I argue in this article that, far from being ‘policy advisors’, our main moral purpose in research is ‘getting the description right’. Doing this takes time, effort and energy. Good description constitutes what Ferrell and Hamm (1998) called ‘edgework’. It requires courage and skill, and an I-Thou orientation toward our participants. The paradox, as Paul Rock (2014) suggests, is that whilst ‘policy change’ should not be the primary aim of criminological research, research done well can make poor policy choices, or ‘facile gestures’, less defensible, and can have impact on the world of practice in indirect as well as direct ways.