Primary health care is the foundation of effective, sustainable population health and is associated with higher patient satisfaction and reduced aggregate health spending. Although improving patient care requires a sound evidence base, rigorously designed studies remain under-represented in primary care research. The pace of research activity in general practice and the rate and quality of publications do not match the pace of structural change or the level of funding provided. Recruitment difficulties are a major impediment, fuelled by general practitioners' time constraints, lack of remuneration, non-recognition, and workforce shortages. Radical reform is required to redress imbalances in funding allocation, including: funding of GP Research Network infrastructure costs; formalising relationships between primary care researchers and academic departments of general practice and rural health; and mandating that research funding bodies consider only proposals that include in the budget nominal payments for GP participation and salaries for dedicated research nurses.