July 2018 newsletter – RES Strategy 2019-2023

The New Strategy

RES Chief Executive, Leighton Chipperfield, introduces the Society’s new strategy and its origin in recent consultations.

In last October’s issue of the newsletter, I described the early work that the RES Executive Committee had undertaken on a new strategy, and said that a member consultation would take place in early 2018. I am pleased to report that in June the Executive Committee and Council finalised the Society’s new strategy for 2019-2023, which is reproduced above. Below I discuss the main findings from the consultation.

The consultation ran online from 7 March to 11 April 2018 with 253 responses. The vast majority of respondents (93 per cent) were RES members, with 72 per cent identifying themselves as male and 18 per cent female. Respondents could also choose not to state a gender, or indicate that they did not identify as male or female.

Respondents were asked to provide their views on four strategic priorities proposed by the Executive Committee and Council: ‘Enhancing the credibility and visibility of economics’, ‘Supporting economists’, ‘Improving diversity’, and ‘Professionalising the Society’. Within each priority, respondents were also asked to rate the importance of certain activities.

Enhancing the credibility and visibility of economics
84 per cent agreed that this should be a strategic priority, with only minor variations in sentiment according to age and gender.

Respondents felt activities geared to ‘improving the public image of economics’, ‘contributing to the debate around economic education’ and ‘increasing engagement with schools’ were most important. Roughly two-thirds of all respondents felt each of these should be a high or very high priority.

Respondents were invited to provide other suggestions for improving the credibility and visibility of the discipline. There was support for adopting pluralist approaches; a greater focus on policy; and improving collaboration with other disciplines. A number suggested that the Society play a greater role in helping economists connect with the public, including through the media.

Supporting economists
82 per cent of respondents agreed this should be a strategic priority, with female respondents somewhat more positive (86 per cent) than males (79 per cent).

There was broad support for the resources the Society provides for members, with 59 per cent agreeing that improving the quality of the Society's journals should be a high or very high priority. More than half agreed that training opportunities, lobbying, and strengthening the Society’s relationships with university departments should be a high or very high priority. Young economists were more likely to agree that the Society should provide greater support to undergraduate and masters students.

Suggestions offered by respondents included the Society actively lobbying funding bodies on the needs of economists; offering more prizes; and improving the website to facilitate communication between members.

Several respondents noted the importance of the journals and the annual conference as two of the Society’s core activities.

Improving diversity
72 per cent of respondents agreed this should be a strategic priority. Female respondents (81 per cent) were more likely to agree it was a priority than males (74 per cent). Those respondents who did not indicate a gender or stated that they did not identify as male or female were less likely to agree that improving diversity should be a priority. Respondents aged 41-50 (79 per cent) and 51-60 (78 per cent) were most likely to agree it should be a priority, compared to 67 per cent of those aged 31-40.

Respondents expressed broad support for efforts to increase the number of female students studying economics, monitoring the representation of women in academic departments, and ensuring the Society’s governance structures and activities reflect the diversity of its membership. There was a high level of support for increasing the voice of early-career economists in the Society with, as might be expected, very high support from those aged 40 or below.

A number of respondents noted that diversity issues extend beyond gender, and that the Society should be mindful of these in its work.

Professionalising the Society
57 per cent of respondents agreed this should be a strategic priority. This priority brought together a number of operational areas that Executive Committee and Council considered important, including making it easier for members to join or renew their membership; providing more information on how Society funding is allocated, and pursuing partnerships with other organisations. Whilst there was overall support for these activities (less than 20 per cent of members considered these activities to be low priority), they were generally rated less highly than activities in the other strategic areas.

Several respondents were unsure about what the term ‘Professionalising the Society’ meant and this was reflected in a relatively high proportion of ‘Don’t Know’ responses.

