What does a blog count for?

How should a blog be evaluated as part of a professor’s academic performance? One reaction might, perhaps, be that it is too ephemeral to count for anything at all. But if one doesn’t dismiss blog writing, then there are some more interesting things to think about. One question is which category the writing fits into. Service? Teaching? Research? How might one tell for any particular blog?

Accompanying the questions of categories are question of quantity and quality.

And perhaps as we think about this all, we might consider the extent to which non-refereed work on the web is an important rival to the refereed paper in a journal as a means of professional communication. Or should we think of it as more like communication to a more general academic community? Or something else?

Let us know what you think.

It would be great to hear of any depts who have actually worked out a policy on blog writing as a professional activity, but partial reflections are also very welcome.

15 thoughts on “What does a blog count for?

  1. I often dislike theprofessorisin, but see the advice on that site:”Online publications are absolutely to be included. They can go under the subheading ‘Other Publications’ or, if numerous, a new subheading alled ‘Web-Based Publications,’ under Publications.” She tends to be highly attentive to conformity in the interests of survival in academia, so if she thinks it’s okay, then it’s okay!

    I always list it in a section called “Service to the profession” on my CV, however, because I do not see all web publications as publications. Online essays and articles are web-based publications. Blogging is, especially the way we do it?, often more of a service. But make no mistake, we’re publishing somethin’!

  2. Thank you all so much. I hope we get even more input. If people feel slightly embarrassed by the idea that they’d be commenting about this specific blog, they might instead think in general about blogs like Leiter’s and the New APPS; I think we’re all sort of combination blogs, with philosophical content, news, activism.

    Of course, only one blog has the Sunday cat, and I won’t allow that the academic value of that is zero!

  3. Profbigk, I wonder if our posts sometimes don’t seem like publications because we actually do try quite a bit to start discussions and get input on the issues. I think that rather than saying they aren’t publications, we should say that they exploit the interactive possibilities of the new media.

    Not to say that that’s always successful…

  4. When I started blogging, I was convinced it would absolutely not help my career forward at all (and as non-tenure track faculty I have to keep in mind how to spend my time productively – and I don’t think that if I land a TT position it will be because of my blogging!) I list it as ‘services to the profession’ on the CV – I do not list separate blog entries even though I often spend quite some time crafting them, because I feel it might be regarded as CV inflation (I’m not sure if this is correct. In any case, it would be a very long, uninformative list).
    Nevertheless, there is undeniably some gain – I got several invitations to speak at workshops/conferences based on blog entries, and I am currently collaborating with a person I have never met, on a paper on a topic we are both interested in, where I never got round to but writing about because of a blog post I wrote. Also, one can also float very early, ephemeral ideas and see how people react – this form of immediate informal peer review is very valuable, especially if you work on very specialized topics where there is not much opportunity to meet specialists.
    Finally, blogging gives me a sense of collegiality and community. For instance, I have never been to Institut Jean Nicod in Paris but I feel a bit part of them (by proxy) through blogging for them. Also, I have good friends I rarely meet in person because of the geographical distance but meet every day in responding to and writing in our group blog.

  5. Well, I *definitely* think this blog at least counts as service toward the profession. I don’t have an appropriate knowledge base to be sure about anything past that, and I think standards actually vary by university so it’s difficult to say. That said, I actually think what goes on here is a bit more than that. I really do think it’s important (or should be important) from the standpoint of a university’s administration that their faculty not only do research, but engage the community with their research in a timely and appropriate way. I see new technology as one way of doing this. It’s my impression that stuff like blogging is starting to take on a role that often conference presentations are used for. By that I mean, to test ideas (though obviously in a less formal way), to generate discussion, and connect with those in the field. Here I’m not sure that the lack of formality should count against blogging, since that’s sort of a functional characteristic of the medium.

  6. I think whether blog posts feel like publications will depend a lot on what they’re like. Most of my own are just links with quotes, and I wouldn’t dream of calling them publications. But the more substantive ones are different.

