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.

16 Sep 2014

On Wednesday 3rd September, the RSA Staff team visited the local Energy Recovery Facility in Newhaven. As part of their annual “Wonder Day”, the ERF Newhaven organises tour, an opportunity that the team did not miss.
This tour was the first of a series of local visits aimed at discovering the variety of Seaford’s local industries.

So, what exactly is an Energy Recovery Facility? 

Basically, it is a gigantic incinerator.

The ERF was built in 2011 in Newhaven, East Sussex; a couple of miles away from the RSA headquarters. It burns approximately 28 tonnes of waste per hour, over 210,000 tonnes per year. This state-of-the-art facility provides enough power to supply 25,000 homes (the electricity produced is supplied to the National Grid). Forty people are actively working on the site. Waste is treated from Monday to Saturday morning.

Main entrance of the ERF Newhaven

In order not to alter the South Downs landscape, the ERF Newhaven is the only one in the UK to be partially built underground. Nonetheless their 65 meters chimneys are quite visible from the surrounding areas.

On this bright morning of September the team was ready to ramble and learn more about green energy and recycling. They will soon know what happens to their household waste and old furniture!

The complete RSA Staff team with a hat on.

The tour was led by Philipp Preece, enthusiastic Manager of the ERF. After a brief introductory speech detailing important safety measures, the group headed to the Control Room. Around 5 people work in this room mainly divided in three parts.

The first window looked out on the trucks that bring local waste to be burned. Waste is collected and unsuitable waste screened out before it arrives at the facility. Glass, metal, batteries and gas canisters are removed.

The second window offered a panoramic view of an immense hole in which the trucks unload their shipments. Waste is piled up and mixed up by a massive grabber. Once the waste is homogenously blended, are sent directly to the incinerators. The ashes are then collected and sent to a facility in the North of the UK where it is transformed into a form of concrete. The cycle of life, from a plastic bag’s point of view.

Finally the third part was the monitoring desk, at the very heart of the room. Two engineers were checking thoroughly the screens, controlling the level of toxic gases emanating from the combustion. In short, if filters do their work only non-odorous steam is released to the atmosphere and very little of that.

To produce electricity, the heat from the combustion is transformed into vapour which is then sent to turbines. The residual smoke is then filtered by hectometres of high-tech filters. The smoke from the chimneys is harmless to both humans and the environment.

Sally Hardy, CEO of the Regional Studies Association listening to Philipp Preece, Manager of the ERF Newhaven

During the tour, Sally Hardy asked relevant questions on recycling policies in the UK since they vary upon local authorities’ decision and priorities.

Philip Preece then guided the group to the core of the facility which was surprisingly quiet. The visitors had a chance to take a look at the furnace in which waste burns at more than 5000 Celsius degree, to see how metal was removed from the residual ashes and more. A sort of “behind the scenes” of the local Energy Recovery Facility.

At the end of the visit the team was offered bags of compost made out of local gardening waste. Good news for all of the office part-time gardeners, definitely the jewel in the crown.

11 Sep 2014

Here at the RSA we are working in partnership with the EU Commission and Latvian Presidency to deliver a conference on the new Cohesion Policy for the 2014-2020 period. The conference will be shaped as an academic and policy debate. As part of this process we are launching a call for papers that will be the basis for the debates. You can find all the information needed for submission below.

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4th -6th FEBRUARY 2015

In 2013, the budgetary and regulatory reform of Cohesion policy for 2014-20 was finally agreed following the most extensive process of reflection, consultation and analysis in the history of the policy. The cornerstones of the reformed policy are a more strategic use of the renamed European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), concentration of spending on the objectives of Europe 2020, improved performance and achievement of results, better governance, and more attention to urban and local development. However, as the recently published Sixth Cohesion Report makes clear, the new ESIF programmes face a difficult task, with increasing regional and urban disparities and cuts in government spending.  

