Currently, when there is a lot of political talk about the need for ‘evidence-based policy’, and when public policy seeks to calibrate research quality and impact, there is a pressing need to reconsider the relationships between education/al research and education policy. This article seeks to do this, beginning with considerations of the contested and changing character and practices of education, education policy and education/al research, and the competing and complex definitions of the meaning of research impact. The article considers the distinctions between research of and research for policy. The apparently disjunctive cultures of academic research and policy-making in education are documented for understanding research–policy relationships in education. Yet, there is also a need to acknowledge the overlap between these cultures, particularly in respect of the categories of policy-makers and researchers and movement across the categories in career terms. The article demonstrates that research affects policy in multiple, yet mediated ways in varying timeframes. The more academic research usually has its effects in the longer term, impacting the assumptive worlds of policy-makers, while commissioned research seeks more direct shorter-term impact. Finally, we also need to consider the capacities of policy-makers and educational systems to be receptive to research.