  7. Thank you for starting this discussion. I would like to think that some of our blogs are service to the profession, but I list my blogging activity on my CV in a single line under ‘web-publication’ or ‘other publications’ (even though I routinely write at least two mini-essays each week, and often more than that). I do try to find a way of emphasizing that our blog has a very wide readership in an annual report (or outside research assessment/grant application). The main visible down-side of my blogging has been that critical referees are increasingly sarcastic (and are not at all shy about making clear they dislike my blog-persona). No doubt some folk have been pissed off, and that may cost me at some point, but c’est la vie–I did lose one long-time friend because of my blogging (and that was very painful). On the upside is a permanent education in various approaches to philosophy and intellectual camaraderie with a very nice group of readers and fellow bloggers. For example, I barely knew the work of Jeff Bell and Mark Lance before I started blogging with them; I feel daily interaction with them (and my other fellow NewAPPSers) have made me a better philosopher. I like having a wide variety of extremely sophisticated critics that let me try out ideas and help shape debates I find worthy. A nice consequence is that I experience noticeable higher interest in my work (recently I gave a talk and people’s questions revealed that they were filtering my paper through my blogging) and also, I think, a better sense that I have expertise in philosophy of economics (something that would have been not so obvious before my blogging)–now when I get invited for a talk, people often request something in that niche.

  8. Hi Eric, which critical referees? The ones on grant applications?

    Internet users can be very judgmental and unforgiving. I think usually think that the internet has got to be the space for experimental work, but sometimes I feel as though the sky is falling.

    In thinking about Jender’s comment, I was wondering if we don’t make a mistake in taking a “one post = one publication” as a criterion for counting blogging as publishing. News APPs seems often closer to the one post = one publication idea(l) than wAe are, but that might just lead us to question the equation. I think, for example, that Jender’s many posts on gendered product together could well be part of a research project, and we have something even more advanced if we add together all the ones others have done. Jender, and sure others of us, have posts about the harm such things can do, so that’s another part of the project. We probably need a post about the different kinds of gendered products. Some are for kids, some not. Some seem more didactic that others. And so on.

    Added all together, what we might discern is at least most of an article. Maybe not a very good article, but that’s another question. And of course, as Jender allows, there are other posts closer to articles.

    Anyway, I decided to post the question when I learned that one of us had evaluations that simply didn’t mention the blog. I wasn’t sure how it should count, but surely it should. If nothing else, we’re over the 3 million mark, and we’ve braved the blow back from the gendered conference campaign.

    Given the various comments above, it seems to be that there should be a category of professional communication into which blogs like this and others mention should fit. But we can also add ‘service’ and ‘professional development.’

    More comments?!?

  9. Great discussion. I’ve found blogs very useful in all kinds of ways as an academic. We recently did a special issue of our journal, Psychology & Sexuality, where we explored feminist sex blogs (as a good starting point for academic discussions about issues around sexualisation, femininity, feminism, etc.) and we also reported on the onscenity network which got a bunch of academics to blog publicly about their views on sexualisation of culture. So blogs can be a starting point for research, and also a way of disseminating research and theory.

    The response I get to the blog I write can be helpful in giving me a sense of which ideas are worth pursuing (if I get some positive comments, or even a request to write an article, on the back of them). They can also help me figure out how best to communicate certain ideas.

    I like the kind of communication blogs foster (as opposed to academic publications). Instead of shaping a kind of ‘perfected’ output (by incorporating reviewer comments, etc.) which you get very little feedback on, you put out into the world an acknowledged imperfect piece of writing which can spark dialogue with others who are interested in the same thing. The final product is really the original post and all the comments, so it can be more collaborative.

    With the blogs that I write, I like the fact that each post is interesting to a different group of people (rather than trying to write one academic article or book which is of interest to all potential readers). I’d say the main purpose is public engagement and making academic theories/research accessible and relevant, but blogs can also make an excellent starting point for research as they can help us see what topics are important to particular groups, how they are talking about them, etc.

  10. I think that lots of blogging is definitely research. Not all research comes in the form of refereed journal publications. There’s the broader category of ‘research activity” into which blogging, often clearly fits.

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