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The aim of this study was to determine clinical nurses' interest in and motivation for research. An additional aim was to identify management and organisational resources in order to improve nurses' research capacity in practice.Clinical nurses find conducting research challenging, which accords with observations of the continuing research–practice gap.This descriptive cross-sectional survey sampled 364 clinical nurses from a university hospital on the west coast of Norway.The response rate was 61%. An increasingly positive attitude towards research emerged (40%), despite the fact that few were engaged in research-based activities. Clinical nurses emphasised that lack of designated time (60%), interest (31%) and knowledge (31%) constituted important research barriers, as did lack of research supervision and support (25%). Research supervision was one of the most significant needs to enhance clinical nurses' research skills, management and organisation of research activities (30%).Conscious efforts strategically built on clinical and academic collaborative networks are required to promote and sustain clinical nurses' research capacity.The findings of this survey should be useful in the building of clinical nurses' research capacity.