Research Policy Committee

1 September 2017

Mary Vincent, Outgoing Chair of Research Policy Commitee, writes:

The RHS has a key role in speaking for historians on policy issues and representing our views on issues affecting research, within both Higher Education and other research institutions. Our Research Policy Committee monitors these areas, liaising directly and regularly with other learned societies in History and the Humanities more broadly. We also maintain regular contact with the research and funding councils and with government, primarily to ensure that the views of historians are taken into account when designing and implementing research policy. A wider commitment to historical research, together with the impact agenda, means that we also look to the relationship between historical research, public bodies and cultural institutions, and wider society. Research Policy Committee, which I chair, brings together councillors and officers of the RHS, along with co-opted members from key organisations such as The National Archive. There is also an annual joint meeting of the Research Policy Committee and the Education Policy Committee, which provides an opportunity to discuss overlapping or related policy matters, for example: public history; school curricula and the ‘pipeline’ into historical study; postgraduate training. In addition to our monitoring and advocacy roles, we aim to provide the membership with information and guidance about policy changes that are likely to affect them.

Recent issues

Recently, the committee’s has been heavily engaged in responding to the REF agenda, submitting evidence to the Stern Review [add link] and submitting to the REF2021 consultation exercise [add link]. In both documents we stressed the importance of the monograph and the need for this to be properly accredited through differential weighting, our opposition to greater use of metrics—which simply cannot capture the quality of research in history—and the position of early career historians. We have emphasised the importance of equality and diversity, and we will remain actively involved in every stage of the preparations for REF2021 and consulted widely in preparing our submission to the consultation. Building on the Society’s 2015 Gender Report [add link], we continue to probe the issues around Equality and Diversity, both for REF and more widely. Other areas of work in recent years have been Freedom of Information legislation [add link], which is of utmost importance for research in contemporary history, and Open Access, where we have consistently expressed support for the principle – and taken steps to make its own publications OA [link to new Studies in History series?] — while seeking to ensure that historians are not disadvantaged by requirements shaped by the working practices of very different disciplines, mainly bio-medicine.

Research Policy Committee works closely with History Lab Plus—which is represented on the Committee—to ensure that the interests of Early Career Researchers and other historians working outside permanent academic posts are properly represented. In the very uncertain environment for Higher Education in the UK, this continues to be a key area of concern and we look forward to developing and maintaining the connection in the future.

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