Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Peer-reviewed article responding to a blog post: what is the etiquette?

In a blog post back in 2010, I sketched out an idea that had occurred to me in class one day, that a conjectural emendation might explain one of the bizarre and famous features of our one major textual witness to the Gospel of Peter, A Walking, Talking Cross or the Walking, Talking Crucified One?  I suggested that the scribe may have misinterpreted a nomen sacrum for σταυρωθεντα ("crucified one"), instead imagining that σταυρον ("cross") was meant.

In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Theological Studies, Paul Foster provides a detailed critique of the blog post, "Do Crosses Walk and Talk? A Reconsideration of Gospel of Peter 10.39–42", JTS 64 (2013): 89-104.  The article is now available to view for subscribers.  At a future point, perhaps when I have worked up the idea fully for publication, I would like to comment on the content of the article, but in this post I'd like to reflect a little on the phenomenon of a peer-reviewed article in a major journal providing a full critique of a blog post.

I will confess to mixed feelings.  On one level, I am really flattered that Foster, and the editors of JTS, regarded my blog post of sufficient merit to warrant an extended response, and I am grateful to them, I think, for noticing my blog and regarding it so highly.  On another level, I have to admit that it makes me slightly uneasy to see my random jottings here subjected to the same kind of detailed critique that one would normally reserve for scholarly books and peer-reviewed articles.

The difficulty in part may be that there is not really any established etiquette for this kind of thing.  Blogs and the blogging phenomenon are still pretty young, and we don't really know yet how they should fit into the scholarly landscape.  Should we treat them like casual academic gossip, a kind of online senior common room, or is every post fair game for a full, formal response in a peer-reviewed journal?

One thing that focuses the discussion for me is to compare the status of the blog post with the status of the academic conference paper. Many scholars add a kind of rider to their conference papers, "Work in progress; not to be cited" and so on.  The point there is that conference papers are for discussion at conferences but not (yet) in formal publications.  I think I see something similar for blog sketches like mine -- it will, I hope, eventually make its way to publication, but it does not yet have that kind of status. Indeed, in the case in question, I did subsequently present the idea in a conference paper (International SBL, London, 2011), which will form the basis of a future formal publication.

For me, the blog is something more informal, more chatty than the published paper.  I write differently here from the way that I write in peer-reviewed articles. My tone is much more colloquial.  I speak differently in the classroom, differently again in the NT Pod.  So now that I look back at the blog post in question, I notice that I talk casually about the cross "bouncing out of the tomb"; I use a little cartoon illustration; I speak in the first person a good deal and I speculate openly. It is all round much more informal and colloquial.

This not to say that the discussion of blog posts in formal publications ought to be out of bounds.  I have myself published an article discussing the role played by blogs in the discussion of the Talpiot Tomb (The Talpiot Tomb and the Bloggers).  Others like James Crossley have written extensively on the blogging phenomenon and what it may reveal about the guild.  Nevertheless, I think there is a difference between those sorts of broader discussions about the phenomenon and writing at length about a blog report of work in progress, a post that is explicitly a kind of work-in-progress sketch.

But perhaps I am wrong about this.  I have had some discussion with Paul Foster via email, and I have corresponded also with one of the editors of JTS who expressed some surprise at my reaction to the publication.  I'd be interested to hear what others think about the etiquette here.  For one thing, I can't remember another example of this, and if Paul Foster and JTS are trend-setting, it may be worth our while thinking through the implications this has for the topics and the tone of our blogs.  I suspect that it will make an impact on how far and in what manner I sketch out new research ideas on this blog but this too may require some additional thought.


Pete Enns said...

I tend to agree with you, Mark. I feel the same way about blogs. They are more editorials, musings, etc. I wonder if your post offended Foster in some way--treaded on his ideas?

Unknown said...

