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Ways of viewing disability, of developing research questions, of interpreting research results, of justifying research methodology, and of putting policies and programmes in place are as much about ideology as they are about fact. It is important to recognize how significant this is to research generally and to the field of intellectual disability in particular. The roots of scientific and socio-economic justification for the allocation of research funding, and of political (or state) action based on research findings can be found in identifiable and shifting ideological frameworks. Therefore, to understand the field, it is useful to explore the social and scientific formulations of disability which underpin the research agenda, and the ways of knowing disability.