As we approach the festive period, I’ve been reflecting on what to include in my annual message to our membership community. Two years into being the RSA Chair, some of the things that are close to my heart are beginning to come to fruition – we have done much in the area of diversity and inclusivity, including a piece of research into gender effects in peer review for Regional Studies. You can find the results in our blog posts here and here. We have also continued our capacity-building work for students and early careers; running our own summer college, the European Week of Regions and Cities Cohesion Policy Master Class, and in 2020 we will run a Summer School on Smart Specialisation funded by the Joint Research Centre. Our grant funding continues to go from strength to strength, with 18 grants and more than £110,000 invested this year benefitting a broad spectrum of our members.
Two areas of our work are standout for me in 2019. This is the year that we published the first two books in the Policy Impact Series. This series publishes outcomes from the RSA’s £15k/$18k/€17k Policy Expo Grant Scheme, along with those from some selected submitted books. The first issue addresses Cohesion Policy and the second, Smart Specialisation, Industry 4.0 and lagging regions. These short-form and policy-facing books have proved popular, with the latter being launched by the Head of the Smart Specialisation Unit of the Joint Research Council in Seville and many copies sent to the EU Institutions. Our work on dissemination and impact remains a core part of the Association’s offer to both our members and our wider community, and it is an area that we will continue to develop.
My final choice for an RSA deliverable in 2019 is the launch of the new logo, a new strap line and a new website. It is so new that it is still being checked – if you see links that don’t work please let us know! This has been a huge job for our dedicated staff team, and a task that has been, and continues to be, carefully managed and curated. There are little touches of personalisation – the page header pictures reflect the research areas of RSA grant holders or hometowns of Division, Section or Branch Chairs. We have tried hard to build in easy navigation, put information where you might expect to find it, and include the information that you may wish to have. By no means an easy job, and I think the team have done us proud.
Reflecting on the past is inevitable at this time of year and the New Year will bring new challenges and opportunities. Your Board is already is being asked to consider their agreement for the development of a new membership app. This will hopefully bring an increased speed and refinement to communications via push notification, so that alerts to new opportunities don’t get lost in email inboxes. For now, however, I am looking forward to a few quiet days with my family and some long walks with Banjo, my faithful Labrador, and a few too many mince pies.
I wish you all, wherever you live in the world, a happy festive season and a peaceful New Year,
Mark Tewdwr Jones
Chair of the Regional Studies Association