Some interesting things to think about --- Very nice post. I understand your points, but on the other hand you had also previously noted a time when your blog should have been cited in a publication. So how would you distinguish between the two instances? Should your blog be cited or should it not be cited? In the earlier instance it was not cited for something positive, here it was cited but negatively (critiquing the post). Even still the two instances seem to be the same because even if your blog was cited positively, as you had requested in an earlier post, that doesn't mean your thoughts on the issue were final and that you wanted them publicized. Do you see a difference between the two instances, and if yes how so? Thanks again for the thoughtful post.

Richard Fellows said...

Blogs do not all belong to the same genre. They vary from the very informal "thinking out loud" to well researched settled thinking. The only requirement is that the blogger should be clear about the nature of his/her blog posts. A blog post that is giving merely a provisional hypothesis or a "work in progress" should make that clear. A reviewer of such a blog post should also be clear about the nature of the blog post.

Let's not discourage people from making their finished research available to all on their blogs by discouraging serious interaction with blogs, or by labeling the blog format as worthy only of musings. In many ways the blog format is superior to the printed word because it allows discussion as well as links to other works.

Deane said...

I think it's all fair game for critical discussion, Mark.

The risk lies really lies with the writer of a formal piece of writing responding to something in a blog. Speaking generally, not just in respect of the current case, such a response needs to be careful to make clear the nature of the writing to which it is responding (and not all blog posts are alike), so that readers are not misled as to its nature. And the response takes the risk, as does any response to an oral academic presentation, of missing some of the detailed rationale for a position that is usually only provided in a formal piece of academic writing.

Later this year, I will submit a formal piece on the Gospel of Peter to a peer-reviewed journal, and it happens to be on a topic which I've blogged in outline. If someone were to quote the blog post in a formal piece, that would be their prerogative (and risk!). ;-)

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Yeah, I think there's a difference between whether blog posts should be cited and how they should be. In one sense, if it's published (and yes the web is a form of publication) it ought to be fair game, and in any case good ideas taken from blog posts must be cited. In another sense, one ought to be mindful of the medium and not distort what's being put out there. But the latter is a problem even with properly published and peer-reviewed works. I've certainly had those distorted as well.

Ian Paul said...

Doesn't it rather depend on what the article is doing? If the article is offering a critique of your blog post as such, that is, critiquing how you presented your argument and developed the idea, then as you say that seems rather unfair.

But if the article is evaluating the idea that you have floated, then perhaps this is all right. Ideas might be sparked in all kinds of conversations, and these can then develop into proper academic reflections with appropriate acknowledgement.

So for me, the issue is how your ideas have been handled in the article, which I have not.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

I have to say that I have not yet had the chance to read Foster's article.

James Dowden said...

I feel that this can only be healthy. Blogs are great for communicating interesting ideas quickly and to a wide audience. They are a wonderful counterpoint to articles in peer-reviewed journals and (worst of all) monographs, both of which share the vice of making very limited impact because so few people can access them after a reasonable fashion.

There is a lot to be said against that academic sneer against trade books, even though the effect of citing one carefully is that one can cite an idea now, rather than waiting ten years for it to be issued in aesthetically bad English, full of contortions to cover what criticisms the author and his confidants could imagine, and at an extortionate price. So too with blogposts; obviously they aren't peer-reviewed journal articles, but that doesn't mean that careful use can't be made of them.

I also get the feeling that we are a lot better at dealing with the effects of genre and partiality in primary sources than in secondary ones. The obvious point is that it is impractical to wait for the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, say, to complete his book of systematic theology. Should this right really only be afforded to corpses?

And there's something peculiarly spineless about conference papers marked "not to be cited". Yes, it's fair enough to expect people to include the caveat that it is a work in progress, but the effect of an attitude that one cannot possibly cite them after a fair and careful fashion is to put an enormous brake on the speed at which scholarship can progress.

The last thing we want is snail's-pace scholarship in which journals are forced to run the sort of article that comes down to creative inertia with the occasional good paragraph. That doesn't benefit anyone.

Joshua Mann said...

I hesitate to comment since I study with Paul, though my interest in the digital humanities is overcoming me. (I learned of the article here, then read it).

I imagine I, too, would have mixed feelings as you have described, Mark, if in your shoes.

I am intrigued, perhaps excited, to see digital publishing advancing scholarly dialogue, particularly academic blogs with credentialed authors. Digital, open access publishing has exciting prospects, though it has its growing pains.

For those unable to access the piece, it is said near the beginning: "It needs to be acknowledged that Goodacre’s idea is exploratory, and still in the process of development" (92).

I felt the article furthers the discussion, providing historical context to arguments regarding the particular textual issue, and it also makes some positive arguments for a 'walking, talking cross' (i.e., it is more than a critique of the blog post).

As for Pete Enns baseless question (first comment)... In the words of Chris Carter (on Monday Night Countdown): "C'mon maaaan." :)

Anonymous said...

Mark, several thoughts jumped to mind as I read your post. First, it is, I think, correct to have some mixed feelings about this. In recent years your scholarly contributions (NT Pod, NT Gateway, NT Blog, and formal academic publications) have become recognized as genuinely valuable to ongoing discussions in our field. I know that I have personally benefitted from your musings here on the blog. So, this recognition is something of a "tip of the cap" to your relevance as a scholar working on these issues. I do think you should take that as an implicit compliment. However, I agree that ideas we explore in our blogging are very much "works in progress" and should not be subjected to the same rigorous academic critique to which our formal publications are subjected. Hopefully you will have an opportunity to develop this idea in greater detail so that we can witness a "print dialogue" on this issue between you and Foster (who's work I also regard highly).

I would like to ask Josh (the commenter who currently studies under Foster) why he accuses Enns of posing a "baseless question"? In this field we are all deeply invested in the views we pursue and ultimately hope to usher into print. Even the most humble scholar in this field can experience the type of emotion Enns describes. I think it's rather naive and out of touch with the reality of life in academia to suggest that Pete's question is "baseless." Some of the most approachable and humble scholars I know are quite sensitive about their work. Keep in mind, I'm not saying this is Foster's motivation, only that Josh's comment is rather naive.

Carl Kinbar said...

I agree with Deanne that all's fair but the risk is his. That said, the proper etiquette is to comment on the blog post itself. That would have invited your response, including your intention to develop the idea further. If he then wished to write a peer-reviewed article on an undeveloped idea, so be it.

Noah said...

I'm an academic, but far from your field, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. But I'm interested in these sorts of questions, so let me make a few points.

First, the distinction between formal and informal scholarly communication is very important. Blog posts are informal and should be treated similarly to other informal communication like conversations, emails, talks, etc. It's important to push back against anything that seems to substitute written/non-written for formal/informal.

Second, as Ian Paul says, as a general rule it's ok to use and cite ideas from informal scholarly communication, but not ok to critique the details of informal scholarly communication. In fact, I'd say directly quoting from informal communication is already pushing things.

Finally, the scholarly literature is set up to be unchanging and accessible to scholars many years down the road. Blog posts are not like that. Tomorrow you would be within your rights to totally rewrite that blog post or even delete it. In 50 years there's no guarantee the material on this blog will still be in the internet, since blogger is not an archival medium. This again means that although it's appropriate to mention the source of general ideas as coming from a blog post, it's problematic to do anything that requires readers to be able to read the post.

Joshua Mann said...

Chris, I hate to chase this rabbit (apologies to Mark), especially at the risk of appearing to be a kind of apologist or something, but since you directed a question at me:

By "baseless" I mean that no supporting evidence is given by Enns for how Mark's blog post on this particular question has 'treaded' on Paul's ideas or caused offense. That line of my comment is not a defense of the article or its use of a blog post, but a different issue altogether.

The possibility suggested by Enns is that one scholar is offended by a colleague's blog post and so writes up an article. Possible? Obviously it is, and I assume this is why you disagree with my use of 'baseless'.

But given the subject matter (have you read the original post or Paul's article?), sensitivity seems like a long shot, and even if it were true, I don't think it is appropriate to put it forward as an explanation without some kind of evidence, no less at the center of the public discussion. It just smells a little ad hominem and I don't believe it is in accord with scholarly congeniality.

