Introduction Evidence-based practice in the emergency care of children is critical. The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) was developed to increase pediatric research; however, participation by emergency nurses has been limited. To identify research needs in order to increase research involvement, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) conducted a research needs assessment with nurses in PECARN emergency departments. Methods A self-administered needs assessment questionnaire was completed by 216 ED managers and nurses in 26 PECARN emergency departments between August and November of 2004. The questionnaires included items about research education, knowledge, and experience, as well as barriers to and resources for conducting research. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data. Results The primary barriers to nurses' research involvement included limited research knowledge and experience, limited awareness and availability of research resources, lack of dedicated time, and limited recognition for research contributions. However, the nurses reported moderate to extensive interest in research continuing education and desired moderate to extensive involvement in pediatric research. Discussion The nurses worked in research institutions with increased access to subjects and collaborative opportunities, indicating strong potential for nurses' research involvement. However, few institutions had practice models that included research recognition and dedicated research time. Furthermore, limited knowledge, experience, and awareness of research resources added to the barriers that reduced research involvement. To begin addressing the barriers, ENA developed a research curriculum based on the continuing education needs and interests identified by the nurses.