This is my first holiday season message to you as RSA Chair. I am very honoured to take this position and to be entrusted with the development of the Association over the next three years. I would like to thank my predecessor Professor Andrew Beer, for his excellent leadership of the Association over the past 5 years. His tenure has covered a period of extraordinary growth –
- the highest ever and most international membership (growth of 28% in 5 years) and a presence in 72 countries;
- Project offices established in China and Latin America.
- In June the Association opened its Indian Division with colleagues from the National Institute for Urban Affairs, New Delhi.
- The RSA has established a foundation in Brussels to better serve its European members and partners including the European Commission and Committee of the Regions.
- We held our largest ever conference in Dublin (more than 4000 people attended RSA events in 2017),
- Our journals saw increases in their Impact Factors and new inclusions in the indices and our two year old journal, Area Development and Policy thrives with strong levels of high quality submissions
- the level of grant funding reached new highs (£766,500 since 2012) and saw the introduction of the members’ and fellows’ grants and the very new Policy Expo grant. In 2018 we will be investing £130,500 in small and micro grant funding for RSA members.
Andrew has set a high benchmark for success.
I also recognise the contributions during the last year of my 54 colleagues on the RSA’s many committees; the 67 editors of our journals, magazine and book series; 149 members of journals’ editorial advisory boards; the quite extraordinary c.820 referees on Regional Studies alone; the academic and policy leads for our conferences; and our quite wonderful and dedicated staff team who make volunteering with the Association both manageable and enjoyable.
I met recently with Sally Hardy (CEO) to progress our work on the mid-term review of the Association’s Development Plan. It was a chance to reflect and discuss the priorities for my term of office. Among them I count the need for the RSA to take a lead in the area of equality and diversity ensuring that we nurture all the talent in our field. I would like to encourage the regional planners to engage more actively within the Association and seek to work with organisations such as AESOP, ACSP, the APA and other planning organisations to ensure that planners voices are heard alongside those of economists, geographers, political scientists and other. I am also keen to develop our working relationships and partnerships with other organisations and individuals active in our field and particularly where these will enable us to better showcase our members research and results into the spheres of policy and practice. The Association has a strong and important role to play in effective knowledge exchange.
Development is not all about new things though, there is much to be done to consolidate the work of the Association’s global expansion to ensure that we are “getting things right” and best serving our membership particularly in our new territories where membership is relatively sparse but growing and which need nurturing to provide accessible benefits such as events and training. The RSA now has a presence in 72 countries; it’s grants are made globally to researchers at all career stages; travel awards support international research and collaboration and our events programme in 2017 reached from London to Sydney, from Brazil to China, and included Ireland, Sweden, Russia and India among others.
The coming year has a full and richly diverse programme of activities and I very much hope that I will have the chance to talk to you at one of our events – perhaps at the annual conference in June in beautiful Lugano, Switzerland or the Winter Conference in London, the Early Career conference in Brighton, UK or the events in Spain, Russia and China (twice).
I wish you season’s greetings,
Professor Mark Tewdwr Jones
Chair, Regional Studies Association