Northern Ireland is uniquely distinguished from England, Scotland and Wales, by being a society in transition, emerging from a prolonged period of civil conflict and political instability that has affected its infrastructure and has increased the need for co-ordinated and specialist research. The paper traces some of the systemic challenges and opportunities for educational research capacity-building that arise from Northern Ireland being uniquely positioned as a small polity and critically appraises how initiatives elsewhere, while providing valuable exemplars, are unlikely to transfer readily to this context. Rather, building on an expanded definition of research capacity, Northern Ireland needs to capitalize cautiously on the current climate of openness between policymaker and researcher communities to develop a shared, cohesive agenda, improve research support and harness the strengths and pockets of excellence that exist. All of these should simultaneously go towards meeting local priority research needs, addressing the developmental capacity building needs of local researcher, while at the same time contributing to local, national and international knowledge production.
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