This paper reflects upon the collected papers in this special volume of ACCESS. It also draws on the author’s personal experience of the RAE in the UK at two “elite” Russell Group universities and his experience of research accountability in Australia at a comprehensive research intensive “elite” university. The paper also positions national research accountability systems within an emergent global higher education field utilising Bourdieu’s “thinking tools”, while acknowledging their vernacular expression within nations and individual universities. There is also a discussion of the complex concept of “impact” in relation to research. The paper argues that academic and professional measures of impact would be helpful in defining his field of educational research, while recognising the potential for impact concerns to narrow the definition of the field. It concludes by locating research accountability systems in the context of a new form of educational governance and the related need for a new social imaginary.