The paper reports the findings of a small-scale qualitative investigation into academic staff perceptions of research cultures across 10 English and Scottish university education departments. The study sheds light on four interrelated issues: the nature of research cultures, perceived facilitators, perceived constraints and the emotional landscape of working within a research environment. The findings indicate that perceptions vary according to staff academic and scientific capital, largely determined by career background and the type of university institution in which they work. While there is evidence of a culture of performativity and intensification, there is also evidence of widespread commitment to (and enjoyment of) educational research, especially where its value is broadly conceived to include outputs of applied research (including action research) as well as basic and strategic research. It is concluded that a broader policy conception of what constitutes value in research, coupled with a deeper understanding of the complex social and emotional factors that impact on academic well-being, will be important to building both commitment and long-term research capacity.