Background: The purpose and conceptual clarity of a review can influence the type of institutional mechanisms and evidence synthesis approaches required to produce useful review products for policy and practice. Systematic reviews may be commissioned for use as public goods to address common problems or focus on addressing local or national policy concerns (purpose). The key concepts and definitions in a review may also vary from very well to not very well defined (conceptual clarity, Oliver et al. 2015).
Objectives:To explore the institutional mechanisms that emerged and methodological approaches taken in the production of two reviews in health and social care.
Methods: A worked example of each review was developed using framework-synthesis methods. We also drew on our reflexivity to generate new insights into the process of working at the policy-research interface. Results: When conducting a mixed-methods systematic review on the impact and delivery of mental health and psychosocial programmes for people affected by humanitarian emergencies we adopted standardised procedures for producing evidence syntheses for public use and worked closely with commissioners and topic experts to support the development of contextually relevant findings for the humanitarian aid field. When commissioned to produce evidence informing UK policy on improving outcomes for adults accessing social care services we were faced with a diverse and largely unknown literature. To address this challenge we drew on new methodological developments in meta-reviews. Conducting a meta-review enabled us to synthesise review-level evidence on the effectiveness of a much broader range of programmes than would have been feasible in a typical systematic review, in the same policy time-frame. In each review, a designated knowledge broker, acting as an intermediary between the policy customer and reviewers, helped span the worlds of policy and research to aid the overall review process. Conclusion: Both reviews benefitted from engaging with institutional mechanisms and drawing on a combination of standardised and diverse systematic review methodologies to fulfill their policy and practice brief.