6 Jan 2016

The year 2015 represented an important year the Regional Studies Association. This year we celebrated the 50th year of activity, and as the year comes to a close it is important that we look back and acknowledge the achievements of the RSA since its inception in 1965, and assess where the Association stands in our middle age.

Evaluating the work and achievements of the RSA was made easy for all of us through the book written by James Hopkins out of his PhD, entitled "Knowledge, Networks and Policy: Regional Studies in Postwar Britain and Beyond".  It's a great and recommended read and it reminds all of us of just how far the RSA has come over its relatively short history.

When we turn to consider where the RSA stands in 2015 there is much to be proud of:

  • we have the highest membership in our history
  • our members are spread throughout the globe with more than 40 nations represented amongst our ranks;
  • we balanced across our categories of membership – individual, corporate, associate, early career and student members;
  • the membership is distributed across our four geographical bands (A, B, C, D)  This is part of our conscious strategy to make the Association as inclusive as possible for scholars from a range of countries including those with recognised funding difficulties;
  • we are a youthful and dynamic Association with 40% of our members being early career academics or students. 

The Association is exceptionally active it terms of conferences and other types of events. In 2015 the RSA hosted major conferences in Piacenza, Italy; Melbourne, Australia; Hangzhou, China; London, United Kingdom, as well as the Early Career Conference in Sheffield.  Our Research Networks organised and conducted numerous additional events.

The Hangzhou Conference – our second in China – is indicative of the embracing nature of the Association and its membership.   The conference had 120 registrants from 22 countries, 4 plenary speakers, 25 workshop sessions, and 96 papers.

But this, of course, is only indicative of a broader effort: throughout 2015 the Association had more than 2500 participants at its events.

Our publication efforts are – if anything – even more impressive.  In 2015 we published 24 journal issues across our four titles (Regional Studies; Spatial Economic Analysis; Territory, Politics, Governance; Regional Studies, Regional Science). That represents approximately 1.4million words of scholarship in only one year! This was in addition to the 17 books we published in a series that currently boasts 125 titles so far. We also set up to launch our fifth journal in 2016 – aimed at the greater BRICS – Area Development and Policy offers researchers the chance to publish in their own research tradition rather than having to conform to a Euro-American style.

The RSA has emerged as an important source of research funding for its membership. In 2015 we provided financial support to:

  • 6 MeRSA grants;
  • 2 FeRSA grants;
  • 5 Early Career Researcher Grants;
  • 5 Research Networks in their new, expanded, format; 
  • and 3 travel grants.  

The total value of this investment stood at £150,000 or 1.5million RMB.  This was in addition to the 34 conference bursaries and 6 travel grants we awarded.

But the RSA isn’t just about the numbers. It is fundamentally an association of people and the exchange of ideas.  In 2015 we acknowledged a number of distinguished individuals, with Prof Ron Martin appointed as President, and Professors Lu Dadou, Ann Markusen, Dirk Ahner, Allen Scott, Clelio Campolina, and Flavia Martinelli appointed Vice Presidents.

The Regional Studies Association is a welcoming body, and as part of our efforts to better serve the field we collected feedback that tells us that our Early Career Grants and early career journal editorial posts build careers, with many recipients securing promotion or a new appointment through the life of their grant or editorship.  We are also told that our conferences are friendly and welcoming and that the networking and training opportunities we offer are useful and relevant.

And as Brian Robson, the former Deputy Vice Chancellor of Manchester University said at the President’s event in November
The RSA is clearly busy and active, but what is so impressive is that friendly buzz and the members’ enthusiasm for the Association.
It's been a wonderful 50 years, a fantastic 50th Year and we continue to build an even more promising and embracing future.