Sunday, June 25, 2017

Self-Promotion in IR: Necessary?

Dan Nexon had an epic tweetstorm about the need to self-promote yesterday which got many responses.  The basic gist, I believe, is: academic work does not often speak for itself. That once you publish something, there is so much out there that unless you promote it, the work will just disappear.  That self-promotion is necessary. 

As readers of the Semi-Spew could guess, I don't disagree.  I don't think there is a single best way to promote one's work.  I use a portfolio approach (or a shotgun approach), where I try to share my stuff in a variety of ways.  Sure, I tweet and I blog (the twitter conversation sure pooh-poohed blogs, but the Semi-Spew and posts I put up elsewhere certainly get more eyeballs than most academic articles). But I also do conventional media, appear at conferences, give talks, chat folks up.

My list of things I don't do to self-promote is easier to write than the stuff that I do.
1. I don't email blast folks about what I have been doing. 
I don't regard email as a broadcasting system, but as a way to communicate professional and/or personally with individuals and small groups about stuff.  But mostly not self-promotion.  Sure, I do inform some folks about things I am doing via email, but that is mostly chit-chat and not efforts to get folks to read my stuff.

Why seek to share one's stuff?  Fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory.  Actually, no.  For younger folks, it is about survival--that tenure letters, invitations to workshops and small conferences, networking opportunities all are better if folks know who you are and what you are doing.  For older folks like myself, who have few moves left and no more promotions, it is something else.  For me, as I receive government money for my salary and for my grants, I feel obligated to disseminate my work (many grants require "knowledge mobilization plans).

Most importantly, as a scholar, I feel that it is not enough to "create knowledge" (that high falutin' phrase always triggers me a smidge)--that once one has an idea, part of the job is to share it. With students, with peers, with relevant audiences.  So, it is not just about self-interest but about identity, obligation and norms. It really is in the job title: professor.  To profess means to say or to declare (the online definitions then include "sometimes falsely" which is not supposed to be what professors do). Our job is to learn and then to share what we learn. So, self-promotion is not just about advancing one's career, although that is certainty part of it, but it is also about doing the job.

There is much one can say about this basic challenge--that academic work does not speak for itself--so this conversation will continue.   The one thing I would add is that it is not just about self-promotion but other-promotion.  I don't read as much as I should, but when I find stuff that I like, that impacts me, I do promote it.  Especially, these days, if the work is by folks who are underrepresented.  Hence my lists of best books that often tend to be focused on the contributions of female scholars.

Can there be such a thing as too much self-promotion?  Probably, but the current debate suggests that the bigger problem is too little self-promotion.





1 comment:

Martin Heisler said...

Whether the meaning of professing encompasses self-promotion or not, I agree with the gist of Steve's post. Allowing your work to be "discovered" may have sufficed in the genteel days of Ivy academia in the 19th or early 20th centuries, it hasn't for some time. Not only do the careers (read job trajectories) of individual scholars depend on being known (perhaps more as name recognition than for the substance of one's work), the fortunes of their institutions do as well. Reputational indeces redound to the institution's standing and institutions reward individual academics for their contributions to good reputation scores.