Thursday, July 18, 2013

Risky Blogging?

I responded with snark when a tweet raised the question of is blogging risky for younger academics:
But there is probably something to it. I want to be very clear.  I don't think that blogging in and of itself is likely to endanger many folks seeking tenure.  There was much mything about certain famous cases about six or seven years ago, but I think the basic tenure reality still holds:
if the folks in the department want to tenure you, they will.  If they do not, they will not.  They may come up with excuses to justify their decision, but the excuses have little to do with the motivations much of the time.
If one has a tenurable record and blogs, blogging is not going to get in the way, even if it bothers senior folks that one has opinions, is voicing them, and engaging in outreach.  If one does not have a tenurable record, then blogging might be seen as a cause--that it took time away from publishing.  So, there can be a risk if one spends too much time on blogging and fails to satisfy the criteria that the department has either established or hinted at (some departments are less than transparent).  

So, the risk is really about one's own time management.  One could argue that falling short of the refereed pubs is justified because one's outreach via blogging is swell, but that probably will not win the day, nor should it.  If doing heaps of media shouldn't count for missing pubs (and I have argued it should not), doing heaps of blogging should not count for missing heaps of pubs.  Why?  Because, at least in the social and not so social sciences, our primary job (other than teaching) is to produce reviewed research.  Blogs are entirely unreviewed, which is why they are so much fun. 

I do believe that the two enterprises should be connected--that one should disseminate one's research in as many ways as possible, including via blogs.  And that one's research can be and often is inspired by blogging/tweeting and the reactions to it.  But blogging is not producing science--not without review. 

Finally, I think that universities should not provide disincentives for engagement.  Merit money can be aimed at facilitating more engagement, as grants now require more dissemination.  But promotion/tenure are blunt instruments and should be focused on those more central aspects of one's job as a professor.  Giving lifetime employment to folks should be based on their more solid/central contributions.  Giving cash, on the other hand, makes complete sense.

No comments: