Existing evidence clearly indicates that political and institutional context issues are the most important set of factors affecting the interface between research and policy. These issues usually explain why research does, or usually does not, lead to policy change. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a systematic understanding of when, why and how political context matters for bridging research and policy in developing countries. Is bridging research and policy easier in democratic countries? Do different issues matter in different components of policy processes? Is using research to inform policy easier in a context of crisis? What makes bureaucrats more susceptible to changing practice based on research evidence? This paper reviews the relevant literature on politics, policy processes and institutions in order to identify the key issues that may affect research-policy links. The aim is to generate understanding about the research-policy nexus in order to provide practical advice for developing and transition countries.