A significant portion of research project costs is incurred before the receipt of grant funds. This poses a problem for the initiation of primary care research, especially in community practice settings. Potential investigators need financial support for staff time, training, pilot work, and grant proposal writing if primary care researchers are to compete successfully for grant funds. To find this support, we need to understand and eventually quantify the actual costs of research with attention to those that are incurred before the receipt of grant funds. We outline 10 phases of the research process and provide a model for understanding where costs are incurred and by whom. Costs include those associated with maintaining practice interest in research, supporting practice participation, and disseminating research findings. They may be incurred by either an academic center or a research network, by the practices and physicians themselves, or by an extramural funding source. The needed investment for initiating primary care research can be itemized and, with further research, quantified. This will enhance the arguments for capital investments in the primary care research enterprise.