDF pop-up], for example, can be completed as quickly as one week. A full realist review is better suited to a three to six month time frame.

Question to consider include:

  • When would this evidence be most impactful?
  • Are there any critical events that affect the timeline of the review?
  • Is the timeline appropriate for the depth of evidence sought?

4. Funding

The Applied Policy Research Unit typically works on a cost-recovery model. Projects that align with the research program of the Centre for Rural Health Research may be considered with an alternative funding arrangement. The costs of an evidence review vary greatly based on the scope, complexity, and timeline of the review. A systematic or realist review can take up to 6 months to complete and require considerable resources. A research brief on existing systematic reviews may take considerably less time and resources. The APRU team can help you set an appropriate scope based on your purpose, timeline, and available funding.

5. Format of Report

Depending on your audience and purpose, the format of the final report can vary greatly. Typically, APRU strives for a variety of outputs from each evidence review to ensure the findings are accessible and relevant to different audiences. A formal comprehensive report may be necessary to capture the entirety of the evidence reviewed and can be supplemented with briefs, academic papers, graphics, gap maps, toolkits, and more.

Questions to consider include:

  • Who will be using the outputs from this evidence review?
  • How will they be using it?
  • What is the most appropriate level of language?

Requesting an Evidence Review

After considering the five topics above, you may consider contacting APRU to discuss your needs. Alternatively, you can find our our evidence review request form here.