In the past few weeks there has been a number of discussions on the role of blogging in scholarly communication and whether they should be included in promotion and tenure. What it comes down to is how we place blogging into our current methods for evaluating scholarly work. How does blogging fit into promotion and tenure? Is it publication, service, outreach, professional development or teaching? Or is it unique? Or is it just informal service and outreach to the public?

A recent discussion has spawned about the blog as a legitimate publication with a post-publication peer review. This started as a result of a discussion about promotion and tenure in Anthropology that took place mid-October. The talk was led by the American Anthropological Association, and the entire webinar can be accessed on their website. In response, Greg Downey wrote an “Immodest Proposal” which proposes that we support the blog as a legitimate publication. Disciplinary change comes from group action, therefore Downey proposes that we write letters of support for each other regarding the quality of blogs, value to the discipline, and scholarly rigor.

As a grad student scholar who writes well-referenced and researched blog (Bones Don’t Lie) posts twice a week, this directly affects me (as well as any of the other authors on this site or blogging grads out there). I am highly visible because of my blog, and have created a digital network of peers who often review and critique my work. At the end of this semester I will have to hand in my mid-term review to my department, which will determine my rank and funding status for next year. If the blog counts towards my scholarly accomplishments it could greatly help me with my ranking, especially if it considered a publication which is the most important contribution of a grad student here.

My blog is a publication. The question is then how to present it in a way that shows that it is a valid piece of scholarship. Dr. Ethan Watrall and I discussed this, and were able to compile a list of ways to show the rigor and merit of the blog as scholarship. To do this we need to measure the impact of the blog, show the blog in a more traditional way, and if possible, have advocates.

1. Pingbacks are citations: in the digital world if someone links to a blog post it will be traced back to your blog post as a pingback. You can use these handy things as a way to look at how people are using your blog and who it has affected. This week my pingbacks alerted me that my post on violence in Peru was an Editor’s Choice on Research Blogging.

2. Hits and comments on individual posts: Instead of noting overall posts, show the impact of each post. Present each post as a publication and show its individual impact. Also, make sure to note those posts which have well known scholars commenting. This shows your impact in a meaningful way, especially if they know the person commenting!

3. Republishing posts: Make sure you note how blogs have been reused or republished. While I post primarily on my blog, these have been reposted on the Past Horizons website. It’s important to note how your work is being used and the audiences that it is reaching.

4. Printing off blog posts with comments: It was joked about among the ProfHacker crowd that they would start printing off every blog post they had ever written and include them in their promotion file. But seriously, why not? If we print off the work and present it as a bound book it appeals to the more traditional form of scholarly publication. If you include all of your posts as a nicely presented book it’s bound to get a better reception than 200 separate pieces of paper.

5. Getting letters of endorsements and advocates: Downey suggests that the way we can change the perception of blogging from informal musings to professional publication is to write letters of endorsement for each other. Better yet, get individuals in your department to support your blog as formal publication. When your review comes up and has 200 blog posts attached to it, you are going to need someone to fight for you.

What do you think? Is it a risk to try to introduce a new form of scholarly communication to your department? Are you going to label your blog as a publication?

[Image by Flickr user Quinn Anya and used under Creative Commons license]


26 Responses to Taking a Chance: My Blog is a Publication

  1. [...] out the post here: Taking a Chance, My blog as a publication GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  2. Greg Downey says:

    Katy -
    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I think we do need to push this as you know from my post over at Neuroanthropology. But I also think that it’s not cool to make grad students act as the front line in the effort to produce change. Some of us comparative geezers need to also use it in our promotion applications, EVEN IF WE DON’T *NEED* BLOGGING to get a promotion, so that it changes attitudes towards online writing.

    But you should seriously consider getting outside people to read and write in support. Not just people in your department. One reason that blog writing has the effect it does is that we reach a far-flung audience. I’ve discovered that a handful of people in my own department have NO CLUE that I blog — or they do, but they would never read a weblog — so they’re ill-suited to write support. How much better would it be to have a ‘blog profile’ that includes positive endorsements from around the world, especially from scholars or other figures that your own colleagues in department will find surprising.

    But, yes, I strongly encourage you to push this. Your online work should not be irrelevant.

    • Katy Meyers says:

      Thanks for the support Greg! Hopefully I will be able to get some letters of support for my blog. As it gets closer to the time of actually submitting it I will start looking for support.

