Chris Blattman

Should junior faculty blog (a.k.a. my most ignominious quote ever)

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John Sides examines the political scientist as blogger in the latest issue of PS.

Is blogging for the untenured? By dint of their relative youth, untenured faculty are often those most disposed to read and produce content online, but they may perceive blogging as professionally risky. One political scientist and prominent blogger, Daniel Drezner, did not receive tenure at the University of Chicago—a fact that cannot be directly attributed to his blogging but nonetheless may make junior faculty anxious (see Drezner 2005).

At one level, skepticism about the time you spend blogging has an arbitrary quality. Because blogging is public, some may consider it a direct threat to research productivity. But why focus on the opportunity cost of blogging? This activity is far from the only thing that detracts from time devoted to research. Political scientist and blogger Chris Blattman makes this point well:

I average under 30 minutes a day blogging—less than most people would take to commute (I don’t), practice an instrument (nope), or watch a TV show (don’t even own one). Has anyone ever reflected, “A pity Bob didn’t get tenure. It’s a shame he lives in the suburbs and plays the piano. But it’s that fourth season of ‘Lost’ that really screwed him”?

Such is my blog debut in the academic press. Sigh. The original post is here.

7 Responses

  1. Out of curiosity, what do you think protocol is for quoting or citing blogs in academic articles? Especially if the academic article is not about blogging?

  2. I agree with the others – that was a great post of yours – no reason to sigh!

  3. It’s an interesting quote, Chris, from what I thought was a very good blog post of yours. That said, I think you’re right that no one’s tenure rejection ever included something like the first part — about the commute and the piano — but it wouldn’t surprise me if P&T committees discussed faculty members’ habit of watching too much television (which is an easy signal to pick up on; my students often comment in teaching evaluations about my pop culture refernces, and I’m sure people would regard that as a sign that I watch movies and tv, and that I go to concerts). Similarly, there’s a lot of talk — around my department and even my college — about my use of technology. Luckily for me, I think a lot of people here have been very forward-looking and positive about how I use Twitter or blogging as a component of some of my classes. Going forward, it might even be the case that my own blogging will come to be seen as something serious (akin to research or a component of my research) or at least good outreach for the department and the university — something that’s not purely fun and games.

    That will take time, of course, and the key will probably always be to demonstrate that the blogging contributes to traditional research in some way. But I managed to avoid the debate about junior faculty blogging by waiting to really start doing it in earnest until my tenure file was submitted…

  4. It’s not a bad point to make for a debut :-) Could have been worse.

    But it’s also not just for academia. I maintain a technical blog in the I.T. industry and follow other technical blogs in my area of expertise. There’s a concern that blogging takes up time that could otherwise be devoted to real work.

    I’ve consciously lightened up on T.V. in order to blog. I still play the piano. Eventually I’d like to find time to paint and jog. (But my real dream is to implement a visitor perks program for frequent house visitors)

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