Objectives: Health services research is a typical instance of applied research, meaning that its research findings should contribute to a more evidence-based health policy. A basic assumption for the usefulness of policy research is that it is of good scientific quality, but evaluation of health services research would be incomplete without an assessment of its societal relevance. However, there is no generally accepted framework in which criteria to assess societal relevance are defined.
Methods: In this study, we made an effort to specify criteria and indicators for policy relevance.
Results and Conclusions: In general, we concluded that it is important to define from the start of a research project, what kind of answers are being sought to the questions at hand, who the intended users of these answers will be, and how they can be reached. Furthermore, a productive dialogue between researchers and policy makers is indispensable for remaining in tune with policy thinking. In addition, we specified domains and a list of potential criteria for assessing policy relevance. For the purpose of quality assurance, these criteria have to be integrated into a quality improvement cycle. This means that the societal output of health services research should be related to the aims and missions at the level of projects, programs, and institutes. Furthermore, it is important that consensus is reached about (the weighting of) relevant indicators and that routines are developed for collecting information on these indicators.