Naïve I may be, but not for the reason you suggest! Of course I know that scholars are sensitive to their own work. Even as a 'junior' scholar, I have felt that sensitivity when work I've published is critiqued. In fact, I feel a bit sensitive about your calling my comment naïve based on my use of the adjective "baseless." I'll be writing up my reaction for publication right away! :)

Anonymous said...

Josh, thanks for your good-natured reply. I have read the original blog post, though I haven't yet seen the JTS article (I do intend to read it, however). I guess I was initially wondering if Pete's comment wasn't a little "tongue-in-cheek," especially since Pete seems to have demonstrated a healthy sense of humor. Also, while most of us think highly of our doctoral supervisors (and I would have been quick to jump to the defense of my own), I was offering my comment as a constructive safeguard to giving even the most virtuous professors too much of a "pass" when it comes to scholarly self-interest.

Let me know when your response article is published. :)

Best, Chris

Joshua Mann said...

Chris, my hesitation to comment in the first place was because my interest in the discussion might be mistaken as an apologetic for Paul. My Enns' comment was less about Paul and more about scholarly congeniality, and I rest my case. (Apologies to Mark for chasing the rabbit a little further).

Anonymous said...

I would like to point something out with the following quote from the post:

" I write differently here from the way that I write in peer-reviewed articles. My tone is much more colloquial. I speak differently in the classroom, differently again in the NT Pod."

This is the basic foundation that Dr. Ehrman uses to build his argument of forgery in the NT. He cites that Paul and Peter could not have written certain books because the styles, grammar, message, vocabulary, etc., are different.

Using his thesis we could say that Dr. Goodacre did not write those different entries and some were forged--maybe his students used his name because it carries more weight than theirs.

People write differently, even Paul. His situations were different, who he was addressing were different and at different levels of maturity in the faith and so on.

Because someone writes differently we cannot say that their work is not authentic because it has differences thus the whole idea of forgery in the NT needs to come up with real evidence to support its claim and they do not have any.

As for quoting blogs etc., a person's viewpoint is his viewpoint no matter where he writes it and if it is clearly stated in some non-peer reviewed journal then that just makes it all the easier to refute. A source is a source and can be dealt with in a footnote instead of agonizing over the ethical use of a lesser arena of publication.

Steve Caruso said...

Responding to a blog in a peer reviewed journal is a fascinating happening. I don't want to say it's some sort of "social media milestone," but blogs are a "force to be reckoned with" nowadays in academia.

However, my largest curiosity with such a practice is a matter of continuing a conversation (elements of which have been discussed by other commenters): To wit, where does the conversation go from here? If two bloggers have an exchange of ideas, anyone who is following along can keep up with it as blogs are (for the most part) inherently public media.

That a response is now behind a paywall throws an unexpected and oddly-shaped spanner into the works. Can one continue the conversation out in the open? Or should the idea (which on a blog is much more informal and less structured and rigorous than usually found in peer-reviewed media) then progress into peer-reviewed media exclusively? And if that is the case, then what happens with the normal blogging banter that comes from everyday critique?

Is a middle-ground media between blogs and peer reviewed journals (like a peer-reviewed blog) a better way to discuss such emerging ideas in real time?

In any case, this is truly a fascinating development. :-)


Ryan said...

I faced this question last year. I was revising an item for publication, and in one part I was discussing - and critiquing - a certain idea. I decided that I needed another opening quotation of someone espousing that idea. I found the perfect quote: the speaker was a respected authority, he summarized the idea perfectly, and I thought he expressed it just right. It was the ideal quote.

The problem was it was only published on the speaker's blogsite. I debated for some time whether it was fair to use the quote.

On one hand, I think Mark makes a lot of valid points here. You write differently online than you would if you knew you were going to be quoted "on the record." Quoting online blog writing before the author has had a chance to polish and refine it is kinda like calling someone up on stage in the public spot-light without first giving them a chance to change their shirt and fix their hair.

On the other hand, people often seem to assume - erroneously I think -- that you get some sort of automatic internet immunity; as if you can say or do whatever you like online and not be held accountable for it, or not have to stand behind it. We see this all the time with people getting fired from their jobs for something they posted online.

In my case, the idea was out there, and this other person had clearly argued in favour of that idea. What could they do? Deny that they favoured that position because they had only argued for it online? There is a sense in which once you put something into the public sphere, you give other people some right to interact with it.

I considered writing the author to ask if he minded me using the quote - and in hindsight, I wish I had done that, just to be safe - but in the end I decided just to use it, but to note very clearly that it was taken from a blogpost. I even gave the extended context in the footnotes. I thought that way the reader would grant the author some grace, knowing that the quote they were reading wasn't from a polished publication, but from a more casual blog. And once they know that, I'm confident that they won't hold it against him.

In other words, I don't think he will receive any disrespect because of it. And that might be the key: yes, interact with blog posts as you find it necessary, but do so in a way that still gives the author respect, rather than scoring a cheap shot at their expense just because you caught them being a little more candid than usual.

Anonymous said...

A blog post is provisional, informal, public and accessible to anyone.

A journal article (in a subscriber only journal as opposed to an "open" journal) is private and inaccessible. It is also formal and subject to different conventions. It is only "provisional" in the sense that someone else (or the first author themself) can critique and correct it.

The two publications are therefore not alike or equal. Therefore it would have been polite for the journal to offer Mark Goodacre the opportunity to respond in the same forum, which he would have had had the critique been published as a comment on his blog post, or as a post on another blog.

Difference of power, prestige and privacy make for injustice. I propose a simple rule of etiquette, if you criticise someone in a strikingly different forum from the one they published in you have a duty to allow them a rejoinder in the new forum.

Anonymous said...

I find this a little odd.

A formal critique should be responding to a formal position, and a blog post doesn't qualify. Responding with another blog post would be fine. Or find the same line of thinking in the published literature and critique that.

But a blog post is not sufficiently concrete to merit a formal reponse.

Anonymous said...

On my blog, I only use my first name. There's enough personally identifiable information that anyone who wanted to could figure out who I am, so I had been considering switching to my full name. But I shudder at the thought that my colloquial, typo-ridden ad hoc scribbles would be meticulously dissected in a peer-reviewed journal. It's on the internet, and anyone is welcome to read it (or quote it, even). But to publish an article refuting it would be like critiquing a professions athlete's performance in the sports page when they're just throwing a ball around in the backyard with their friends. So I think I'll stick with just my first name to dissuade any such nonsense. But whether a breach of good sense is a breach of etiquette, I will not presume to say.

On second thought, yes I will. He should have asked first.

veryrarelystable said...

I've not yet found time to read Foster's article, but I'm very familiar with your blog post and the fact that you also presented the idea at SBL. Given that you have put out a new idea twice in two different forums, both of which are likely to gain attention (and, at least in part, this must have been your intent) I think it is unreasonable to complain when people start to discuss, analyze, dissect it. If you want to ask people to "hold off", then firstly you should do just that (which you didn't as far as I can see), and secondly you should not share it in such wide forums (twice!). Once your idea is out there, whether right or wrong, it is a matter of respect for you that people are taking it seriously and discussing it. I would feel very uncomfortable with the idea that a published notion cannot be addressed. Just what would you suggest are the reasonable limits of discussing publicly published ideas?

Perhaps I should add, before you put up this post, I also asked Bart Ehrman to comment on your idea on his blog, as he is planning to do a post on the Gospel of Peter. He indicated, again on his blog, that he might do - showing, incidentally, that he too was fully familiar with your idea. Do you wish to intervene and stop this?

Ryan said...

Kyle said "But to publish an article refuting it would be like critiquing a professions athlete's performance in the sports page when they're just throwing a ball around in the backyard with their friends."

