20 Nov 2014

This is a guest post by RSA Student Representative, Eduardo Oliveira. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in strategic spatial planning & place branding at the Department of Spatial Planning, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Almost twenty days after the RSA early career conference I found myself in a moment of reflection and mental-planning towards 2015, a turning year in my career. In that chilly November afternoon my thoughts were divided between the need to accomplish my tasks as a last year PhD student and prepare my next steps in my career. Inspired by the words Sally Hardly (RSA Chief Executive) and the Regional Studies, Regional Science (RSRS) editorial team, represented by the editor-in-chief Alasdair Rae and the co-editor Paul Braidford, have shared with the RSA community in Sheffield I have turned my face to the screen and started typing the draft that would become my second contribution to RSRS. However, this post is less about my doubts or the uncertainty regarding my future career, but is more about why I have chosen, for the second time, RSRS open access journal to showcase my research? I hope my perspectives on academic open access publishing, the experience with the Regional Studies, Regional Science Early Career Mentored Route and the ideas we have shared in Sheffield during the Student & Early Career Session: Pros & Cons of Publishing in Open Access will inspire other students and early careers.

Perspectives on open access publishing

I strongly believe that my fellow academic colleagues are familiarized with open access publishing. There are several forums already discussing the idea as well as a plethora of media channels contributing to the discussion, including this blog. I have been also expanding my browser bookmarks with several links. For instance, Curt Rice, vice president for research and development at the University of Tromsø (Norway) already discussed four ways in which open access publishing enhances academic freedom and Harvard University ‘wants scientists to make their research open access and resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls’, while some academics protested against some profit-oriented publishing houses. Important policies have emerged from the National Institutes of Health, the European Commission and the UK Research Councils, to mention a few prominent examples. On this very blog, Paul Benneworth is debating the RSRS open access journal, clarifying how researchers can maximise and give visibility to their work. My perspective is that open access publishing is a fair, friendly and inclusive platform to create, develop and share knowledge. Ideas that matter to envisioning better places, better lives, better ways to address multiple contemporary issues, from regional studies to neuroscience. I often remember my experience as an Erasmus student in Southeast Asia. Despite the great facilities of my host university I struggled to access top journals, as did most of my colleagues. With open access the papers are freely available at the point of use and in perpetuity to everyone, everywhere from Europe to Asia. By delivering knowledge to every human being, open access journals are fair and inclusive and some of these use a mentored route to support their contributors, which makes the process friendly and the reviews move towards a constructive-oriented approach to academic publishing. The RSA’s open access flagship journal RSRS is one of those journals.

Sharing experiences with RSRS 

As I said, I recently submitted my second contribution to RSRS journal. Both contributions are part of my PhD topic in strategic spatial planning and regional branding. If in the first paper I experiment the idea of constructing regional advantage in a cross border context, the second aims to build empirical evidence over a regional branding strategy.  The valuable and insightful comments I have received from the editorial team and the corresponding editor helped me to polish the paper and bring it to a greater level. Furthermore, I am fully aware that every single citizen in my research area can download and read my articles. Eventually, those who will read it can share it through social media for example, and send critics, new perspectives back to me. My knowledge regarding certain geography and specific spatial issues will be enhanced and my research will expand, paving the way to additional publications - a clear ‘win-win’ situation! Societies will benefit from empirical-oriented research, while scholars will bridge the gap between theory and practice. As final remarks, Regional Studies, Regional Science benefits from the prestige of the Regional Studies Association and the highly reputed editorial team, qualities that increase the value and visibility to any paper published.

Paving the way to the career turning point

Having a paper published in a high quality journal and with open access can boost the academic career of students and early careers. I am sure that scholars agree that the longer their words are accessible and visible, the greater their potential contribution and impact. An example might be helpful here. For instance, the paper published on  December 16th 2013 by RSRS - Mobilizing leadership in cities and regions, a regional study by Andrew Beer and Terry Clower, has 2621 views (information collected on  November 19th 2014). This is an excellent performance! Articles published in open access, accessible through a wide range of research databases can maximise and give visibility to research, lighting a PhD trajectory and open up career perspectives, from academia to policy-making.

Are you an open access supporter? Do you agree with my perspectives? Let the RSA community know by comment or writing a follow up post. For more information in how to submit a paper proposal to RSRS click here.  

