Why do academics blog? It’s not for public outreach, research shows (The Guardian Higher Education Network)

The link above is to an article on a fascinating, small-scale study on academic blogging. The authors, Pat Thomson and Inger Mewburn, analyzed 100 academic blogs to get a feel for the landscape and to determine the bloggers’ motivations. The entire article is worth a read, as it touches on a variety of issues around academic blogging – including ways in which it is (mis)perceived by institutions of higher education. The best part, though, is the authors’ description of the academic blog-o-sphere in two distinct ways: as a common room for academics and as a variation of open access publishing. An excerpt:

After conducting this small study we have come to think about academic blogging in two ways. Firstly, many bloggers are talking together in a kind of giant, global virtual common room. Over at one table there is a lively, even angry, conversation about working conditions in academia in different parts of the world. In a different corner another group are discussing their latest research projects and finding common themes.

Another table houses a group of senior and early career academics discussing how to land a book contract and write a good CV. There is also a meeting going on about public policy, and this involves a number of public and third sector people, as well as academics, who work in the area.

In our sample of blogs, this common room was, by and large, a friendly and safe space. There was a generosity of spirit that marked many of the blogs we read: information and assistance were freely provided and the usual barriers of disciplines, seniority and higher education ranking effects did not seem to apply, at least in obvious ways.

Secondly, we have come to see blogging as a variation of open access publishing. Academics can get to print early, share ideas which are still being cooked and stake a claim in part of a conversation without waiting to appear in print. On blogs we can offer commentary on the work of others in a more relaxed – or opinionated – way than we might do in conventional journals, where we will be subjected to the normalising gaze of peer reviewers.