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.