17 Nov 2014

This is a guest post by Dr. Marijana Sumpor. She is the RSRS ECP Abstract Manager & Editor and RSA Ambassador for Croatia. Marijana is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Department for Regional Economics, Sustainable Development and Governance.

There are certain parts of the world, where the “regional“ aspect has been so heavily burdened by historic and political circumstances that this still hinders the evolution of healthy regional economies. For example, the macro region of South East Europe (SEE) and the 15 states belonging to it: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

Balkan Regionalism -The new independent states emerging from the split of Yugoslavia used to be regions; any mention of regionalisation thus caused political fears of further separatist movements within these countries. Furthermore, regional development-related topics were little researched during the 1990s in the Western Balkan context, primarily due to the war between nations of the former republics. Mentioning ‘the Balkans’ might thus cause a certain reluctance to undertake regional research; ‘South-East Europe’ is frequently used as a politically acceptable synonym.  

The most common problem encountered by researchers, in particular by economists, is the possible lack of regional and local data.  However, through interdisciplinary research and various social research methods, such difficulties can be overcome. There are many dimensions and particular aspects today that are specific to the South-East European context, and which could be very interesting for contemporary regional studies and regional science research.  

Borders and territories have been for centuries the main point for political disputes in SEE, while cultural aspects might be the reason for history to be more present today than we might want or need it. Strategic regional planning in such circumstances is often eye-opening and fun, but in the end can be a useless exercise, as plans and laws are rarely respected and followed. Such mentality, as often stressed, makes life hard for all those people inhabiting these regions and territories. With European integration some new hope arises, since cross-border and transnational cooperation programmes might be a good way forward to focus more on common strategic projects with a high certainty to be funded and implemented. Of particular interest are experiences and impacts of the EU Regional Policy Territorial Cooperation programmes, including cross-border cooperation (CBC) and transnational cooperation programmes. Relevant also is research related to the new programmes in the SEE region such as the Danube Strategy, Adriatic-Ionian Strategy, etc.

The aforementioned SEE states are on the path of European integration; some already are members, some are candidates and some are potential candidates. All have adopted EU regional policy and programming approaches. There are commonalities, similarities and differences faced by the countries in adapting their systems to a more modern European regional development policy. New member countries introduce regional divisions that are mostly relevant in the context of EU structural funds, while often disregarding more authentic regional divisions; the consequences of this could be further researched.

Of particular interest for publication in the RSRS early career section would be the presentation of current research on the aforementioned issues: for example, regionalism, regional development policy, regional planning, territorial development, and cross-border cooperation in the South-East European states.

3 Nov 2014

This is a joint guest post by the RSA Early Career Representative, Julie Tian Miao & the RSA Student Representative, Eduardo Olveira.

The Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS) of the University of Sheffield hosted the 2014 edition of the Regional Studies Association Early Career conference. The conference was sponsored by the new open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science (RSRS). The conference aimed to provide early career researchers the opportunity to network, collaborate and socialise with others researchers working in regional studies and science.

The two days programme covered topics from regional development to local enterprise partnerships with reflections on regional tourism regeneration and regional identity building across administrative regions.

The first day of the event ended up with the Student & Early Career Session: Pros & Cons of Publishing in Open Access organised and implemented by Julie Tian Miao (RSA Early Career representative) and Eduardo Oliveira (RSA Student Representative) which deserves a particular focus in this post.

Open-access publishing at a glance

 A fully occupied conference room welcomed the Editor-in-chief of the first interdisciplinary Open-Access (OA) journal of the RSA - Regional Studies, Regional Science, Alasdair Rae and the co-editor Paul Braidford. With an interactive mode, Alasdair and Paul have elucidated the audience on how to submit their work to RSRS and how the process works. Both pointed out the pros of open access publishing such as: spreading the articles to a wider audience and getting it online quicker than the majority of current journals.

The mentored paper route or formative review process the RSRS journal offers to its early career researchers was pointed out as a great way to improve papers and getting published in high quality. Paul Benneworth, lead editor of the early career editorial team in his last blog post has also clarified this (read it here). Furthermore, the editorial team has underlined the increased reputation of the journal in the last months and how it can work as a platform to expose the work of young academics. Examples of recent published papers gave a clear perspective on that.

