On Blogging: Faith and Tenure

Aug 19 2008 Published by under Blogging

Speaking of prof-blogging, I've had the pleasure of two additional excellent commentaries on blogging issues this week.
I think many people referenced John Hawks' first piece on using blogging as part of one's dossier for tenure. What received far less link-love were his followups, including a discussions of integrating blogging with your normal scholarly activities and graduate student blogging. I've been watching prof-blogging developments with some interest. When I started, I was aware of many graduate student or postdoc blogs but many fewer scientific-researcher professor blogs. Abel Pharmboy had similar observations only six months ago. Since then it seems like every week there is a new one to read! Despite the NegativeNancies it is becoming more likely that blogs will become integrated into the academic crediting system in some way. John Hawks' observations are going to be a key foundation of which this new aspect of academic behavior is built I would suspect.
The second item is actually a podcast. I've listened to maybe 5 or fewer in my life so I will admit I'm not really a podcast expert. Thomas Robey posted a recording of:

The talk I gave last weekend at the annual meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation about blogging as a useful tool for talking about ethics, science and religion in the classroom and in the public sphere is online. Listen to it here. It features my motivations for blogging, my experience here and at Clashing Culture, and some ideas about how blogs could play a larger role in dialogue about science and society in the public and within the mission of the ASA.

It's worth a listen. It is a very nice oral version of the "what is blogging" review that is starting to appear in the scientific print literature.

6 responses so far

  • PhysioProf says:

    Despite the NegativeNancies it is becoming more likely that blogs will become integrated into the academic crediting system in some way.

    I am very skeptical that this is going to happen in the sciences in which peer-review is the linchpin of all professional assessment.

  • dfg says:

    First, I could totally see a blogger getting outed for saying something not science-related or a university cutting off ties for this sort of thing. It happens to corporations and employees all the time.
    Second, I think the current state of affairs is that blogging, especially anonymous blogging, while one is on the tenure track is a way to vent and solicit advice without having to give away the person's identity (and thereby avoid persecution). I hope that it continues to be a coping mechanism and not something that a committee or the scientific community at large uses to judge one's work or person. It's not scientific at all, except to say that the topics may be ABOUT science.

  • I would offer that blogging well could be considered as public outreach or community service in some tenure dossiers while others whose posts are more scholarly might add such examples to their publications list under 'other creative activity.'
    I agree with PhysioProf that the peer-reviewed scientific publication is the gold standard for performance (together with extramural research support). However, I recall Prof Janet Stemwedel holding forth on including some of her more scholarly posts in her tenure dossier. I also teach about sci/med blogging in a mass communications program and put that in my annual documentation of teaching efforts.
    So, no, blogging may not become a major criterion for performance of the academic biomedical scientist. However, we are all being pushed more and more to justify our existence (esp in state universities) and our federal research funding to direct and indirect stakeholders. Substantive, accessible, and content-rich blogging should be considered one means to achieve those ends.

  • PhysioProf says:

    Dude, why you gotta be so reasonable?

  • Grad students who have time to blog are obviously not being kept busy enough. 🙂

  • Thomas Robey says:

    PP says:

    I am very skeptical that this is going to happen in the sciences in which peer-review is the linchpin of all professional assessment.

    I think this is a reasonable comment for those of us who stay in the hard sciences for a career. But for those of us who, in spite the standard conception of scientists as profs at R1 universities, end up expending most of our creative and professional energy on activities other than running a lab, I think that blogging will be more acceptable to credentialing committees. I think of it as 'public scholarship' not unlike newspaper editorials and books for lay readers.
    Thanks for the shout-out, DM.

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