Monday, April 03, 2006

Mandatory academic blogging

In today's Age, James McConvill (La Trobe) argues that all law academics should be blogging. The idea is that this will make their work more accessible quickly. Moreover, he argues that:

So government funding is being pumped into a system that is based on an interpretive community of academics competing for the article with the largest number of footnotes and most sophisticated use of prose.

Why not reallocate that funding towards law academics reaching out to the world through effective blogging? Blogs can be easily found through a simple Google search (unlike many Australian law reviews, which are still only available in hard copy via the library, and American law reviews, many of which are accessible only viaWestlaw or Lexis), making them a handy source of research for students,practitioners and other academics.

Of course, why stop with law academics, why not anyone in the social sciences including economics?

Let me put this succintly: I couldn't agree with this less. There are real problems associated with blogging. First, it takes time. Second, not that many people read them. Third, academic journal articles are peer reviewed and that leads to a significant improvement in quality. A blog entry has no similar check. Finally, if its accessibility we want, then governments should make the libraries and authored work more accessible. For instance, versions of papers should be posted online so they can be indexed by Google Scholar.

It would be a mistake to blindly mandate or otherwise incentivise blogging; an activity without peer checking. Not even in teaching are academics really afforded that luxury.


Anonymous said...

Here here.... lead by example!!

Anonymous said...

Utterly agreed. As you point out, let's first worry about the fact that less than 10% of Australian academics have their papers on their websites.

Not my real name said...

I agree with you, although I don't think blogging takes huge amounts of time, especially if you do it as an adjunct to normal working. Further, I think lots of people read them. I'm only a law student, but I have or do read you, Weatherall, Quiggin, Bagaric, McConvill etc etc. I think the medium is great for getting inside the mind of a Posner, but not that useful for pure academic work.

I think the peer review problem is the biggest. If I am writing a legal research essay, and I cite McConvill's blog (apart from the fact I wouldn't because he talks rubbish), I would get hung up by Melbourne Uni faculty members. It just isn't a universally rigourous form of scholarship.

By universally, I think some legal bloggers, like, say Kim Weatherall, could just about be cited straight off the blog. However, this certainly doesn't apply to all legal bloggers.