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During the past decade research has been more important to the health policy-making process in the United States than at any time in the past. This article describes and assesses three competing normative models for research on health affairs: economizing, social conflict, and collective welfare. The three models provide a context for the history of research bearing on health policy in the past half century, with particular pertinence to the years since 1980. The article concludes with a discussion of some of the consequences of the new legitimacy of research.