This paper is concerned with the definition of the field of educational research and the changing and developing role of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) in representing and constituting this field. The evidence for the argument is derived from AARE Presidential Addresses across its 40-year history. The paper documents the enhanced complexity and diversity of the field over these 40 years, including the emergence of a global educational policy field, theoretical and methodological developments in the social sciences and new research accountabilities such as the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) measure. Specifically, the paper suggests that the evidence-based movement in public management and education policy and the introduction of the ERA, potentially limit and redefine the field of educational research, reducing the usefulness and relevance of educational research to policy makers and practitioners. This arises from a failure to recognise that Education is both a field of research and a field of policy and practice. Located against both developments, the paper argues for a principled eclecticism framed by a reassessment of quality, which can be applied to the huge variety of methodologies, theories, epistemologies and topics legitimately utilised and addressed within the field of educational research. At the same time, the paper argues the need to globalise the educational research imagination and deparochialise educational research. This call is located within a broader argument suggesting the need for a new social imaginary (in a post-neoliberal context of the global financial crisis) to frame educational policy and practice and the contribution that educational theory and research might make to its constitution. In relation to this, the paper considers the difficulties that political representations of such a new imaginary might entail for the President and the Association, given the variety of its membership and huge diversity of its research interests.