The drive towards Evidence-Based Policymaking (EBPM) currently dominates public health research, policy and practice; it shapes the perceived credibility of research methods, the types of policies and programmes implemented and funding decisions. Whilst the EBPM movement has been successful in raising awareness about the importance of research for policy; powerful international decision-makers, researchers and donors continue to play a central role in shaping how research is developed and used, both internationally and nationally. This briefing paper highlights some constraints of the internationally-led EBPM movement on national-level research and policy making. Based on two ethnographic studies of the EBPM movement, it provides insights from professionals working in maternal and neonatal health at the global level, and in five developing countries. It then makes recommendations on how to improve the role of research in effectively guiding policy-making and programme development. To increase the effectiveness of EBPM, it is important to build the capacity of national level stakeholders to develop and use diverse forms of research from multiple disciplines in an effort to respond more effectively to local problem solving.