I agree with your point to a degree (see my post above) but not all the way. There is an assumption in there that I think is yet unproven, namely that posting on the internet is the equivalent of throwing the ball around in the backyard. But are they comparable? Your backyard example works because everyone agrees that in your own backyard you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. But the internet does not come with that. In fact, posting something on the internet yields potentially more public exposure than any other venue we have ever had. Rather than being like your backyard, it's more like going out in the middle of centre field at wriggly park while the tv cameras are on and throwing the ball around then! (and if an athlete did go an have his practice throws in such a public venue, the newspapers would [and do] write and comment about it, but they would write about it as *practice* and not as a *performance*, and readers would distinguish it as such. That was also my point above: yes, blog postings are unpolished, but if you identify them as such, then I think we can trust the reader to judge them accordingly)

You're hitting on the heart of the question though: what sort of venue is this? What type of etiquette and code of manners should be associated with it? And that is exactly what we are trying to figure out here. said...

You can always amend and develop a blog post. Then it can become more than random jottings.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, After I'd already said backyard in my previous comment, it occurred to me that a park might be the better analogy (and I mean the kind of park where you go for a picnic or take your kids, not the ballpark). It's a public space, but what one does in it is very different than what one would do in the venue in which one normally practices one's trade. To my mind, it is inconsiderate to suddenly impose the rules of one sort of discourse on another sort, just as it would be very stupid for the sports reporter to write a critique of an athlete's play in the park.

Now you're quite right that it is legitimate for someone to report what happened in one public place in another sort. The reporter can say "I saw Player X pick up a ball with his children in Jackson Park on his off day. It was very sweet, but I hope he doesn't go so easy on the Yankees tomorrow," and Foster can mention that Goodacre has made some comments suggesting a certain argument, and maybe note that he foresees the argument being susceptible to certain criticisms. But this should be a footnote in an article on something else.

And maybe here's where my analogy breaks down. The baseball player can still play the same game against the Yankees tomorrow, no matter what our reporter does or doesn't write about his afternoon in the park. But Foster's (and JTS's) decision to enter a blog post into the scholarly record changes the playing conditions and limits the possibilities for how the argument can be advanced in future publications (Mark made such a point in a comment on Facebook). I think we should all call foul on that before it becomes the new norm (this is the most argument by sports analogy I have done in years, by the way).

Ryan said...

Great response Kyle, thanks.

I still think this is a question that is not fully answered yet.

As I posted above, the one time I faced it last year I had a hard time figuring out the right way to handle it, and even now I'm not sure I decided correctly. So I'm far from decided on this.

There is some merit in what you say, and I think I resonate most with the notion that I think I hear implicitly in what you're saying: the governing rule of handling others' material with respect. There's a big difference between presenting someone's blog material in a respectful way that lets them come off well, and presenting like you caught them with their pants down, so to speak. I wonder if it's the prospect of the latter that has many people concerned here, whereas if they saw the former in practice, they might not be as concerned.

The thing I still wonder about though is the central question: what is the nature of a blog post? That's the question that mark started with, and I still don't see that we've found a good reason to answer it one way rather than another.

A lot of people have said they think that a blog should be considered off-limits, or as you said, off the record, and in that way, more like a private conversation.

And a lot of people think that way about the internet in general. As I mentioned above, the news is often full of stories of some person getting in trouble at work or elsewhere because of something they posted online, and the people always seem to be surprised that they could get in trouble for such a thing. It's as if they too assumed that that an online post was the type of private, off the record thing that you couldn't be held accountable for in your real life.
I think I see a bit of that assumption here, and it is puzzling to me.
Everyone knows that the internet is the single most public venue humanity has ever created. Even stuff published in a book won't be around for as long, or accessible by as many people, as something posted online. In that way, the virtual is much more real and permanent than anything else. So it's puzzling to me that we would get this assumption that posting something in this most public of places is somehow more private and more off-the-record than if I published it in a less public and less permanent forum (i.e. a journal or book).
I meant, that assumption may yet win the day and become the prevailing etiquette, and I may yet agree with it, but do you see the incongruity?

