This article is based on a background paper produced to inform the process of developing a research strategy for social work. First, it explores the current capacity of social work to undertake research that will inform practice. It analyses the impact of context on the imperative for, and capacity of, social work to undertake research and suggests that two interrelated factors have contributed to the limited development of methodological expertise and rigour in building the research capacity of social work: the level and content of qualifying professional training and the recruitment of staff to universities primarily as social work educators. It then argues that any developmental and/or remedial work undertaken has to address historical influences and, at the same time, be responsive to changes that are taking place within social work as both profession and discipline within the wider context of the social sciences. Drawing on theories of organizational learning, it concludes that any strategy must address staff development issues for academics and practitioners to facilitate the creation of vibrant learning communities across academic and practice settings.