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Whilst North to South knowledge transfer patterns have been extensively problematised by Southern and decolonial perspectives, there is very little reflection on the practice of research capacity development (RCD), still strongly focused on technoscientific solutionism, yet largely uncritical of its underlying normative directions and power asymmetries. Without making transparent these normative and epistemological dimensions, RCD practices will continue to perpetuate approaches that are likely to be narrow, technocratic and unreflexive of colonial legacies, thus failing to achieve the aims of RCD, namely, the equitable and development-oriented production of knowledge in low- and middle-income societies. Informed by the authors’ direct experience of RCD approaches and combining insights from decolonial works and other perspectives from the margins with Science and Technology Studies, the paper undertakes a normative and epistemological deconstruction of RCD mainstream practice. Highlighting asymmetries of power and material resources in knowledge production, the paper’s decolonial lens seeks to aid the planning, implementation and evaluation of RCD interventions. Principles of cognitive justice and epistemic pluralism, accessibility enabled by systems thinking and sustainability grounded on localisation are suggested as the building blocks for more reflexive and equitable policies that promote research capacity for the purpose of creating social value and not solely for the sake of perpetuating technoscience.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





129 - 129