I was asked a question a few months ago about how we could go about giving academics more scholarly recognition and credit for blogging, and I realised how ambivalent I feel about this.
On the one hand, I would love to see quality blogging given the credit it deserves; I’d love to see young academics encouraged to blog, to network and support each other, and to engage with audiences that don’t just consist of other academics.
But on the other hand, it seems to me there’s a huge danger that blogging would simply be added on to the existing systems for awarding and measuring academic credit.
Imagine that for REF2026 (or for your tenure in a US university), on top of all the conventional published ‘outputs’, academics must also submit a set number of research blog posts. And that most historians deal with this by copying & pasting the texts of their conference papers into a blog and hitting the Publish button a few times a year.
Of course, there are blogs already that mainly consist of that kind of material and it can make for a very good blog if the material is well chosen and written in the first place. And sharing good talks and presentations with wider audiences is a good thing to do.
But imagine the bland soul-numbing horror of hundreds or thousands of ‘blogs’ which exist purely to fulfil the requirements of a bureaucratic exercise and contain nothing but slabs of text that were dull when they were first read out to six people including the session panel, and will still be dull when they end up in their final article/monograph form to be read by reviewers and bored students in university libraries.
Just because some written online content uses blog software doesn’t make it blogging.
And how much harder would it become to find the good academic blogging, where scholars want to communicate what they know and love, and where they engage and debate? How on earth would we persuade new academics that blogging is something you can do for enjoyment, if it becomes just another mandatory task?
Is compulsion and institutionalisation an inevitable outcome – the Satanic pact – of gaining scholarly credit in the corporate, bureaucratic academy?
To be honest, I’m not optimistic that there’s a way to gain the recognition that many academic bloggers have longed for without destroying what I believe is the real value of academic blogging, which is in many ways about pleasing yourself, escaping the targets and the quotas and the faceless bean-counters; about communicating and sharing through spontaneity and idiosyncratic self-expression. (So, I don’t blog for weeks at a time; and then I’ll write five posts in a weekend. Because I want to, and because I can, dammit.)
This personal self-indulgence doesn’t just happen to serve a wider, public purpose: it serves that purpose because it’s personal and indulgent and risky, because academic bloggers are willingly choosing to share the learning and understanding earned through those long, long hours in libraries and archives, and because they give something more of themselves than ‘mere’ knowledge.