This article focuses on a particular research project, funded by the ESRC, which aimed to examine the so-called dissident Republicanism in Ireland. By analysing the flaws in the proposal for the ESRC project, this article attempts to tease out and highlight some of the critical issues faced by those engaged in sustained research activity in the social sciences. The subsequent analysis throws into a much sharper focus the nature of the relationship between academia and the state. The article deploys original ESRC and Government documentation and evaluates pertinent secondary source material to conclude that particular types of state intervention into the research process, such as Research Excellence Framework and the ‘impact agenda’, have had (and will continue to have) a deleterious effect on genuinely autonomous academic output. Indeed, in certain key areas, the emergence of a ‘security state’ agenda has not only fostered a sterile functionalism in academia which militates against the construction of independent and critical narratives but also threatens to diminish our understanding of complex social phenomena, such as the use of violence for political purposes.