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Blogging & Tenure

July 20, 2008

Recently anthropologist John Hawks was granted tenure by the University of Wisconsin (congratulations to him!) and he feels that his blogging did not impede his evaluation. He has begun a four part series that “covers a different portion of the tenure process, from starting and establishing the tone of your blog, up to documenting your blog for your tenure dossier.”

The full story is divided into four parts. In the final installment, which may be most useful to current bloggers, I will describe the specific strategies that I applied to quantify my blog’s role as a service to the field and to the public. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be discussing strategies to build a blog’s reputation and readership in the years leading up to tenure review, and some ways to integrate research with blogging.

Today, I weigh the pluses and minuses of starting a blog on the tenure track, including the key question of anonymity. This will be especially relevant if you are newly on the tenure track and considering starting a blog. You may also find some of it useful if you have a blog already and are considering shedding a pseudonym and making a blog part of your academic life.

I’m relatively lucky, I’m not on a tenure-track (and don’t want to be on one), and what I do here is largely independent of my academic career, though I receive some notice from my colleagues. I will however be following John’s series as I’m sure there will be some gems of wisdom for all of us who blog and work in the academy.

Update (8/5): Part 2 is here.

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  1. July 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for posting this, John!
    Unlike you, I am still on the tenure track, and some questions about the time I spend blogging have come up (not formally) in relation to my assessment. So this should be very useful to people like me! In my last annual tenure file, I did voluntarily include some self-assessment of my blogs (e.g., hits, links from others, student participation) – I therefore look forward to the 4th installment promised by John Hawks!

  2. July 20, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    What I’d like to know is whether Hawks’s blogging was considered a net positive or negative or irrelevant by his tenure committee. I blog pseudonymously because I consider it a hobby, and I consider my hobbies to be none of the business of my professional colleagues.

  3. July 20, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I wish John Hawks would open up comments for this series – so many questions, so many comments, it could be a very interesting discussion.

  4. July 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I agree, I wish Hawks would open up comments too. I know several of my colleagues on my campus blog, but have kept it discreet, perhaps for reasons similar to PhysioProf. I’ve actually gone the other route, often sharing my posts with colleagues on the dept. listserv – although I’m not sure how many of them appreciate that! The chairperson of my mentor committee did have something positive to say about my blogging during my last evaluation, especially because there were some links to my posts from folks here on ScienceBlogs – and he is an avid Sb reader! So there’s a bit of anecdotal positive feedback for you. In general, however, I suspect more of my colleagues think of blogging as irrelevant, or perhaps frivolous – but I can’t be sure! I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them think its a negative for me, especially when I’ve jumped into controversies (e.g., when a creationist visited campus recently).
    More importantly, I’m using blogging as part of my teaching toolkit this year, asking students in my upper division / graduate classes to contribute critiques of papers and other tidbits as part of their extended writing assignments. Many students are enjoying that, although some are clearly nervous when they forgo even extra-credit opportunities probably because they don’t want to share their writings publicly. On the other hand, I’ve had several colleagues ask their students to go comment on my blog for extra credit too!
    Its all been an interesting experience in communication and pedagogy for me, and I intend to keep it up! I hope we can keep the discussion going as well – either through this comment thread, or over on my own blog where I’ve also posted on this, and may share more of my experience in response to Hawks’ series.

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