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Evidence Synthesis

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The Evidence Synthesis Programme identifies, evaluates, combines and summarises information from a range of sources to provide decision makers with the best possible information about the effects of tests, treatments and other interventions used in health and social care.

The Evidence Synthesis Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

We support the production of evidence synthesis through three funding streams:

  • Technology Assessment Review teams are funded by NIHR to provide NICE with independent research to inform their guidance committees
  • The Evidence Synthesis Programme Grant Scheme aims to produce high quality systematic reviews that are of direct benefit to users of the NHS in England. This call runs annually and is currently open, please see the Latest funding opportunities for Evidence Synthesis section below for more information.
  • The Evidence Synthesis Programme Incentive Award is available to Cochrane Review Groups and Campbell Collaboration Coordinating Groups to facilitate, and possibly accelerate review activity that is already planned or under way.

For those producing systematic reviews and evidence synthesis, we also offer the following:


The Evidence Synthesis Programme identifies, evaluates, combines and summarises information from a range of sources to provide decision makers with the best possible information about the effects of tests, treatments and other interventions used in health and social care.

What we fund

Cochrane UK

Cochrane UK provides training and support to Cochrane entities and contributors to the Cochrane Collaboration in the UK, Ireland, and internationally.

Two work-streams focus on learning and development, and engagement, with a research programme supporting these activities. Learning and development opportunities are provided for a broad range of key NHS stakeholders, including patients and the public, healthcare workers, and policy makers and commissioners, these activities forming an important part of the engagement strategy.

Cochrane UK is a key link between the Collaboration, the Cochrane reviews, and the National Health Service, and promotes evidence-based decision-making and systematic reviews in general, and Cochrane reviews in particular. For more information see the Cochrane UK's Annual Reports.

Cochrane Review Groups

The NIHR funds the infrastructure costs for the 20 Cochrane Review Groups (CRG) listed below.  The Evidence Synthesis Programme manages the contracts of these groups on behalf of the NIHR. A full list of the groups, their contact details and further information can be found on the Cochrane Library

  • Airways
  • Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma
  • Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Diseases
  • Dementia and Cognitive Improvement
  • Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Effective Practice and Organisation of Care
  • Cancer
  • Heart
  • Incontinence
  • Injuries
  • Neuromuscular Disease
  • Oral Health
  • Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth
  • Schizophrenia
  • Skin
  • Tobacco Addiction
  • Wounds

Support for complex reviews

The NIHR Complex Review Support Unit provides specialist expert advice to those producing reviews of complex methodology.

The unit is made up of a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Leicester University, and lead by the University of Glasgow, providing advice on methodological fields such as:

  • Diagnostic Test Accuracy
  • Network Meta-Analysis
  • Individual Patient Data/Clinical Study Report Meta-Analysis
  • Causal Pathway Analysis
  • Economic Evaluations
  • Non-randomised studies
  • Prognostic reviews
  • Prevalence reviews
  • Realist synthesis
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Use of routine data.

To access this support, please apply through the NIHR Complex Review Support Unit. The proposed review must already have secured funding.  Applications will be reviewed on an ad-hoc basis, but no less than every six  months and will be measured against the following criteria:

  • Degree of complexity suitable for NIHR CRSU support
  • Clinical importance to the NHS
  • Ability and capacity of the applicants to complete the work

Our people

To assess the applications the Evidence Synthesis Programme receives, a number of people are involved. This is to ensure that application selection is carried out in a way that embraces the latest expertise, knowledge and opinion. Selection is made through two funding panels: the Evidence Synthesis Programme Grants Funding Committee; and the Incentive Awards Funding Committee.

Find out more about becoming a reviewer or a Committee member.

Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group (ESPAG)

Members of the ESPAG meets a maximum of twice a year for the purpose of advising the Programme Director on policy associated with the provision of support for the completion of systematic reviews, evidence synthesis and the future development for the NIHR-funded entities. Current funded entities include Cochrane UK, and the Cochrane Review Groups. The ESPAG also seeks to ensure all programmes of work are of scientific quality, relevant to the NHS, and show value for money through the management of annual reporting and monitoring.


Members of the ESPAG and Funding Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with Evidence Synthesis Programme business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work with the programme. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form, which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

Contact us

For help with applications or support with Evidence Synthesis Programme funding, contact:

Telephone: 023 80595542

Technology Assessment Reviews (TAR)

The Evidence Synthesis Programme manages the contracts for the eleven NIHR Technology Assessment Reviews (TAR) research teams. The teams respond to the urgent needs of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and other policy makers. The Evidence Synthesis Programme works with NICE and the teams to manage the allocation of the topics on their call off contract. Find out more about our work with NICE.

NICE’s role is to improve the outcomes for people using the NHS, and other public health and social care services. One of the ways it does this is by producing evidence-based guidance. NICE guidance contains systematically-developed recommendations based on the best evidence.

The TAR research teams provide NICE with the independent research it needs to inform its guidance committees, through a variety of different types of specialised report, suited to the decision-making process.

Working with other policy makers

TAR reviews can also be commissioned to provide evidence for other policy customers. The TAR research teams can respond quickly to requests, providing an important resource for policy makers, such as the National Screening Committee, Chief Medical Officer and NHS England.  TAR reports are independent, reliable and rigorous evidence assessments; they usually comprise a systematic review, cost-effectiveness and economic modelling.

The eleven TAR teams are:

The team can be contacted at

Latest funding opportunities for Evidence Synthesis

All Evidence Synthesis funding opportunities

Latest news about Evidence Synthesis

Latest documents for Evidence Synthesis

ESP Evidence Synthesis Groups Stage 1 Shortlisting Committee Meeting Public Minutes - April 2022

Minutes from NIHR ESP ESG Stage 1 Shortlisting Committee Meeting, including shortlisting decisions for Stage 2.

22/5 Evidence Synthesis Groups 2023-2028 Stage 2 application guidance notes

Guidance notes for Stage 2 applications to undertake evidence syntheses for the NIHR Evidence Synthesis Programme.

NIHR Reviewers List 2021

A list of all external peer reviewers who reviewed for NIHR during 2020.

22/5 Evidence Synthesis Groups 2023-2028 Stage 1 application guidance notes

Guidance notes for Stage 1 applications to identify suitable applicant groups to undertake evidence syntheses for the NIHR Evidence Synthesis Programme.

NIHR Researchfish Update 2021

NIHR Researchfish Update 2021

All Evidence Synthesis documents