Three themes emerged around scholarly blogs from a lively panel discussion moderated by ACI Scholarly Blog Index during the Charleston Conference last month entitled Why We Blog—Reshaping Research, Captivating Tales from Academic Bloggers. The themes are: the importance of archiving, discoverability, and citability of scholarly blogs. There is a rich level of scholarly activity outside of formal journals and the internet enables authors to connect directly with their users in a lively exchange of ideas and opinions. In a humorous “Jerry Maguire” moment, the faculty bloggers reached out to the librarians in the audience with a “Help Me, Help You” message: how to better tag and categorize blogs and blog posts so they can be more readily discovered in archives.
The panelists identified two major populations of bloggers, early career academics, including graduate students, and post-tenure faculty. The early career academics are building a reputation and a blog affords them a platform to reach and influence readers. Then, according to Nadelhoffer and Woolsey “reality sinks in” that they will need to focus on more traditional scholarly forms of publishing—books and single-author journal articles—to support tenure. Once tenure is granted, many faculty resume blogging.
Following up on recognition, the panelists discussed different types of credit for scholarly writing with younger academics pushing for recognition and “credit” for their scholarly blogs. Although institutional recognition and credit for blogging is not currently given, colleges and universities frequently will acknowledge professional credit, as service to the profession, for scholarly blogs. Affiliating blogs to the academic reward system could open up a quantitative approach to recognition, instead of the qualitative approach employed today. It was from this recognition and reward discussion that the panel moved on to the importance of discovering and citing scholarly blogs and preserving them for research.
Two bloggers on the panel moderated by Pat Sabosik, General Manager of ACI Scholarly Blog Index were Thomas Nadelhoffer, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, College of Charleston and Bill Woolsey, Associate Professor of Economics, The Citadel. Both have been blogging for more than ten years and are publishing blogs for communities of scholars and researchers. Blogging gave these academics a way of commenting on emerging trends and developments in scholarship and the world.
Bill Woolsey is a macroeconomist, a Lieutenant Colonel at The Citadel with a PhD in Economics from George Mason University and the Mayor of James Island, a small town outside of Charleston, SC. Woolsey began publishing his blog, Monetary Freedom, in 2008 at the start of the recent economic downturn because, as he said: “economics became exciting again after the 1985 to 2007 great moderation.” He was critical of the Federal Reserve and had something to say. So did other economists and a group of ten to twelve economists, labeled Market Monitors, began blogging about monetary and fiscal policy. They are recognized as economists who are active in the blogging world, have a following, and inform each other’s research.
Thomas Nadelhoffer is a philosopher, with a PhD from Florida State University, who began blogging in 2000 at the start of the experimental philosophy movement and now publishes three group blogs. His blog, Experimental Philosophy, started in 2003 as a group of graduate students and junior faculty started paying attention to an emerging new field of study, “experimental philosophy,” and the blog was designed as “a community building exercise to provide a plan for experimental philosophers to get together to discuss and defend a metaphysical set of ideas.” Approximately 125 contributors have written for Experimental Philosophy.
Flickers of Freedom, Nadelhoffer’s second blog, focuses on topics of free will, moral psychology, and moral responsibility. The blog started in 2009, resurrecting the community of bloggers who coalesced around a free will blog that abruptly closed down. Nadelhoffer stepped in with the Flickers blog, another group blog that is run like a journal with monthly assignments for bloggers and topics.
These two blogs, and the philosophical and psychological topics covered are tied to Nadelhoffer’s research on free will. The third blog he manages, Discrimination and Disadvantage, co-started with Kevin Timpe at Northwest Nazarene University, is a platform for philosophers to address some of the systemic problems plaguing the profession, such as gender and racial inequity. The blog is slowly growing and finding its voice and a following.
Chris Erdmann, Chief Strategist for Research Collaboration at North Carolina State University, was the third panelist and a research librarian contributing a librarian’s perspective on the value of scholarly blogs to the research community. Erdmann was formerly a librarian at the Wolbach Library, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics where he was embedded into the research processes of the astrophysicists working there and studied the research lifecycles of early career astronomers, their engagement with .Astronomy, the communications challenges, and diversity in the profession of scientists.
Erdmann saw that astrophysicists wanted to get “credit” for their work, including blog posts, and began researching how to index these blog posts in the Astrophysics Data System, the main research database for astrophysicists, and obtain DOIs (digital object identifiers) for the posts. In the Astrophysics Data System, blog posts live in a rich citation environment where scientists can track citation rates. The exposure to scholarly writing becomes part of the academic reward system according to Erdmann.
The panel discussion wrapped up with commentary on how scholarly articles are written primarily for the research community and not accessible to the general public. Blogs can be an entry point into the academic discourse around a theme, trend, or research topic. As Woolsey summed up, economics blogs are generally written by tenured professors, PhD Economists, but frequently the comments on these blog posts are from average citizens. Incorporating definitions and reference links to background material makes the blog “article” a teaching article about a point of scholarly writing and a powerful tool to foster understanding.
ACI Scholarly Blog Index is pleased to play a role in the selection, curation, and distribution of scholarly blogs and to bring these blogs to the attention of librarians, students, and the general public. ACI’s mission aligns with the themes identified by the panelists to be able to discover and cite scholarly blogs and have them archived for future research. Through partnerships with the major library discovery services, Portico for archiving, and ORCID for author identification, ACI is fulfilling its mission.