La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogging and tenure

Of course, the recent department level decision to not recommend Dan Drezner for tenure at U of Chicago has created quite a stir in the bloggosphere. As usual, we can rely on Chris to provide a useful round-up, including a link to Mungowitz's comments on Poliblog.

As a junior faculty member, I have thought a lot about whether to blog and what to blog about. For me, I thought blogging would be a useful tool for me to write informally about research ideas and that it would create an incentive for me to keep up on what's happening in my areas of research.

As an added bonus, I feel like my academic community has expanded beyond Georgia Tech. For instance, I have become re-acquainted with Paul and his research. I also feel like I know Chris and will be meeting him when he comes to Atlanta in January. I had an informative (and sobering) exchange with Munger, who I hadn't talked to since my class at Duke years ago, about tenure expectations and job placement. I've received advice about the best way to handle statistical notation in my class presentations from several folks, including Steven Taylor and an anonymous friend from grad school. And, I've had a substantive discussion with Matthew Shugart about one of my research interests. [I should add that without the blog, Matthew, who is a leading scholar in my sub-discipline, might not have ever had a reason to visit my professional website except that he wondered, "Who is this Profesora Abstraida???"]

I think that, in my case, it is all about balance. I blog when I have time, and let it slip when I don't. I know that blogging will not get me tenure or professional advancement--only my research will, and I distribute my blog efforts accordingly.

At the same time, Ann Althouse has a good point:
Time spent on a blog is visible in a way that time spent watching movies or talking with friends or reading mystery novels or engaging in physical exercise or playing with your kids or daydreaming is not. Those who worry about blogging or feel jealous of bloggers have that blog always there, so visible, planting tiny negative impulses in their heads day by day. Then some day, when they must make a decision about you, who knows what role the blog played?
How would my colleagues know that blogging has replaced cable TV ? Or that I now read fewer mystery novels? That blogging has actually increased the amount of time that I spend thinking about my professional life? I think having a (non-anonymous, public affairs-type) blog actually reflects a high level of engagement and professional seriousness. Lazy or uncreative people do not blog; they eat Cheetos and watch daytime TV. (I'm not calling all non-bloggers lazy; I'm just saying that blogging is probably one sign of high commitment.) If only more of our colleagues in political science would recognize that blogs can be a virtual academic conference, we might have a more lively discipline.

I have put on hold, however, my idea for a group comparative/IR blog because of promotion and tenure concerns. Last year, I had talked to several colleagues at other institutions that currently do not blog about creating a group blog that would focus on providing a political science perspective on international news (much like Matthew's blog). Though I found a handful of junior faculty who were willing to participate as long as the group was large enough to allow flexibility (i.e., they would only have to post 1-2 times a week to keep it going), the Drezner decision has led me to reconsider. Some of the people who were interested are at top institutions who may not have blogging senior colleagues, and as long as those that will decide whether they get promoted or tenure do not blog, it's not safe to assume that they will "get it."

posted by Michelle @ 12:07 PM,


At 10/13/2005 4:33 PM, Blogger PRB said...

Since you mentioned me: I've actually been rethinking the blogging--not because of Dan's case, or Ivan Tribble's arguments, but because of more general time pressures. Now that I'm grad director and working on a book, my energy for blogging just isn't there the way that it has been. This weekend I may go on hiatus...

At 10/13/2005 9:06 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I understand, but I'll miss reading your posts. That's why it would be even better if it were easier to organize group blogs around common themes. Then, those with an interest in blogging could do so without the pressure of posting something every day. Maybe you'll eventually be able to organize a public opinion group blog with some of your grad students or even comparativists who do public opinion research. I have a feeling that we'll see more group blogging in the future.

At 10/13/2005 9:57 PM, Blogger Elenamary said...

And unlike a " virtual academic conference" you bring in those whom are excluded from academia. I am active in my unviersity and still cannot keep up with the conferences, what about those outside of a university setting who are interested in a research are right blogs can be a great "conference" setting.

At 10/16/2005 3:01 PM, Blogger PRB said...

Group blogging seems like a good way to go.

At 10/16/2005 3:17 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Good point Elenamary.

And, I agree, Paul. I just haven't had much luck yet organizing folks into a group blog. And, I fear that some of my colleagues at less forgiving departments than my own will be afraid to blog.

Right now, I don't know if I should include my blog on my 3rd year review CV, and if I do include it, I'm not sure under which category. (Several of my colleagues know about the blog and have been supportive, but others probably don't even know what it it's about.)

In general, it falls under the 'creative output' label, but the Tech CV format is separated into Research, Teaching, and Service. The blog isn't research, so is it service? Is it professional, campus, or other service?


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