Department of Health efforts to make primary care more effective depend on the availability of relevant research findings. This implies a need for management and organization research, but it is not clear what role practice managers will play in this. The priority given to research governance also raises questions about how best to manage research in primary care. The aims of this study were to identify practice managers' involvement in research, their attitudes to research and their training needs. To do this, we conducted a postal survey of all general practices in East London and Essex. Of the 622 practices, 510 employed a manager. Of these, 232 responded, giving a 45% response rate. One hundred and forty-five (62%) respondents had been involved in research and 90 had been as a practice manager. Forty-five (20%) had some research training. Most had a positive attitude to research. The most commonly requested training topic was ‘How to manage research projects’. They wanted research to be conducted on delivering effective health care, access and appointments systems, patients' expectations of general practice, team management and their own role in the NHS. We conclude that managers have two distinct roles in research. First, undertaking research into management and service delivery and secondly managing and supporting research in the practice. Most need further training to take these forward. Research networks could do more to involve managers.