The interactive presentation by the RSRS’s editorial team worked great as a warm up for the discussion with the debate leaders and the conference delegates. Sally Hardy (RSA Chief Executive) and Paul Hildreth (RSA board) joined the discussion, who also gave a plenary speak to the audience at the start of the conerence. The delegates spoke their minds regarding the pros and cons of publishing in open access and the debate leaders clarified their doubts.

Pros and cons of open-access publishing

 Remarks regarding the impact of having an article published in RSRS compared with other journals, clarifications about the formative review process, and the time of the review process emerged as core questions of the RSA community who attended the session. Several ‘pros’ have been identified in particular regarding the high visibility of the journal and the possibility for academics to showcase their work in a worldwide platform free of access restrictions. In addition, the credibility of the journal and the highly professional body of editors and reviewers put the journal ‘on spot’ and open access as an effective way to build academic reputation. Another pro was the fact that the journal is an online journal and the contributors can see their work online very quickly and also benefit from the effects of worldwide promotion which is essential in today’s competitive arena.

Of course some ‘cons’ arose in the middle of a dynamic discussion. The submission process was mentioned (similar to the traditional journals’), as paper proposals first follow a detailed revision by the editorial team and they must compete with each other. Although, as Alasdair Rae mentioned with RSRS the process is lightly friendlier. Moreover, the contributors always receive regionally-insightful and detailed comments, which enable them to improve the paper and re-submit it.

Final thoughts

The interactive forum ended with some tips in how to publish in the journal. Those that are interested should read carefully the instructions and write a paper proposal. The proposals should have a clear regional dimension and geographical focus being novel in the approach or the case study explored. Furthermore, the editors appreciate excellence and fresh thinking as well as robust reasoning and up to date references and data. Some final words of encouragement to write a paper proposal suggested to experiment ideas and interact with the RSRS editorial team in order to publish an outstanding article and gave the right motto for the drink reception which followed the interactive forum.

The 2nd day of the event went perfectly well with a large number of presentations from a multicultural group of delegates. Final notes by Martin Jones (University of Sheffield) and Gillian Bristow (Cardiff University) put the cherry on the top of a well baked cake with interesting regional studies and sugared with regional science.

Attendances had provided very positive feedbacks (as you can see below) about this conference as well as the Students & Early Career Event (We will upload the video of the whole social event later). It was also a great motivational boost as we are already in high gear in preparing the Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2014, 27th-28th of November in London, and the Regional Studies Association Annual Conference 2015, 24th-27th May in Piacenza, Italy, which will engage with Milan Expo 2015.

video  video

23 Oct 2014

This is a guest post by Paul Benneworth. He is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, and Lead Editor of the Early Career Papers Section of Regional Studies, Regional Science journal.

I’ve just returned from a short working visit to the INGENIO research centre in Valencia, Spain, where I’ve been doing some work on university research exploitation.  One of the researchers there, Mabel Sanchez Barrioluengo, has got a paper forthcoming in Regional Studies, Regional Science, our open access journal.

Mabel came through our mentored Early Career Route (where our latest call for papers has just sadly closed), and if it’s permitted to tip another journal, has a very interesting paper on university engagement missions just published in Research Policy.

The INGENIO research centre is specialised in research and innovation policy, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that RSRS now have a paper from one of their Ph.D. students.  Innovation has certainly been a strong theme amongst the papers we have published in our first year.

This reflects the growing interest in the regional studies community – policy, researchers and practice – in regional innovation activities, processes and policies in the last decade.  If it was radical for the RSA 2005 conference in Aalborg to claim that the future of the European Structural Funds was in supporting innovation not just infrastructure, by 2014, that vision has become reality with the Commission’s two main policy areas of Research and Cohesion dominated to the point of obsessiveness by innovation activities.  Two papers recently published in RSRS address this topic.

The first is from Rhiannon Pugh, now at Lancaster University, who has published a paper reporting on one of the regions at the cradle of the ‘regional innovation revolution’, Wales.  Those with long memories will recall the Regional Technology Plan policy where 11 pilot regions drew up plans to encourage universities, firms and government to work better together.

Now every region in Europe must have a smart specialisation strategy, the latest iteration of the RTPs, prior to accessing any regional funds.  And Rhiannon reports that in a region like Wales, that’s been drawing up these strategies for over two decades, there can be a temptation to simply decant these old strategies into the new conceptual bottles, with Welsh policy-makers arguably relabeling their ‘clusters plan’ as a smart specialisation strategy.