Maybe the problem isn't with other people treating online postings as if they were public and on the record; maybe the problem was with us assuming in the first place that this was a private and casual venue where you could colloquially say things off the record?

Anonymous said...

I see your point, and I think what we're saying is pretty close. I would only clarify that I don't think a blog post is private. I just think that in 99% of cases, it's a different sort of public discourse, usually written with a different public in mind. Now I suppose that part of the reason why it's so hard to pin down exactly what kind of discourse a blog is is that there is no single kind. There are scholarly blogs, there are fan blogs, there are fiction blogs, there are forums for angsty rants in the middle of the night that I remember being so much fun when I was younger (and which have all since been deleted or password protected, and if God is merciful, nobody will ever think to associate them with my adult self). I've seen blog posts with footnotes and bibliographies (which I've used in my own work once or twice).

There is never going to be a clear answer that applies to all cases. And I suppose that the rules of any discourse are always being negotiated. New rules are usually agreed upon when somebody tries something new, and most other people feel like it went to far in some direction. In that sense, Prof. Foster might have actually done a service to the academic community.

Maybe it will become an expectation for bloggers to indicate on their blog what sort of discourse they see themselves as engaging in. This post has inspired me to add a clarifying note to my own blog (not that I anticipate anyone ever taking notice of it in a peer-reviewed journal. When I update it at all, it's more in my church voice than my academic voice. And since I am but a lowly dissertator with only a single book review to my non-publicized name).

So I think what we're dealing with here is a venial sin (if even that), but I would very much like it not to become the new norm. I think that if all people who practice public scholarship were expected to practice it the same way before all publics, the world would be a much worse place.

Anonymous said...

Also, Ryan, it sounds to me like what you did in the instance you narrate was perfectly fine. You drew your audience's attention to something relevant, but made clear that they should pay it a different sort of attention than they were paying to your paper.

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for all these really interesting comments.

A few remarks.

Pete: I am inclined to agree.

Kash: I don't recall the incident you are talking about, I'm afraid.

Deane: you make a good point about the risk being more with the person writing the formal article, in this case Paul Foster. I should add that after he sent me a copy of the proofs of the article, and after I registered some concerns, he added a note to the piece noting that it is work in progress and from a blog post.

Mark Goodacre said...

Richard: I suppose that that is my concern, that this could discourage people from blogging work in progress, or floating ideas. I think I may well be a little more cautious in the future.

Stephen: "mindful of the medium" is a nice way to put it, and I always like a nice bit of alliteration!

Mark Goodacre said...

Ian: I suppose that that gets to the key issue. Reacting to a blog post means that the argument has not been patiently and fully constructed, and so the response necessarily miscronstrues the case. If one is engaging online, in comments or in another blog post, it's all in the nature of the to-and-fro of online exchange, but things change as soon as you choose to respond only via formal publication.

Mark Goodacre said...

All good points, James D. Thanks.

Thanks, Josh. Yes, Paul added those comments after I queried the lack of acknowledgement of the fact that this is work in progress.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Chris, for your comments.

Carl: that is what I find a little surprising. I tend to think that blog posts are best discussed within the blogs, conference papers at conferences, etc.

Mark Goodacre said...

Noah, I'm sure that's right, especially with respect to the temporary nature of blogs and the internet. I could delete that post at the push of a button, and who is to say if our blogs will survive beyond this generation in the same way that the journals do? It's amazing just how much has already disappeared from the early years of the net.

Mark Goodacre said...

Steve: interesting points. That is one of the things that kind of skews the field.

Mark Goodacre said...

Ryan: I think that that's ok. I have sometimes referenced blogs and online stuff in formal publications, especially if there is no other way to get to it. I suppose that what is different here is that it is obvious that I am developing this idea for a formal publication, so a major response at this point seems pre-emptive.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Tim. I actually wondered whether the editors of JTS might do that. However, one of the editors responded by saying that I would be welcome to submit an article on this "in the normal way", i.e. there was no question of offering a right of reply.

