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Evidence Synthesis

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Evidence Synthesis 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 NIHR 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 not currently open.
  • The NIHR Incentive Awards are 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:

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 21 Cochrane Review Groups (CRG) listed below. We manage 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. NIHR has also funded a two-year pilot of Network Support Fellows working within the newly-formed Cochrane Networks.

  • 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
  • Eyes and Vision
  • 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 Complex Review Support Unit provides specialist expert advice to those producing reviews of complex methodology.

The unit is made up of 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 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 CRSU support
  • Clinical importance to the NHS
  • Ability and capacity of the applicants to complete the work

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

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

Our Director

Professor Ken Stein

Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group (ESPAG)

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 National Health Service, and show value for money through the management of annual reporting and monitoring.


Members of the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group and Funding Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with ESP business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within ESP. 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.

For help with applying for, or during, ES funding

Telephone: 023 8059 4241

The Evidence Synthesis Programme manages the contracts for the nine 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. We work 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 their 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 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 nine TAR teams are:

The team can be contacted at

Latest funding opportunities for Evidence Synthesis

Cochrane review gold open access scheme

Cochrane Review Authors can apply to have their reviews published under Gold open access, meaning that they are instantly and freely open for all users to access on the Cochrane Library from the date of publication.

All Evidence Synthesis funding opportunities

Latest news about Evidence Synthesis

Latest documents for Evidence Synthesis

ESPAG Public minutes - December 2020

Minutes and Actions from the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group Meeting

Guidance for applicants to join the NIHR as a member of the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group

Information for people applying to join NIHR as a member of the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group

20/39 TAR Retender - Commissioning Committee Meeting Outcomes September 2020

TAR Retender Commissioning Committee Public Minutes September 2020

ESPAG Public minutes - June 2020

Minutes and Actions from the Evidence Synthesis Programme Advisory Group Meeting

All Evidence Synthesis documents