      In regards to grad students being at the front line of this change, there is something to be said for getting more established scholars to put their blogs out there too. I think its up to all levels of our discipline to aid in making this change.

      Again, thanks for your comment and support.


  3. Craig Gorveatt says:

    As a Grad Student I’ve been thinking about this too. I already write a blog for the Department I work in but have been considering one just for me so that there is no confusion about ownership or hesitation from myself about appropriate topics.

    My concern is that a) I will blog more and more and write less and less traditional articles b) I will not want to blog about ideas that I think could turn into a traditional publication for fear that someone else will.

    I’m still not sure what would work best for me.

  4. John Hawks says:

    Thanks for this post, Katy!

    Soliciting letters of support is important. You can treat it like teaching — you need peer observations of teaching for your portfolio, and you should also have peer letters reflecting online work.

    I think whether your blog “counts as a publication” depends on what you’re counting for. Ideally, a program will rank students as a way to direct them toward activities that will assist them in finishing a Ph.D. and establishing a career. A blog can be great for the latter (and I think yours is just the kind that helps the most). Your challenge is to show that it doesn’t impede your degree progress.

    • Katy Meyers says:

      Thanks for the comment and advice John! I think you are correct in that the difficulty of this endeavor is finding a way to prove to traditional faculty that the blog is a worthwhile method of scholarship. Hopefully my plan I outlined above, as well as the inclusion of letters of support will be enough.
      Again, thanks for the support!

  5. Katy,
    Sometimes when I think through these issues, I wonder how much of this is in the eye of the beholder. I have had faculty encourage blogging in the ways I engage with it and seem to truly value it. I have had other faculty behave in the “web? blogging? series of tubes?” manner, and thus don’t value it at all. Being in ed tech, I think I have an easier time “selling it,” but it remains an uphill battle even in that arena. All of your tips here go a long way to making a case for it. Thanks so much for this!

  6. I think it is also incredibly important to point out that this discussion very much depends on your blog’s content. There are lots of different kinds of blog/long form online writing – some of which (while quality) might not be appropriate (for topical or disciplinary reasons) for inclusion.

  7. Last year, I was on the job market, and I actually took pains to *not* mention my blog. It wasn’t in my cover letter, it wasn’t in my CV, but an industrious search committee member would easily be able to find it by googling me. The result: only one person mentioned it (and was not terribly happy about it).

    I did a lot of thinking in advance of this year’s job search. My blog evolved over the past year, from one that was primarily about my research to one that is about my research, other happenings in bioarchaeology, and essays on topics I find interesting (sort of mini-lectures or mini-articles).

    So this year, I am mentioning my blog, because I’m pretty proud of it. I talk about it in my cover letter as public outreach and list it on my CV under “New Media” (where I also list my invited guest blog posts, such as for Past Horizons, ThenDig, and Anthropologies).

    I don’t know if “outing” myself as a blogger will help me or hurt me in the job market, just like I don’t know if deciding to support my latest research project through crowdfunding will help me or hurt me. I suspect it depends on the composition of the hiring committee and on my ability to “sell” new media as reasonable academic writing/fundraising.

    [Aside: for some reason, I don't get pingbacks. I know people have linked to my posts, but they don't appear. I blame Blogger.]

    • Katy Meyers says:

      That’s interesting that you received negative feedback for your blog. My biggest fear is that mine is going to be seen as detrimental. So far mine has been positive, although some consider it a distraction from real scholarship. Andrea also mentioned positive feedback. I like the idea of adding it as new media, currently I divide my blog by publications and digital publications. Thanks for the comment!

    • some thoughts about blogs + job searches. While the reality of the matter is that the primary goal of the job search is to secure a job, one has to think about whether they want to live in a department (or lab or organization) that (either institutionally or individually) doesn’t take your blogging seriously. So, why hide it (and I’m glad that you are forefronting it this job search cycle). If this kind of scholarly work is part of your scholarly identity, you shouldn’t secret it away like some sort of dirty secret. Present it as part of your scholarly activity, and be damn sure that when it comes to interviews (and it will come up) you can thoughtfully and intelligently articulate why it is important (both to you and the discipline), its impact, its reach, etc. For those who aren’t doing so already, you really need to read up on the debate in this domain. There is quite a bit of very thoughtful discussion, debate, research, data, and analysis that speaks to the issue of new forms of scholarly publication. Become familiar with it – because if you can’t advocate for this kind of writing, who else will.