The other paper in that brace is by Stephen Miller, at Strathclyde University’s European Policies Research Centre.  He explores the extent to which a newly planned innovation centre (the TIC) in Glasgow can help to stimulate innovation-based regional development by filling gaps in the regional innovation system.

The Strathclyde region has been going through a rather difficult period of deindustrialisation and a rather more faltering transition into the knowledge economy.  The TIC has sought to develop smart specialisation within the RIS by building linkages between actors, encouraging specialisation and offering strategic capability to innovating firms in specialist sectors. He opens up the possibility that the emergence of smart specialisation creates the opportunities for new kinds of support institution that can help promote specialisation as well as connectivity and interactivity between institutions.

We’ve got other papers focused on innovation in the pipeline, including Mabel’s, as well as another paper looking at the emergence of an innovative industry in an old industrial region in China.  But one of the things I have been surprised by to date is that we have not had any papers submitted in the field of social innovation.

There’s no single definition of social innovation, but it involves new ways of meeting social needs more efficiently and better attuned to communities’ needs.  And it has a clear regional dimension: because so many of the ideas start off with local, small scale experiments to provide resilience for excluded communities, regional authorities across Europe have been looking towards social innovation as a way of dealing with growing inequality and social tensions.

It’s an up-and-coming theme within the European Commission and across member states, with an array of think tanks and platforms emerging to try to better understand how social innovation operates and how policy can better support these citizens’ initiatives.  Indeed one of the reasons I was in INGENIO this week was to work on a small Eu-SPRI Forum project we have put together looking at the future of social innovation.

I’d love it if we were able to publish a paper on social innovation in the pages of RSRS, particularly from an early career researcher who has an exciting contribution to make.  The next call for papers will close on the 15th February, and I am hoping that someone out there will respond to our call, and help bring this interesting phenomenon clearly to the attention of our readership!

20 Oct 2014

The Regional Studies Association has announced the appointment of a new Early Career Editor to the editorial board of the flagship Open Access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science, launched in November 2013.

The new editor is Dr Lee Pugalis, Northumbria University, Newcastle, and joins the existing team of Paul Benneworth, Paul Braidford, Sabrina Lai and Marijana Sumpor.  Regional Studies, Regional Science offers a unique ‘mentored paper’ route for its early career members, where contributors are assigned a named editor and work with the editor intensively to prepare the manuscript before it undergoes an editorial review process. 

Lee joined Northumbria University in 2010, initially as a Senior Lecturer in Urban Theory & Practice before securing a Readership in 2013. He is the founding chair of the Research group for Economic Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (REDIE) which comprises a multidisciplinary team of academics, entrepreneurs and policymakers from around the world. His primary research interests focus on state spatial strategies, territorial development and entrepreneurial governance.

Preceding his move to academia, Lee worked for local, regional and national government, and continues to be active in initiatives that seek to promote social justice and shape territorial development policy. He is also a World Social Science Fellow and an expert advisor to the Assembly of European Regions.

Dr Pugalis says: “The Regional Studies Association continues to break new ground in regional development policy and scholarship. The new interdisciplinary journal; Regional Studies, Regional Science is no exception. As an open access journal, distinguished by its mentored submission route for early career researchers, it truly represents the future of regional development study. I am therefore absolutely delighted to be joining the Editorial Team and particularly proud to be given an opportunity to provide specific mentoring and guidance for early career submissions. As an Early Careers Paper Editor, I look forward to helping to develop Regional Studies, Regional Science as the preeminent medium for early career scholarship; irrespective of epistemic, disciplinary or professional affiliations.

Paul Benneworth, lead editor of the Early Career Editorial Team says: “We are delighted that we are able to strengthen our team by adding Lee.  We have had a very successful first year, already publishing eight papers through this route and with another seven planned.  Our unique mentored paper approach demands a high level of editorial input and we are delighted to be able to augment our team with a highly committed scholar with the skill-set to help our authors best communicate their message to our demanding readership.  His extensive experience in practice will undoubtedly bring an additional perspective to the mentoring process and help us to provide the best platform for our authors in voicing their contributions in the field of regional studies.”

