Objective. The aim of the present study was to determine whether there is an association between having research culture in a health service and better organisational performance. Methods. Using systematic review methods, databases were searched, inclusion criteria applied and study quality appraised. Data were extracted from selected studies and the results were synthesised descriptively. Results. Eight studies were selected for review. Five studies compared health services with high versus low levels of research activity among the workforce. Three studies evaluated the effect of specific interventions focused on the health workforce. All studies reported a positive association between research activity and organisational performance. Improved organisational performance included lower patient mortality rates (two of two studies), higher levels of patient satisfaction (one of one study), reduced staff turnover (two of two studies), improved staff satisfaction (one of two studies) and improved organisational efficiency (four of five studies). Conclusions. A stronger research culture appears to be associated with benefits to patients, staff and the organisation.