The value of research to society depends not only on its intrinsic quality but also on topic selection. Because it is difficult to assess objectively the value of topic selection, research funders develop transparent processes for research needs assessment and prioritisation. In this
paper, these processes are analysed for one publicly funded research commissioner in England, paying attention to the positioning of the programme within national institutions and with discussion of some historical antecedents. The dynamics between interest groups with a stake in the programme
are identified. Different strategies for balancing stakeholder interests are described and their relative merits discussed. The conclusion is that no one strategy can be effective in isolation and a mixed approach is needed.
Evidence & Policy is the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to comprehensive and critical assessment of the relationship between research evidence and the concerns of policy makers and practitioners, as well as researchers.