How is a blog post worth in academia?

In a recent blog post, Thaddeus Sim asked the following question:

Would professional (i.e., academic type) blog posts be considered teaching, research, or service? Where would one list it in an annual report or tenure application?

After commenting on his blog and reading some posts written on the subject (here, and here), I decided it would be worthwile to post on my own blog my view on the subject. I’m not exactly an expert at professor evaluation since I am not a faculty member myself.

I do believe blogs should count toward evaluation if they are professionally meaningful. As for your question per se, I would argue that blog posts have more similarities with proceedings and should be evaluated as such. The peer-review process is less formal, if present somehow through comments and re-posts and re-tweets. Proceedings are related to conferences, which enable communication with other experts in the field, just as blogs do. Therefore, So blog posts should share the same limitations as proceedings papers.

How should blog posts be “counted”, then? As this form of communication is emergent in academia, I believe that it’s the blogger’s responsibility to demonstrate that a set of blog posts on a given subject forms a substantial contribution roughly equivalent to a conference paper. It can be done in a paragraph explaining the links between posts and how they fit together as a single contribution. This would also encourage academic bloggers to ask themselves what their blog should be and encourage consistency in subjects and contribution. My rule of thumb is that it should take at the very least 3 posts to make a contribution (if not, then you’re writing papers, not blog posts!)

A few blogs do achieve a point where they have a community of steady readers. This should be considered, too, probably as service to the community, much like faculty members who organizes professional workshops or conferences, or take positions with professional societies. Mike Trick‘s blog is a good example of a blog who has a group of loyal readers.

Comments

  1. Thaddeus Sim says:

    I am fully on-board with your suggestion of placing blog posts at a similar level to conference proceedings.

    When I was putting together my tenure application, the advice I was given was that it is up to me to make a case for why I should be awarded tenure given my teaching, research and service. With that in mind, your point about making a case for why blog posts should count in faculty evaluations is spot on.

  2. Regarding making the case for counting a body of blog posts: a record of page views provides evidence of impact.

  3. Another wonderful use for Google Analytics. When will we get Google Tenure? (a mix of Analytics + Scholar for classical impact metrics).

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