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Blogging and Peer Review

Blogging and Peer Review

In the post that kicked off the series on academic blogging, Richard asked a few helpful questions in the comments that I wanted to share, along with my thoughts. I would be happy to hear what others are thinking about these things, as well.

“Would you agree that publishing ideas on a blog does not make it harder to get those same ideas published in books or peer-reviewed journals?”

Generally, yes, unless what you’re publishing via a blog is virtually the same as what you’re submitting to a journal. But to let ideas percolate on a blog seems to me a fine thing.

“. . . publishing in peer-reviewed publications is the only way to get serious critical engagement from academics. Is that true?”

I would put it like this: Publishing in peer-reviewed publications is the best way to get serious critical engagement from academics. This is more a comment on how things work, not necessarily on how they ‘ought’ to work. Larry Hurtado, with whom I have interacted a bit since coming to Edinburgh, is a wonderful realist about these issues, even if it has rubbed a few the wrong way on his blog. I agree with him that peer review is an important step in the advancement of scholarship, though I will admit with you that the kind of interaction one receives via peer-review publication is more subtle and less immediate than a digital social medium like blogging.

As far as academics reading blogs, I think more and more are. In fact, more academics themselves are blogging. But by and large the ‘guild’ still views the best, and to many, the ‘proper’, place of scholarship as formal peer-review publication. I see advantages and disadvantages to this.

“Is there a way to get the obvious advantages of blogs while also getting the advantages of peer review?”

Yes, perhaps a few different ways. One approach is to use a blog as a ‘think tank’ for ideas and arguments that will eventually develop into article submissions. In this way, the blog may function similar to the way an academic conference does now. Many scholars give papers that they plan to revise and submit for publication. This is in fact what I recently did with a paper I delivered at ISBL. Of course, the difference is that one receives a bit more ‘credentialed’ interaction at a conference than a blog (with exceptions).

“I probably get more feedback on my blog posts. Is that atypical?”

That sounds right to me. The formal publication process is slower and most readers never bother to email the author and engage the argument unless they do so later in print. It can take months or even a year or two to get a submission published, so engagement of new arguments are often years in the making. Again, I see advantages and disadvantages to this.

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