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Research excellence is a neo-colonial agenda (and what might be done about it)

Neylon, Cameron

Research ‘excellence’ is a central target of policy, researchers and institutions. Increasingly it is a target of criticism for the way in which it reinforces systemic biases in power, reduces diversity, and excludes many participants from the processes of scholarship. In this chapter I argue that in the context of post-colonial and transitional countries research excellence is particularly dangerous because it represents a neo-colonial agenda, one in which powerful actors at the traditional centres of western scholarship are imposing systems, infrastructures and services that will enable expropriation and dominance. The term ‘neo-colonial’ is deployed deliberately to emphasise that this is a new cycle of imposing imperial systems on post-colonial and transitional nations that damage the ability to create or preserve local institutions that support knowledge production for society. Using the Sabato-Botana Triangle as a model to describe and analyse interconnectedness among local systems of industry, knowledge production and government the paper will examine how an over-emphasis on international, or non-local, connections is damaging to research systems and society more broadly. The ‘Research Excellence’ agenda systematically privileges and reinforces connections between local knowledge production and ‘international’ power centres. Addressing this will require building new infrastructures, institutions and culture that privilege an ‘interconnectedness of the local’ and track and reward the information flows that strengthen local ties, and to build trust and credibility in locally relevant and valuable scholarship. 

Published by African Minds.
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