Research politics: some issues in conducting research for government as a client

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Researchers are guided by their ideological and ethical viewpoints when conducting research. Doing research for government challenges them to confront these ideals head-on. This article explores the uncertain terrain researchers sometimes have to negotiate when conducting research for government, and discusses relations between researchers and government officials. It considers the authors’ approach in conducting research for a South African provincial government department in 2008/2009 and, based on that experience, analyses the politics underlying the research process. Despite the clear brief directing the research, they found that the study was never separated from the political environment in which it was conducted. The study goals shifted according to the shifting perspectives of the commissioning authority, causing tension between the researchers and the project management.