Monday, May 25, 2009

Academic Blogging: Publication, Service or Teaching?

Over on Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson asks the interesting question Academic Blogging: Publication or Service?
A friend of mine at the annual meeting of the North American Patristics Society (NAPS) reported that a speaker at a session on scholarly publishing observed that blogging tended to count more as service instead of publications for one’s academic career (read: tenure and promotion). On the face of it, this observation seems plausible--one’s web work does count, but not as a replacement for publishing. My questions are: is this really the case? and is this a good way to evaluate the role of blogging in conjunction with one’s academic career?
This is a question that I have occasionally discussed here, and it is one of interest to any of us who spend a lot of time blogging. Frankly, I do sometimes ask myself whether the time I spend blogging (or on the NT Gateway, or other web projects) would have been better spend writing more books and articles. But always, in the end, I decide that it is a worthwhile chunk of time, not least because blogging and web work occupy a space that overlaps with all the other elements in an academic's life, teaching, research and service. Its relevance for research and writing is obvious -- it is a place to develop one's ideas and to try out new things, often in discussion with others.  Scholarship is a communal and not a solitary activity, and blogging at its best can underline the communal nature of good scholarship.

In a previous discussion on this kind of topic, Should Blogs Count for Tenure?, I responded to the question of how I would assess applicants who were bloggers:
I know that I would always look favourably on someone who has an intelligent and energetic blog, whether as potential applicants to a graduate programme, or as job applicants, or as applicants for tenure. To me it is likely to suggest several things, a commitment to the dissemination of scholarship outside of the guild, a commitment to collaborative scholarship, and some degree of courage and public risk-taking. So I would be strongly inclined to treat blogging as a plus. I suppose that this is what Davidson means in her reference to blogging as fulfilling the all important "service to the guild" requirement for gaining tenure. [Context here] But I think that it is potentially much more than that. For one thing, blogs can be continuous with published work, so that the lines between publication and blog are blurred. In those cases, it's not a bolted on extra, but is integral to the research and publication process. One might even be using the blog as a means of developing published materials. There are multiple examples of this kind of thing as when people develop conference papers on-line and then use a blog as a means of doing research, gauging reaction and improving the output.
However, I think that now I would want to stress more the role that blogging can play in good teaching, as a place to discuss elements that come up in the process of teaching, to reflect on how things have gone, or to try out new ideas. I suspect that it is this latter category that actually weighs most strongly with appointment, promotion and tenure committees, and I would be inclined to stress this element in the obligatory category on "innovation" in teaching. A blog in which teaching methods and content is discussed is a demonstration of one's commitment to thinking through pedagogy.


Opus Imperfectum said...

Good perspective, Mark, and an excellent contribution to this conversation.

Anonymous said...

Re: "the role that blogging can play in good teaching". Though I am not currently teaching, this is how I envision my blog when my teaching duties roll around in the next couple years. It seems an excellent way to provide educational resources (e.g., standards for paper writing) as well as further reflections on class material.

Anonymous said...

Here's a late response to an old (3 years) and very good post- especially the last paragraph! I just recently created a blog primarily aimed at engaging my students substantively, and secondarily at disseminating reasonably relevant scholarship about Jesus and the NT.

Good thinking, Mark.