Dr Alasdair Rae is an urban and regional analyst for the Urban Studies and Planning department at the University of Sheffield, UK. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of the T&F journal Regional Studies, Regional Science (RSRS), alongside Dr Stephen Hincks. The journal was launched in 2014 as fully open access (OA), and it has since enjoyed great success, with its most-viewed article having received over 20,000 hits.
In April this year, the journal published a collaborative work by Dr Rae, Dr Hincks and the journal’s North American editor, Dr Heather Stephens, exploring the role of OA in academic publishing. In this article, Dr Rae reflects on the last four years an OA editor.
On a sunny California day in December 2013, I stood in front of the audience gathered on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles to announce the arrival of a new OA journal for regional studies and regional science scholars. The journal was to be published for the Regional Studies Association by Taylor & Francis, with full peer review and a long-term publishing plan. But, of course, at this point we had no idea how it would go and at the launch I said, ‘Ask me again in four years’.
Well, I am happy to report that RSRS has since published thousands of pages of scholarly works and has reached a much wider audience than we could ever have hoped for.
Like any publishing enterprise, it hasn’t always been easy and it’s taken a lot of hard work by the editorial team and colleagues at the Regional Studies Association and Taylor & Francis to make this a success. In this short piece, I reflect briefly upon the past four years with RSRS and talk a little bit more about how we’ve fared to date.
Editing an open access journal
When Regional Studies Association CEO, Sally Hardy, first approached me about being involved in the RSRS project, I immediately accepted because I was committed to the OA ethos. It was only later that I discovered that we had to decide upon how the journal would work, what it would be called and who the intended audience might be. We also had to appoint an 'International Editorial Advisory Board' and a team of associate editors. Once we had done this, and appointed Alex Singleton as Co-Editor-in-Chief and Heather Stephens as North American editor, the difficult task of attracting submissions was next.
This is where being backed by an experienced global academic publisher and international learned society is critical. There are literally thousands of OA journals in existence, yet in our disciplines there was no dedicated outlet for authors wishing to publish in a quality gold OA journal. Thankfully, we have had a good flow of papers from the start, including many submissions by eminent scholars, such as Rob Kitchin, and emerging early career scholars, such as Ana Rita Cruz.
RSRS by the numbers
Across most social science disciplines, when a paper reaches 1,000 views it might be cause for celebration. In fact, even 500 views could be considered ‘viral’! I mention this first because RSRS has many papers with thousands of views, including Kitchin et al. (2015) with more than 18,000, Oliveira (2015) with more than 8,000 and Cruz (2014) with more than 4,000.
This level of readership was surprising to us at first, but it also reinforced our view that there is an audience for what our community of regional studies and regional science scholars publish – and not just within academia. Communications and conversations with those outside the academy who work in policy roles have confirmed that we’re reaching a new and broader audience than traditional journals can.
To date, we have three complete volumes. In the first, we published 349 pages, which was very pleasing given the newness of the journal. In Volume 2 we published 558 pages, which we believe indicates the attractiveness of the OA platform Taylor & Francis have built but also the growing desire by authors to make their work more widely accessible. In Volume 3 we then published 533 pages; again, a very pleasing level of submissions for such a new journal. Volume 4 is currently in progress but we continue to receive a good level of high quality submissions.
We were also pleased that RSRS is one of the few open access social science journals to be included in Scopus. Our papers are also now picking up a good level of citations, which is tremendously pleasing for us as editors, but also reassuring for prospective authors; if you publish in RSRS, people will read your work.
Find out more
At RSRS we maintain the very best quality in terms of peer review and editorial oversight. All our papers are double-blind peer reviewed by experts and then reviewed again by an editor. Our average review time to first decision is 35 days and we also offer a mentored stream for early career scholars.
We believe it is this commitment to quality, efficiency and community engagement that has set RSRS on the right path. But, of course, we are not complacent and we recognise that many scholars still do not ‘get’ OA or are wary of individual publishers or journals. In order to help clarify some of these issues, we urge you to read or latest editorial, entitled: ‘The role of open access in a changing academy: reflections on a new publishing paradigm’.
For more information about the different open access packages we offer, view our OA for editors guide.