Three-D Issue 19: Chair’s report

Sue Thornham
University of Sussex

As we approach the annual conference and AGM, this issue of Three-D contains information not only about this year’s conference, to be hosted in Derry by the University of Ulster in co-ordination with Derry’s 2013 UK City of Culture programme, but also about next year’s, to be held at the University of Bournemouth. This is also a reminder that elections for the MeCCSA Executive Committee are about to take place. The work that the committee does on your behalf is extremely important, and we need a range of voices and contributions if we are to be effective, so please consider standing for one of the places. We’ll also need your voice at the AGM, where we’ll be reporting back on activities undertaken this year. One of these is the production of a new and updated leaflet aimed at schools and colleges, explaining and promoting MeCCSA’s subject areas (see cover reproduced below). The full leaflet will be sent out to schools and colleges, and can be downloaded from the website. We hope that you find it useful.

As usual, this issue of Three-D contains a mixture of network reports and features. We are continuing our discussion of the Leveson Inquiry and its possible outcomes, in the context of the promised Communications Act and its response to the urgent need for media reform. The issue also begins a discussion of open access publication, following the publication of the Finch report in June. The ways in which the report’s recommendations will be taken up and implemented, by research councils and other funders, by publishers and by universities, will affect us all. The Finch report begins with the statement: ‘The principle that the results of research that has been publicly funded should be freely accessible in the public domain is a compelling one, and fundamentally unanswerable.’ As its recommendations make clear, however, quite how this will work, and how it will affect individuals and their academic careers, is much less certain. As we approach the REF, we probably all have colleagues who have faced a huge bill for publication of their article in an open access (but high profile) journal, and quite how universities – or departments – will pay for these increasing demands is unclear. As individual universities develop their policies we need to engage with their plans and the principles that underpin them. If the policy of high payments (APCs) for publication in established journals is increasingly accepted and promoted by universities, with limited funding made available by research councils, those of us whose research has not been funded, who are early career researchers, or who are outside the university’s priority areas may find it very difficult to access such funds. At the same time, publication elsewhere – or in more diverse forms – may not be valued. If we wish to maintain diversity of publication forms as well as content, and fully realise the possibilities of open access publishing, we will need to challenge such policies as they develop.

Meanwhile, the conference beckons: a chance to discuss policies as well as ideas, politics as well as research and scholarship, and to raise issues that are concerning you. Coming right at the start of Derry’s year as UK City of Culture, and with the full support of the City of Culture team, it should also be an enormously enjoyable event!

Posted by Einar Thorsen