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The Dialogue

QUESTION:

Should academic blogging count towards tenure and promotion?

YES,

scholarship should be judged by its content, not by its medium.

Perry Glasser

As universities weigh the costs of an operation that mashes trees, treats wood pulp with sulfuric acid, floods pollution into groundwater, etches toxic ink on paper, and burns fossil fuels to deliver bound paper with low cost, expect to see more attention paid to online dissemination of scholarship.

An “academic blog” is more than the self-publication afforded to 14-year-olds eager to chronicle ennui and narcissism. Blogging’s medium is the Internet. Publishing’s medium is print. Distribution of blogs is accomplished instantly and electronically; distribution of paper is accomplished slowly and mechanically. Promotion and tenure committees are charged with judging the contribution of junior professors to a discipline—an assessment of thought, not of medium.

The importance of a publication has nothing to do with its medium but everything to do with the intelligence and reputations of jurors who judge it. Juried blogs are growing increasingly. The only reason a print publication might still be privileged over an electronic one by a promotion and tenure committee is that senior academics have all the energy of a walrus so are reluctant to read the materials.

The good old days when a list of prestigious journal titles could be ticked off on the fingers of a single hand are gone. Lists of publications on curriculum vitae can no longer be assessed by tape measure because the kind and number of journals has exploded. With all those titles, no one can assume six publications must be worth twice as much as three. Ten pages in the PMLA is not worth twice as much as five pages in the PMLA—or five pages of a blog. What matters is the quality of the thought.

—Perry Glasser is the author of two fiction collections and a forthcoming third, Dangerous Places. After years of being a magazine editor, he currently coordinates the professional writing program at Salem State College in Massachusetts.


NO,

to date, blogging falls under the label of informal communication not scholarship.

Larry Tinnerman

Increasingly, there are questions as to the value of academic blogging in the tenure and promotion process. The logical answer to this question would necessarily depend upon whether blogging is considered scholarship or service.

In the area of scholarship, it is clear that most tenure committees still prefer and will only count those materials that have gone through some process of peer review to assure quality control. In the area of service, however, blogging may certainly be considered viable—based upon the level and rigor of supportable knowledge being contributed to the academic area.

To clarify, individuals who may decide to post an article or opinion piece in the public press generally understand that such contributions routinely fail to qualify as scholarship and yet, at the same time, do support the community as an informational service. Any blog that would past scholarly muster may be better served by finding a home in an accepted refereed publication or journal. That said, with the emergence of new technologies and forms of communication, a discussion may be in order regarding those circumstances in which blogging may rise to the level of scholarly work.

For this to happen, however, two conditions must be in place:

  • a professional review process to assess, for both accuracy and academic value, insomuch that the blog contributes a new or expanded body of knowledge to the field under discussion
  • a monitored professional forum which would employ filters—much like what is found in open-source press to provide varying degrees of academic support for posted blog entries

With the advances in both the open press and open-source publication, the question may need to be revisited in the future.

—Larry Tinnerman is an assistant professor of curriculum studies at Indiana State University where he currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses. He holds a doctorate degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Curriculum and Instruction.

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1-Apr-09


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