Research is in a crisis of credibility, and this is to the peril of all paediatricians. Billions of dollars are being wasted each year because research is not planned, badly conducted or poorly reported, and this is on a background of rapidly reducing research budgets. How can paediatricians, families and patients make informed treatment choices if the evidence base is absent or not trustworthy? This article discusses why meta-research now matters more than ever, how it can help solve this crisis of credibility and how this should lead to more efficient and effective clinical care. The field of meta-research or research-on-research is the ultimate big picture approach to identifying and solving issues of bias, error, misconduct and waste in research. Meta-researchers value authenticity over aesthetics and quality over quantity. The utility of meta-research does not rely on accusations or critical assessments of individual research, but through highlighting where and how the scientific method and research standards across all fields can be improved. Meta-researchers study, analyse and critique the research pathway, focusing on elements such as methods (how to conduct), evaluation (how to test), reporting (how to communicate), reproducibility (how to verify) and incentives (how to reward). In the current climate it is now more critical than ever that we make use of meta-research and prioritise high-quality high-impact research, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes. © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians).