The idea of giving scholarly credit for blogging has stirred up a good deal of controversy in academia. Indeed, when university tenure depends on the concept of "publish or perish," it is logical that professors may want explore alternative venues for publication. Given that blogging is now widely used in education, it seems logical that scholastic bloggers should receive academic credit. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The Case for Giving Service Credit for Blogging
According to University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, universities have three methods of evaluating professors of law. In order to gain tenure, professors must publish articles in scholarly journals, teach a certain number of classes and give service to both the university and general public.
Leiter argues that certain types of law blogs should count as giving service and should therefore be awarded scholarly credit. He uses Lawrence Solum's Legal Theory Blog as an example. Solum's blog summarizes recent academic articles about various topics in the legal field. Leiter believes that by making an easily accessible collection of legal articles online, Solum is performing a great service to the law community.
The Case Against Giving Credit
Despite the many convincing arguments for giving scholarly credit for blogging, there are a number of serious issues associated with it. Here are some of the most pertinent problems.
Intellectual Property Rights in the Blogoshpere
Once unique scholarly information is posted on a blog, it is almost impossible to patent it. Additionally, the work's accessibility to the general public makes it vulnerable to plagiarism. Universities are often uncomfortable with these vague intellectual property issues, and are thus reluctant about giving scholarly credit for blogging.
Blogging and Peer Reviews
The lack of peer reviews may be the deal breaker for giving scholarly credit for blogging. While its true that most blogs have a comment section which can actually lead to some lively debates and discussions, in academia, peer review is a pre-publication process. Of course, many scholars have argued against this process, because the time between the call for papers and actual publication is often excessively long. Proponents of blogging for scholastic credit argue that blogging can supply continuous, ongoing content on a given subject, without the red tape associated with the peer review process.
Lack of Professional Writing Standards
While some bloggers are excellent writers, many ignore the basic standards of good writing. First person language, passive voice and a total disregard of the uppercase prevails throughout the blogosphere. Of course, most academics do not write in this manner, but blogging's reputation for poor quality precedes it. This may explain why universities are hesitant to give scholarly credit to bloggers.
A Case for Academic Blogging
Despite the issues associated with academic credit for blogging, writer Hugh McGuire suggests that all academics should blog.
Blogging Develops Your Writing Skills
As counterpoint to the argument that bloggers often have a less than perfect command of the English language, McGuire argues that academic language can often be dry, dull and full of what he calls "jargony mumbo-jumbo." McGuire also believes that academic blogging provides an immediate feedback loop, and says that if you have a bad idea, you should know about it immediately. Blogging gives you the opportunity to re-work your ideas before you submit them to a professional journal.
Blogging Expands Your Readership
Blogging also expands your readership beyond the students and professors of your university. Additionally, a blog allows you to create a direct link to your references, as long as they are available online - unlike a traditional print journal. By directly linking to your resources and references, you can expand your online network and improve your academic reputation. This can also be an excellent means of public relations for the university.