Aims. To discuss the Study of Nursing Care project, an initiative from the late 1970s in the UK. The article explores the impact of the Study of Nursing Care on nursing research, and considers to what extent it presents a useful model for contemporary nursing research. Background. It is acknowledged internationally that the nursing academic workforce is ageing and dwindling. Many possible solutions are being debated with all agreeing that the next generation of evidence based nurse leaders is urgently required. Data sources. In this article, the authors survey existing workforce schemes, describe the Study of Nursing Care series, published in the 1970s, and draw on interviews and correspondence conducted in 2009 with four of the original Study of Nursing Care research assistants. Discussion. The Study of Nursing Care project poses a potential response to academic workforce issues. This article discusses the evolution of the project, its methods and operation and considers its possible implications for contemporary practice. Implications for nursing. The Study of Nursing Care model demonstrates the clear benefits of fully committed funding, a programmatic approach towards research development, and the importance of selecting the right kind of people for the work, in a National scheme. Conclusion. The authors argue that although the clinical outcomes it set out to achieve remain elusive, the project produced a cohort of nurse researchers who went on to give important leadership in nursing, including in nursing academia/research. A contemporary version of the Study of Nursing Care has important potential to generate the next generation of nurse researchers, and leaders, into the twenty-first century.