Thursday, May 28, 2009
  Should blogging count for academics?
Many academics now blog. [Cue crusty elderly mumbles about how back in 2006, 5, 4... there were merely a handful of us...] So, the issue of whether, and if so how, blogging should "count" among academics is a live one. There is, certainly nothing like a clear common answer. Even among blogging-academics the topic has been hashed and rehashed, but little light as emerged.

Evaluations of academics' performance are traditionally, and probably globally, thought of under three headings:
  • teaching: fairly obvious, includes preparing, marking, talking to students...
  • research: usually requires publication in a peer-reviewed form of actual research, so writing a Bible Dictionary article usually counts as service or teaching not research
  • service: a rag bag for anything else the academic and their evaluators think of as "work", committees, consulting, speaking to non-professional groups etc.
The current posts among biblical studies bloggers, opened the conversation with Stephen's Academic Blogging: Publication or Service? and also Mark's response Academic Blogging: Publication, Service or Teaching posing the question in terms Marx would have approved. Does blogging "count" as work, and if so of what sort? In other words the question is economic, should I/we be paid to blog?

Jim in a typically forthright reply poses the question differently in Blogging: To What End? and Mark offered a typically reflective answer in Why blog? I'll answer Jim's question briefly, and then return to the original one. I blog because I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of reading other people's posts, and I hope that (by blogging myself) I can add a different voice and perspective to the mix. In short I blog for the same reason that I do not (despite being a raving introvert) sit silent in a corner during conversations in the Carey staffroom, or the church coffee room after the service, because I feel part of the community.

So, back to the question should blogging count as work for academics?

Professional scholars have long enjoyed a privileged elite status in society, not least in the freedom to choose how to spend time. As long as certain requirements of teaching and committees are fulfilled, we get to select which interests to research. To a large extent too we get to choose when to work, late into the evening for some, early mornings for others... and if the plumber can only call on Tuesday afternoon there is a good chance that the family academic can arrange to be home at that time :)

And yet, these freedoms, and especially the freedom to research, have been restricted over the years.

When I began at Carey in 1993 we taught typically 4-5 courses a year, 2 larger courses (maybe 25-35 students) in one semester and 3 smaller ones with 7-20 students in the other. This left plenty of time for research and service, and these activities were not rigorously assessed. If my research produced no publications some years, but I wrote a series for the denominational paper, that was fine.

Now we teach 5 courses a year, and few of them have less than 30 students while the largest have 70-80. About a third of these are distance students, so a whole extra layer of preparation and interactivity online has been added. My guess is that overall these changes double the time taken each year by teaching, take out committee meetings and the like... research and service become spare time activities. Yet research is now subject to a government sponsored evaluation process, it is not enough to produce an article for a local (= Australasian) journal, at least some of my publications must be in top international journals...

Should blogging "count"? I do hope not, because if it does, I'll need to produce "n" posts a year, and remove from Sansblogue any posts I fear will not meet the approval of some committee. If blogging starts to "count" then the biblical blogsphere will become a mass of turgid, safely academic, posts full of language designed to impress rather than to communicate, relieved only by the amateurs - used in it's deep sense of someone who undertakes an activity for love rather than payment - and the outsiders.

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