Better utilization of research and evidence in development policy and practice can help save lives, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life. However, there is limited systematic understanding of the links between research and policy in international development. The paper reviews existing literature and proposes an analytical framework with four key arenas: external influences, political context, evidence and links. Based on the findings of stakeholder workshops in developing countries around the world, the paper identifies four key issues that characterize many developing countries. These are: (i) troubled political contexts; (ii) problems of research supply; (iii) external interference; and (iv) the emergence of civil society as a key player. Despite these challenges, two institutional models seem to be particularly effective: (i) think tanks and (ii) regional networks.