What is a policy brief?
The term ‘policy brief’ is used widely to describe a range of different types of documents. For example:
The World Health Organization (WHO) applies this term to a range of documents it produces (see Box 1.1 below). However, it lacks a standard definition of the term ‘policy brief’.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes its policy briefs as “clear, concise summaries of country economic surveys and today’s global policy challenges.”6
Brookings Policy Briefs are described as “short and informative analyses on some of the nation’s most pressing domestic and foreign policy challenges that bring background and recommendations to policymakers, journalists and the general public.”7
And the Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs are essays on current public policy issues in ageing, health, income security, metropolitan studies, and related research done by or on behalf of the Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Policy briefs are sometimes viewed as advocacy documents. For example: “The policy brief is a document which outlines the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative or course of action in a current policy debate. It is commonly produced in response to a request directly from a decision-maker or within an organisation that intends to advocate for the position detailed in the brief. Depending on the role of the writer or organisation producing the document, the brief may only provide a targeted discussion of the current alternatives without arguing for a particular one. On the other end of the scale, the brief may focus directly on providing an argument for the adoption of a particular alternative. Nevertheless for any case, as any policy debate is a market-place of competing ideas, the purpose of the policy brief is to convince the target audience of the urgency of the current problem and the need to adopt the preferred alternative or course of action outlined and therefore, serve as an impetus for action.”9
What is common to all the examples listed above is that policy briefs are concise and brief, and that they are targeted at policymakers (although not necessarily only policymakers). However, the content and format varies widely, they may or may not address a problem, may or may not present policy options, may or may not advocate specific options, and may or may not be based on (or refer to) research evidence.
What is a policy brief? (cochrane.org)