This paper analyses the interface between research and policy in the area of migration, partly based on the author’s own experience. It argues that research in this area is most useful in terms of providing a general understanding to contextualise policy rather than testing precisely defined interventions. It also argues that policy discussions must be detailed, serious and balanced, not a paragraph tacked onto the end of an academic paper. Researchers need to engage policy-makers to hear their priorities and their insights into problems on the ground. They must also engage and feedback the lessons of the research, and recognise that this is a long run process with many setbacks and not expect that policy-makers will immediately adopt whatever researchers happen to recommend. The researchers’ responsibility in this process is to stay true to the research even though policy-making will always take other factors into account. Policy-makers have little time for research until they have a problem to solve and at that point they often require analysis that is some years old. Thus contrary to the academic focus on originality, policy engagement often requires the rehearsal and repackaging of previous research.