Against this background, the Second EU Cohesion Policy Conference organised by the RSA and DG Regio, together with the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, aims to take stock of the challenges and opportunities for Cohesion policy in 2014-20. It will bring together a limited number of participants from academia, the European institutions and Member State authorities to debate where Cohesion policy is going and how its contribution to growth and jobs can be maximised. Papers are invited on the following questions and themes which will form the basis for workshop sessions, panel debates and discussion groups at the Conference.
1. Economic geography and Cohesion policy: how are the economic and social challenges for European Structural & Investment Funds changing?
  • the implications of the crisis for regional and urban disparities and convergence in Europe
  • the contributions and limits of Cohesion policy in dealing with the crisis and its legacy
  • the regional dimensions of Europe 2020 and the scope for the Funds to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
  • the role of the funds in addressing youth unemployment
2. Institutions and governance: what can Cohesion policy do to strengthen public administration and effective management of the Funds?
  • administrative reform, capacity-building and Cohesion policy 
  • strategic management and delivery of Cohesion policy programmes 
  • integration of Funds and policy outcomes 
  • the scope for conditionalities to improve the policy environment for the Funds
3. Performance and results: how can Cohesion policy resources be used most effectively and efficiently?
  • the achievements of Structural and Cohesion Funds in 2007-13 
  • the contribution of performance frameworks to transparency and accountability 
  • improving methods for Cohesion policy evaluation
4. Instruments: what kind of Cohesion policy interventions make a difference?
  • the role of financial instruments in improving access to finance in less-developed regions
  • the use of integrated investments to promote sustainable urban development
  • lessons from local and community development for 2014-20
  • improving the visibility of results from European Territorial Cooperation programmes and projects
5. EU economic governance and Cohesion policy: what are the implications of governance reforms for Cohesion policy
  • the relationships between Cohesion policy and EU macroeconomic governance objectives 
  • inter-institutional relations in economic governance and Cohesion policy 
  • scenarios for economic and monetary union and implications for Cohesion policy

Submission of papers

Please submit proposals for papers in the form of a 500-word abstract through the Regional Studies Association online portal by 31 October 2014. Given the purpose and audience of the conference, the abstracts should demonstrate policy implications or lessons insofar as possible.
Proposers will be notified of the selected papers by 30 November 2014, with the expectation of a full paper being submitted by 11 January 2015.

Conference organisation

It should be noted that the organisation of the Conference is being managed jointly by the RSA, DG Regio and the Latvian EU Presidency. The academic organizer is Professor John Bachtler (European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, UK) and our RSA organiser is Daniela Carl.


Please contact Elizabeth Mitchell for further details and questions regarding this event or visit the conference’s website on the RSA portal.

9 Sep 2014

We are getting closer to the end of 2014, a busy-busy year for the RSA. But you do not have to worry, the year is not over yet and in case you missed some of our events or if you want to submit an article there is still time. Even if we might take a short brake this September, be assured that this is only to recharge our batteries and prepare the following RSA events. 

OPEN DAYS 2014 University Master Class (ODU-MC) on EU Cohesion Policy, 6th - 9th October.

We will kick off this October with the Master Class (ODU-MC) that will take place between 6th and 9th October and will be hosted by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. The Master Class will be held during the OPEN DAYS - European Week of the Regions and Cities. The ODU-MC is organised by the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Regional Studies Association (RSA). This year the Master Class will host 30 PhD students and Early Career Researchers carefully selected based on: background and current position and field of research; quality of their submitted paper; and other criteria, including geography and gender balance. Get the full details, programme information here.

Regional Studies Association Early Career Conference 2014, 30th - 31st October

This year's Early Career Conference will be held in Sheffield and will be hosted by the University of Sheffield at the Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS). The conference is sponsored by the new open access journal Regional Studies, Regional Science and aims to provide early career researchers with the opportunity to network, collaborate and socialise with others working in regional studies and science. In the short clip below Professor Gordon Dabinett introduces the RSA Early Career Conference. If you wish to follow the event on social media you can use the  #RSAEC2014 hashtag. More details on the event and how to register can be found here.

Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2014, 27th - 28th November

In a strained and recovering economy that affects development globally this year's conference discussions revolve around Sustainable Recovery?  Rebalancing, Growth, and the Space Economy. The London conference hosted at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury wants to provide a platform on which to adress the new economic order and its spatial manifestations. A very special event of the conference will be the launch of a policy intervention to engage with this current debate on spatial economic policy and identify some ways forward. This was put together by Ben Gardiner, Ron Martin, Peter Tyler and Andy Pike along with the Regional Studies Association. You can follow the event on social media using the #RSAWINTER2014 hashtag. Full details, programme and registration information can be found here.

RSA Annual President’s Event 2014, 27th November

We will close off this year's round of events and conferences with Annual President's Event. We invite you all, friends, members or prospective members to join us for dinner and the annual awards ceremony in London. More information on the event can be found here

Regional studies, Regional Science - Early Career Paper Proposals - DEADLINE: 15th October, 2014.

Last but not least, we would like to let you know that the next submission deadline for Regional Studies, Regional Science is 15th October 2014. The new Regional Studies Association open access journal, Regional Studies, Regional Science, has a section specifically devoted to Early Career Papers which focuses on publishing short articles from students and early career researchers to make their research accessible to a wider audience. Details and submission guidelines can be found here