Changes to the strategy
While respondents were broadly supportive of the main themes, the Executive Committee and Council agreed certain modifications to the strategy in response to the consultation:

• Renaming the 4th priority, ‘Professionalising the Society’ to ‘Working Effectively’
• Reinforcing the role of the Society in economics education
• Reinforcing the Society’s commitment to its journals, events and training activities
• Broadening diversity to include age and ethnicity 
• Reinforcing the need for early career economists to be better represented

What now?
The strategy is intended to be a reference point for decision-making, informing decisions on how the Society allocates its resources in the coming years. Members will note that while the Society is keen to extend its public engagement work, this is not intended to come at the expense of its core activities.

The final strategy states the four priorities that have been agreed following the consultation. The format of the annual report will be re-worked to report against each priority. We are also now seeking chairs for the Publications and Communications & Engagement committees.

The launch of the Society’s new website later this year provides an opportunity to tell the wider world what the Society does and is focussed on. We will also communicate the strategy to universities, government departments and other appropriate organisations.

The Executive Committee and Council are most grateful to all those who participated in the consultation. 

The Strategy

The Royal Economic Society is one of the oldest and most prestigious economic associations in the world. Founded in 1890 and initially called the British Economic Association, it became the Royal Economic Society on receiving its Royal Charter in 1902. As a learned society, the principal aim of the Royal Economic Society is ‘to promote the study of economic science.’

The Society will focus its efforts on four strategic priorities between 2019 and 2023, as follows:

1. Enhancing the credibility and visibility of economics
The RES wishes to play a greater role in the public understanding of economics and its many applications. It intends to extend its communication and engagement activity, with a particular focus on engaging young people. It will invest in new ways to connect the media and interested others with the expertise the Society and its members can offer.

In particular, the RES will:

• Establish a new website, with more information for the media and general public 
• Expand its media engagement, offering greater opportunity for the media to connect with RES members and experts
• Increase its use of social media and multimedia channels
• Increase efforts to promote the teaching of economics in schools
• Investigate and employ new methods to further engage with the wider public, building on its ‘RES Presents’ programme.

2. Supporting economists
Through establishing closer contact with its members, the RES wants to better understand how it can meet their needs. It will seek to continually improve its journals, events, and the various training, grant and prize opportunities offered to members. It will speak up for economists on issues that affect them, such as research funding for PhD students, and will continue to support initiatives around economics education.

In particular, the RES will:

• Review ways to further improve the journals published by the Society, building on the strengths and reputations of the Economic Journal and The Econometrics Journal
• Examine ways to further develop meetings organised and/or funded by the Society, including the successful Annual Conference
• Continue to support the teaching of economics in higher education through the Economics Network, CHUDE, and other initiatives
• Increase its engagement with those who fund economic research and research studentships
• Independently manage the administration of its membership, instead of using a third party.

3. Improving diversity 
The RES recognises the lack of diversity in the discipline, and wishes to address this. It will place particular emphasis on promoting economics to women and girls, and others in under-represented groups. Through its Women’s Committee, it will continue to monitor the position of women in the discipline, and offer support to women economists through their careers. It will work to improve the voice of early career economists in the organisation.

In particular, the RES will:

• Review how its existing activities, such as the Young Economist of the Year competition and Annual Public Lecture, can attract a more diverse audience
• Seek to increase the role of early career economists in the Society’s decision-making
• Support initiatives which encourage women and girls to study economics
• Review the role it can play in promoting good professional conduct in the discipline.

4. Working effectively
The RES recognises that it can only achieve its objectives through efficient and collaborative working practices. It will establish its new office to provide effective administrative support, and will seek partnerships with related organisations where appropriate. It will manage its finances prudently, investing in activities which align with its strategy, whilst maintaining appropriate financial reserves.

In particular, the RES will:

• Review its committee structure, initiating new Communications & Engagement, Publications, and Finance committees to underpin its work in these areas
• Seek ways to engage more members in the activities of the Society
• Seek partnerships with other societies and institutions on areas of common interest
• Update its reserves and investment policies.