Mark Goodacre said...

That's how I tend to feel, spiritualmeanderings (but could you sign your comment?).

Mark Goodacre said...

Kyle: I like the way that you develop the analogy!

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, veryrarelystable (Signed comment?). Well, that's why I would be inclined to frame the issue in terms of etiquette or professional courtesy. Perhaps I could put the question this way: why would one wish to respond to what is flagged as work in progress in a formal publication? Why not respond in the same (or similar forum) with a view to responding in formal publication when one has had the chance to review the formal publication?

Mark Goodacre said...

Kyle and Ryan: loved seeing the development of the analogy and the discussion -- I appreciate the interaction.

Ryan said...

Mark: wow, I'm impressed at your acknowledgement of comments! nice.

Kyle: I think that's a great point you make, about there being different types of blog. I followed your link to yours, for example, and it was obvious that yours was a very casual blog, and quoting your writings from it in any professional context would probably be a little silly. But on the other hand, I know of many struggling - up-and-coming professional writers for whom their blog is their primary place of publication (the modern equivalent of the old self-publishing) and so their blogs represent their best and most polished work, and they would love for it to be engaged seriously.

So I think you're right: attention to blog genre, if we can call it that, has to be paramount.

Peter M. Head said...

I am surprised at this article appearing in JTS. I think a better policy on their part would have been to provisionally accept the article but delay publication so that it could interact with a formal publication from MG. But the phenomenon is interesting/notable not least because it appears in JTS, normally regarded as a flagship publication in our field. said...

It's all fair game.

Unknown said...


The incident to which I was referring was a past of yours calling to attention possible plagiarism from your blog in a certain (well-published) New Testament introduction, in which it seemed to me you thought the blog should have been cited. Hopefully that clarifies and my previous comment will now make better sense.

Unknown said...

"past of yours" = "past *post* of yours"

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Peter. I'd have thought something similar.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Kash. Ah, ok. That was a post in which I asked whether or not John Drane had used one of my web pages in the revision of his NT intro. My point here is to question how far it is helpful to subject blog posts to scholarly critique as if the blog posts were themselves formal publications. I actually don't have a problem in principle with the citation of blog posts in formal publications. I have done so myself, e.g. the article "The Talpiot Tomb and the Bloggers" referenced (and linked) above. I even referred to NT Wrong's blog in my recent Thomas and the Gospels. What this may show is that the lines of demarcation are not clear, and that more discussions like this may be helpful.

Christopher said...

One would have thought that if Paul Foster wanted to criticise the blog posting that he could have done so here in the comments.

Then his critique would have been in an equivalent published context as the original posting.

Tim Lacy said...

I'm with timbulkeley and veryrarelystable in that either the article's author or the journal editor should have contacted you for permission. I mean, per the comments of others, what if the journal had been inaccessible to you---that you were unable to see it or reply? They can't just assume that you'll find and be able to access the piece.

But, I think perhaps every blog with academic authors will now need to specify "provisional" or "cite by permission only" to each post with any kind of academic argument---or just to make that a blanket caveat for the blog.

I wonder if one of the Creative Commons licenses covers this kind of contingency? - TL

Mark Goodacre said...

That's an interesting angle, Tim. I had not considered that. In practice, I suppose that it is very unlikely that a prof. in a university would be unable to get access to JTS, but it speaks to the broader point about our choice of forum for feedback on a given issue. Something similar cropped up some years ago, when I message I sent to an e-list was quoted in a formal publication. I subsequently changed my mind about what I had said in the email, so the "setting in stone" of the email comment in the formal publication did not work very well.

I must admit that I am loathe to start putting specifications on the blog. On balance, I think I'm just more likely to avoid blogging about anything that I am likely to turn into a formal publication.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Chris. Yes, that kind of gets to my own thinking. Blog comments are there for interaction, or one could use one's own blog, e.g. Edinburgh has its own. But each to their own.