Business, Innovation and Skills CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Regional Studies Association

Executive Summary

The Regional Studies Association wishes to highlight a number of key points:

The need for a clear policy setting out the arrangements for the transition to a more fully open access environment in UK publicly funded research. The formal agreement and inclusion of the Publishers Association decision tree and the transition embargo periods in this policy along with a confirmation that authors who are following the green route to open access may have a choice of licenses.

That the terms of the review of the implementation of open access be consulted upon, include a balanced representation from stakeholders, including from smaller societies and that the review be appropriately timed. It may be the case that more than one review of evidence may be required.

That RCUK should formalise their position in relation to the learned societies and that assurance be given to the societies that their role in the UK research environment is formally recognised as important. And that if evidence reveals damage to the effectiveness of societies that this will engender a review and mitigating action.

That HEFCE undertake a full consultation with stakeholders and that there are attempts to have a consistent policy stance across government funded organisations in the UK.

Brief Introduction to the Regional Studies Association

The Regional Studies Association is an international learned society with a global membership which includes those working in policy and practice. The Association is both multi and interdisciplinary and works to facilitate the highest standards of theoretical development, empirical analysis and policy debate of issues at the sub-national scale, incorporating both the urban, rural and different conceptions of space such as city-regions and interstitial spaces. We are, for example, interested in issues of economic development and growth, conceptions of territory and its governance and in thorny problems of equity and injustice.

The Association publishes two international journals both of which are wholly owned by the Association and both of which are compliant with RCUK open access guidance in being hybrid and permitting the use of the CC-BY license. Our journal of longest standing is Regional Studies and we co-publish the journal Spatial Economic Analysis with the British and Irish Section of RSAI. In 2013, the Association will launch two new journals, firstly a traditional print and online journal, Territory, Politics, Governance which will also be compliant and hybrid and secondly an online only, compliant, open access journal, Regional Studies and Regional Science.

Our publishing partner is Taylor and Francis which is part of the Informa Group plc. Our journals are published under the Routledge imprint.

Main evidence

A. The Regional Studies Association embraces the principle of open access and is pleased to engage in the process of making the results of publicly funded research more freely available. We do however have some concerns about the implementation of this policy because its impact on current academic publishing practices will as a consequence, impact upon the way that the Association is currently organised and delivers its services both to members and the wider public.

B. The Association’s journals are currently compliant with our understanding of the RCUK policy for research funded wholly or partly by the ESRC/AHRC: this compliance takes the form of a Gold route with CC-BY licence and a green route with appropriate embargo. Authors publishing through the green route are offered the choice of CC-BY among other licences including the publisher’s licence. We also comply with relevant repository requirements.

C. In common with a number of other societies, the Regional Studies Association would like to see the publication of a clear policy for the management of the transition period to open access. In particular we wish to see the embedding of the Publishers Association Decision Tree into the policy as its clarity is extremely helpful in setting out the three routes to open access as advocated by Finch. We would also wish the policy to explicitly state that a choice of licences is possible for those authors who do not have the funds with which to pay an APC and that for the whole of the transition period a 24 month embargo is applicable for HSS.

D. The Regional Studies Association is concerned that its journals are positioned to remain the journals of first resort for our field and that writers in our field are not disadvantaged compared to writers elsewhere in the world. In this regard we strongly encourage careful consideration of the CC-BY licence.

E. At a recent AHRC and ESRC meeting it was revealed that the timing of the review of open access will take place at the end of 2014. We believe that in order to reflect on the process of change and the impacts of this new publishing paradigm, sufficient time needs to be given for the effects of the policy to come into play. If for any reason, a review must take place this soon into the process it will be imperative that a follow up review take place irrespective of additional cost and resource at least two years later. There should be sufficient time for the lessons of the review to be considered and to be incorporated into thinking for the resulting policy. Given the importance of the changes to the research and publishing environment that are being introduced, we would appreciate a formal commitment to an independent review with the inclusion of all stakeholders and a recognition of the need to include not only the big players but also representatives of small stakeholders as the impacts from this policy will be highly nuanced depending upon the field and sub-field of work, the profile of the journal in terms of the policy relevance of the materials that it publishes and the international profile of its authors base.

F. At the 4th February 2013 consultation meeting for stakeholders in the arts, humanities and social sciences, Professor Rylance indicated that if at any point, there was evidence of damage to the learned societies through the introduction of the open access policy, then this would need to be urgently addressed and mitigated. This statement is extremely important to us as an association and indeed to the health of the UK research landscape. A future without the contribution of strong, vibrant and pro-active learned societies would be much the poorer and among other well documented losses including of research and research related support to the academy, there would be the loss of a key level of representation of disciplines and thinking. The learned societies operate at a scale, with a vigour and independence that individual scholars and HEIs would find it hard to replicate. In this respect we would wish to see this commitment to, and recognition of, the importance of the learned societies to be encapsulated within the transitional policy.

G. The Regional Studies Association waits for the HEFCE consultation process to commence. We hope that sufficient time will be allowed so that respondents can offer considered responses and undertake any relevant evidence gathering. The world is watching the UK and it is therefore incumbent upon our policy makers to move in a sure footed manner. There is the danger that unforeseen consequences of our policy such as, the introduction of embargos which are so short that they lead to the cancellation of subscriptions and thus damage society business models, could be replicated elsewhere with a compounding effect.

We hope that you find the views of our Association of interest and value in your consultation and reiterate that we would be pleased to provide clarification on any points that you have.

Sally Hardy
Chief Executive

7 February 2013

Prepared 9th September 2013