Tenuring bloggers

Sebastian Fiedler (re)posts on why grad students should blog, quoting Adrian Miles, who writes that they should for…

Several off the cuff reasons: contemporary academics need to be networked academics, in all senses of the word; blogs allow you to establish a research identity in the public sphere; blogs allow you to establish and participate within appropriate communities of practice; blogs allow you to document your research as a process; blogs provide an avenue for publication.

At the same time on Wednesday we had a meeting of the mostly untenured faculty in the school, in which we were told anything we put up on the web is simply a waste of time and likely to work against our tenure.

Now, the thing is, I know that it’s good for grad students to do this. I know that you need to network with other scholars and share ideas and do all the kinds of things that blogs end up being great for. I love what some of my new grad students this year are doing in their blogs, and I know that it will be good for their careers.

But I also know that the senior faculty are right. You don’t get tenure without funded research, and blogging is a waste of time.

Of course, once you get tenure, you can go back to acting like a grad student: still working hard as hell, but for the love of the work. Why can’t pre-tenure profs act like grad students and tenured faculty? Why is this process so… backward?

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  1. Posted 10/8/2004 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    As a new grad student, I’ll be interested to see what sort of comments this post generates.

    Also, can you post or send links to your grad students’ blogs? I’d be interested in taking a look… Thanks!

  2. Posted 10/8/2004 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I blog for myself and to make connections with other academics. While this may not help me get tenure (some day – oh wait, I have to get a job first), it is important to have these networks in place so that you can collaborate with others and get large projects funded. I think that collaborative research (within your country and outside) is important and will help your tenture process in the future.
    I could be wrong. Time will tell.
    I only know that as a graduate student, I have made many connections with academics through blogs, and have collaborated research papers with Canadians and Americans.
    It can’t hurt right?

  3. Posted 10/11/2004 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I know I owe my research position mostly to my blog (http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/2003/06/09.html). Granted, the org that hired me is fairly atypical (in between academia and industry). Netwoman’s comments are right. The network you build is where the payoff lies. My dissertation made the same point.

  4. Posted 10/11/2004 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Don’t get me wrong! I think that blogs are central to the process of creating a network of academics (I would know neither you nor Netwoman without my blog, I suspect), as well as the vital role of acting as a public intellectual. And I have, since arriving at UB, been contacted by people interested in hiring me into an academic position twice; once very recently.

    But when it comes to tenure, at my university and at most research universities, only two things count: publication in a very narrow range of ISI ranked journals (for social scientists), and the number and dollar amount of external grants you produce for the institution.

    The trick here is that tenure decisions are the most direct way of the institution telling new faculty “what counts.” The things I think are important to being a good scholar (including, by the way, teaching) do not really count when it comes to a tenure decision.

    I’m not particularly worried. Although I am a bit behind the curve in terms of publications and funding, I am pretty good at coming from behind. That said, it is irritating when what I do is good for the department but bad for the bottom line. Even if I don’t get tenure, I’ll be kept on in my position as director of the informatics grad program, but for obvious reasons, I’d rather be tenured.

  5. Posted 10/11/2004 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    You forgot the letters part of the equation. Most institutions will ask some number of senior folks “in your area”, to write letters discussing your impact on the field. To the extent that blogging could put/keep you positively on their radar, it’s a benefit.

    But you’re quite right, thinking that blogging will have a direct positive impact on your case might not be a good idea.

  6. Posted 10/11/2004 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Brian: The trick is, they want those letters from the most established people in the field, and I have a feeling most of those people don’t read blogs or blog themselves.

    When my chair asks for letters in my support (I’m not supposed to volunteer anyone), I have a rough idea of the kinds of people he will ask. And I doubt any of them have read my blog.

    Again, I’m not against the blog, I’m just saying: every minute I blog could be spent writing papers and grant proposals.

  7. Posted 10/14/2004 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    That means the long-term winning strategy is to found a new field and be a senior in it. Unfortunately it might not be considered as serious if most of the publishing and exchanges occur on the Web. Unless the whole of academia changes, which is likely to take veery long. :)

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