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.