Lee’s term runs in the first instance from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2017, and the first papers which he will mentor are planned to appear in Autumn 2015.  To submit a paper proposal to the Regional Studies, Regional Science mentored paper route, consult the call for abstracts. For informal inquiries about the Early Career section, contact Paul Benneworth.  For general queries about Regional Studies, Regional Science, contact the Alasdair Rae, Editor-in-Chief.

17 Oct 2014

The early career editors of Regional Studies, Regional Science met in Essen, Germany recently to discuss our launch year.  We are very pleased with what we have achieved, with 8 Early Career Papers now online, and another seven well advanced in the pipeline for the rest of the year.
Since Basak’s paper on commuting patterns in England and Wales made its debut for our section, at the time of writing our material has been viewed almost 4,500 times.  This is partly a consequence of our Open Access funding model, and also to the influence of social media in helping to publicise our new articles.
But what we think best explains this impressive interest is the high quality of the papers that we have been able to publish in our section.  All the articles use a solid piece of empirics well-embedded within a conceptual conundrum to make a clear contribution to a contemporary regional studies debate.
And that makes them compelling reading, as these viewing figures show.
In our section, in contrast to the majority of current journals, we use what we call a formative review process.  Instead of seeking to summatively evaluate whether papers are worthy of publication, for those contributors we accept into the process, we work intensively with them to help best present their ideas.
Each contributor works with a named Corresponding Editor who helps them prepare their first manuscript.  That draft is then reviewed anonymously by a second editor, who helps clarify the article’s key messages.
Once that hurdle is cleared, the paper then goes to the remaining editors who all identify the areas for a final polish.  After those comments are dealt with, all that remains is for copy editing and the Editors-in-Chief to provide the final imprimatur.
It’s a fairly demanding process for participants, but we think the results justify the input.  In Essen, we calculated that each paper receives on average 16 hours of editorial time as it progresses through these stages.
That time might be spread out over a year or so, but that editor time input is equivalent to a 2 day writing course or summer school for early career researchers.  So we think that this publication route offers real benefits for our early career members in considering following the ECR route.
So how can you get involved in our Open Access revolution?
The starting point is to submit a 1,000 word abstract following the guidelines in the Regional Studies, Regional Science call here.  Due to generous association support, we are currently able to cover the Open Access costs for those we accept as contributors.  And that means that your contribution is available for free, for ever.
Under our approach, we are not just after people that have excellent research, but also the desire to maximise the contribution of the research and the determination to learn how to deal with advice on improving your coveted research.  
So if you think that you’ve got what it takes to get involved, then send us an abstract before the next deadline, and it could be your paper that is one of the Association highlights of 2015.

This is a guest post by Paul Benneworth. He is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente, the Netherlands.

14 Oct 2014

In case you missed it The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) published their "Data Manifesto" at the end of last month. The manifesto makes ten recommendations and has a powerful focus on the ways in which data can improve policymaking, democracy and prosperity.
The Manifesto emphasizes the opportunity given by the use of data in taking action and the improved effectiveness and efficiency of policy-making it can ensure. This also means that the quality of the data offered in the public domain is crucial for the public's trust in it, as this is in the view of the RSS the base of democracy. Nonetheless the correct understanding, use and exploitation of data is very important for our wellbeing as a society, as data has a major impact on our economic prosperity.
The Regional Studies Association also values data literacy and the openness of data and research. This is why we encourage our memebers to put forward new data, methods and concepts, and this is why we started the most recent journal of the association, Regional Studies, Regional Science, which is an open access journal.
The true value of data, and especially open data seems to be catching a new boost in professional and academic environments as institutions are opening more and more torwards the society. Examples like the EU Open Data PortalCohesion Policy Data, or even the more recent PublicData.eu show that openness and accessibility is easily achievable and it starts to become a priority.
For more information on RSS and to download their Data Manifesto you can go here.

17 Sep 2014

Dear friends and colleagues,

The Regional Studies Association seeks to appoint an Early Career Editor to its journal Regional Studies.

This appointment will work alongside the main editorial team in fulfilling their duties. It is anticipated that an early appointment will be made to this post and the successful applicant will take up their duties immediately. The position is mentored by the Editor in Chief Ivan Turok, and will provide an exceptional insight into the publishing process.

Further details are available here.

Closing date: No later than 5pm (UK time) Friday, 31st October 2014. Please email your application to Daniela Carl.