Clinical and public health research depends on factors including national systems, socio-cultural influences, and access to organisations and individuals. As a ‘new’ country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has yet to develop strong support for population research. However, there is interest in research. The challenges for quantitative and qualitative research include the varied composition and mobility of the UAE population, with limited health records and disease registries. Long-term follow-up of patients, and tracing foreign workers who may only be in the UAE for a few years, are two major obstacles for longitudinal studies. There can also be a reluctance shown by parts of the population to participate in studies, especially those that require responding to what is perceived was sensitive questions. Successful execution of population research in the UAE requires an understanding of socio-cultural aspects of the study population, and good communication between researchers and participants.