Sunday, October 23, 2005

Not that I haven't thought about it.

My thanks, I think, to colleague Julia Fox who gave me a copy of an article in The Chicago Tribune about a political science assistant professor at the University of Chicago who was recently denied tenure. The headline reads "Did blogging doom prof's shot at tenure?" You can read the article online--it's written by Steve Johnson--by clicking here.

Basically, it ponders whether the blog of Daniel Drezner could have been the reason that he was denied tenure. Tenure can be (and usually is) a time of great self-doubt for junior faculty members. You are critiqued by members of your own faculty (so, in my case, members of the Department of Telecommunications) who vote on whether you have done exemplary work in three areas: research, teaching, and service. After the 'local' faculty vote, the tenure case works its way up the chain--to the college level, then the university level, and finally to the Provost/President/Board of Trustees.

Every University is slightly different, but the general path is the same--from the local department where you are known as much as a person as by your paper vitae--to levels where you are only known by your accomplishments. Although in Drezner's case, it seems that he was denied at the local level--which may speak to other reasons beyond the blog--I can't help but expect that at the upper levels people who serve on, say, a College committee on Promotion and Tenure, might try to learn more about the candidate "as a person" by visiting their website.

And, in Drezner's case as well as mine, there's the blog in all it's glory. Or tarnish.
In fact, in my case the blog is the first thing they see. You'll notice that the "my research" link is over there small along the right margin.

Now my research is all peer-reviewed, which means it is put under a microscope of peers who don't know who I am. They critique it, comment on it, rip -it-apart, and. . . in the end. . .make it better. I've said many times that--as much as I respond with disdain upon receiving a Revise and Resubmit letter from a journal editor, I have NEVER had it result in anything but a stronger piece of research. And, I think (and hope) that this is what I'll be judged on.

But, my blog. . . my blog is rough. It's human and it's from the hip. Right now I'm sittin' on my couch in my bathrobe watching ESPN Sunday Countdown. And, I'm writing this blog. Should it be considered in my tenure decision. No.

Will it?
Who knows.


Sam said...

There is, perhaps, another angle here. Albeit imperfect and raw, the Weblog is a part of public science. As most readers will know, there is a gap between academic journals and practice. Rob's Weblog has taken a step in making that science public. There are no F tests here. No operationalizations. Instead Rob (and others) can tell the story of their data. Interested readers can take the time to track down the journal articles.

Thus, I agree with Rob's tenets. However, I think that there should be some effort to make one's science available. Not only does Rob do this (better than I do), but he has inspired at least 6 other Weblogs that I can think of off hand. Rob has both publicized his science and encouraged others to publicize theirs. This, indeed, seems like something a scholar should be doing -- and for which they should be rewarded.

Anonymous said...

It's all part of the re-definition of the term "publish." Dan Gillmor has a pretty good take on this from the journalistic side.

Jeremy said...

Equally vulnerable are graduate students who blog. The Chronicle had an interesting piece on this in 2005, which I subsequently excerpted on You'll find it here.

It's definitely a cautionary tale...