  8. Jamie Hall says:

    This is really interesting. I’ve run a blog, (sporadically posting, but still active) for a little over 18 months. I’m not from an academic background, but I write on a fairly academic subject – medieval non-ferrous metalwork.

    I haven’t yet started to use a formal system for referencing papers/books, but I intend to start doing so.

    The only problem with pingbacks acting as references is that the reader would need to follow the entire train of references to be sure that all of them were properly referenced themselves – ie. a blog like mine isn’t currently formal enough to use as a reference, which then undermines any further research which is based on it.

  9. Good post. I’ll echo previous posters who mentioned that reactions to blogging depend on your field and the specific department in which you are enrolled or to which you are applying. It also should not distract grad students from the next step in their career, which is finishing the degree.

    Just a note: Effect/affect and it’s/its are not the same, especially if you want to use this post in your review. :)

  10. [...] After a week and a half away from work, the volume of unread messages in my e-mail inbox had shot up, as one might expect.  However, careful clearing away of the clutter made opening my inbox far less daunting on my first day back. What was less manageable, though, was the “1000+” on my Google Reader and the loss of the Share functionality.  Much as I wished to, I hesitated to delete or mark all new posts as read, analogous to an approach recommended by Danah Boyd for avoiding e-mail overload following a sabbatical.  There were gems in that mountain of blogposts, I was certain. A simple slash-and-burn method of attacking the feed reader overload would have meant missing out on this jewel in particular: Katy Meyers’s post at GradHacker entitled, “Taking a Chance: My Blog is a Publication”. [...]

  11. I think there is serious issue with the word “blogging.” It carries serious baggage that harken back to the late 90s. Today’s blogging is so far removed from the “weblog” of the past. Academic blogging is a very different animal that exists in a very different kind of ecosystem. So, I challenge everyone to think about a new way of labeling this sort of writing. In truth, I don’t have a really good answer to offer (and, as many have said, an important variable is your discipline)

  12. [...] my blog as a publication. You can see my whole proposal and how I intend to do this on GradHacker: Taking a Chance- My Blog as a Publication. This initiative has spawned from a number of scholarly discussions about the role of the blog, and [...]

  13. [...] current academic blog debate has focused less these issues of content and form than on recognition. A recent Gradhacker post offers one take, arguing blogs should count as a “legitimate publication,” a credit [...]

  14. Fantastic post!!

    In my dept. because of the peculiar nature of my appointment, T & P guidelines were revised to include a vague statement about “suite of scholarly products” or something along those lines. The intent was to allow inclusion of videos, exhibits, and blogs associated with my work in museums. I suspect that such revisions will ultimately prove the cracks that will bring down the outdated hierarchical pecking order of what publications count and for how much in the tenure process.

    Via exposure on my blog, I was asked to submit articles for peer review pubs based on blog content, take on leadership positions professionally, have brought esteem to my university, etc. etc.

    I am confident that 5 years from now this will all be a moot point, in the same way that peer reviewed online pubs are now less viewed as lesser than. Similarly, the silo-ization of depts will give way to interdisciplinary research.

  15. Kaitlin Gallagher says:

    Great post! I agree with the commenter who suggested the heading of “new media”. I recently looked at my supervisor’s CV and he has a section for anything he has done in or for the media. I would say it might be worth breaking down the publication categories on your CV in order to separate out “peer reviewed”, “non-peer reviewed” and “media publications” related to your work.

  16. [...] journals such as Tennessee Archaeology, Museums and Society, or even in blogs.  (See this link for an interesting discussion on the use of blogs in tenure and promotion [...]

  17. [...] the range of responses to the research potential of blogs.  More recently, is an interesting post on the use of blogs in the Tenure and Promotion process at [...]

  18. [...] Meyers, Katy. 2011. “Taking a Chance: My Blog is  a Publication.” gradhacker. November 4 Retrieved May 15, 2012. ( [...]

  19. [...] Durante los primeros días tendrás muchas ganas de escribir nuevos post pero tranquilo guarda las fuerzas para dentro de tres meses. En un principio unos dos post a la semana puede ser bueno para ir haciéndote un hueco y para que los buscadores, especialmente Google, indexen tu blog ya que les encanta que se produzca nuevo contenido. Luego podrás dejar de pisar el acelerador y tener un ritmo de un post a la semana. [...]

  20. [...] Blogs as scholarly publication: “Taking a Chance: My Blog is a Publication” By: Katy Meyers (2011) Bones Don’t Lie (blog), Michigan State University | The comments are [...]

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