This paper examines the role of the research worker in the formation of social policies. It explains the background to this by stressing that, in the UK at least, social policies, unlike economic policies, have no unifying framework. It also stresses that, so far, research directed at helping the decision maker has tended to be not basic but applied. This, together with certain conceptual problems has limited the value of some government research. There have also been, and still are, difficulties in studying small groups whose size cannot be reliably estimated from sample surveys.