Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Academic Blogging Is Part of the Profession

The scholar-blogosphere is rightly upset about a new proposal by the ISA’s Governing Council to prevent editors of ISA journals from participating in blogging in any way (see Steve Saideman’s post for the specifics and for a good critique).

It’s hard to see what possible benefit such a restriction would bestow on ISA members. Not only does it push back against the emerging norm in Political Science and International Relations, it completely ignores the value blogging has provided to scholars and to our research, to the profession, and to the broader public.

The particularly problematic statement is this:
The purpose of this document is to provide an authoritative statement regarding the expectations for professional conduct for all who participate in ISA meetings and conventions….All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations.
It’s a puzzling claim to make, that blogging undermines professionalism in the discipline. It’s certainly true that participation in social media does sometimes encourage scholars to say things that are questionable, leading to unpleasant consequences. But there’s no evidence that this is widespread, that it has affected the ability of scholars to continue with their work, or that it’s devalued academia beyond what some had already thought of it. Moreover, it’s not like academics haven’t acted unprofessionally at conferences, in personal correspondence, in advising junior scholars, in editing and reviewing journals, in organizing workshops and speakers on campus, or any other facet to our work. If the point is to enhance professionalism, then propose standards of professionalism for all those who work for the ISA, across all of its activities.

Finally, does the ISA really want to join university administrators trying to regulate and constrain academic participation in the public sphere by controlling who can say what and where?

On a personal note, though I’m not an editor at an ISA journal, I can specifically say that blogging and participation in social media more generally have enormously enhanced my professional network; introduced me to people I now collaborate with; given me more sounding boards to bounce ideas off of; and facilitated the spread of my analyses to non-scholarly audiences.

To my mind, then, all the negatives inherent in the proposal contradict every element of the very mission we are supposed to be engaged in.

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