Research Policy Committee – Report for 2018-19

The Research Policy Committee advises the Royal Historical Society on all aspects of the research environment. It coordinates its relations with all the main bodies related to research funding and policy, manages its responses to government initiatives, and maintains relationships with other History and Humanities associations to lobby in the interests of the discipline.

Over the past year, the main activities and concerns of the committee have been as follows:

REF 2021 – Research Excellence Framework

The Society has continued to engage actively with the framing of the REF2021 exercise.  The Chair of the Research Policy Committee coordinated the RHS response to the second consultation on the draft Guidelines for Submission and the Panel Working Practices documents. These were discussed at both Research Policy Committee and at Council, prior to submission in October 2018. The response focused on concerns over equality and diversity, notably in terms of staff selection practices and the tariffs for so-called ‘special circumstances’ such as maternity. It also called for greater clarity in the guidelines over the handling of interdisciplinary outputs, double-weighting, and the understanding of impact.

Following publication of the final versions of the Guidelines and Working Practices documentation, the Society published a slide set presented by the Chair of Main Panel D (which includes History) explaining their decisions, with a set of annotations explaining the significance of these for History. The Society also placed a version of the REF 2014 Sub-Panel report on the website which includes valuable documentation on best practice and output types that it hopes will help guide units in their submissions to REF2021. The Society is currently monitoring the publication of the Codes of Practice produced by submitting institutions, and their application and impact upon the careers of historians.

GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation

The Research Policy Committee has been considering the ways in which archives and universities are responding to EU GDPR, After concern was expressed that organisations might adopt an overly cautious approach in relation to considerations of privacy and legitimate historical research, the Research Policy Committee, informed by input from its representatives from the National Archives, is now working on producing an advisory document outlining the implications of GDPR for historians. The intention is that this can be used by researchers to inform their own practice, and to assist them in explaining the position to archivists, ethics committees, and in the training of new entrants to the profession.

Open Access

The Publications Committee has taken the lead on Open Access for the RHS, but the Research Policy Committee continues to discuss this issue and provide input into RHS positions.

Research Councils

The Committee continues to monitor the activities of research funders, and takes part in the annual meeting of councils and history bodies convened by the Economic History Society.  The RHS expressed concern to the ESRC over its failure to fund history proposals.