Blogging as Scholarly Publishing?

There’s an interesting conversation on the HASTAC blog about the merits of blogging as a form of scholarly publishing. Needless to say, while many academics blog on their own web sites and contribute to other blogs, blogging is not generally considered a form of scholarship on par with books, journal articles, and conference presentations. As online journals proliferate and publishers of such journals experiment with the form of scholarly publishing, why do blogs lack prestige?

My contention in a recent comment is that the lack of peer review in almost all personal (and most group) blogging contexts is a major reason for this difference. Some authors have experimented with subjecting blog posts to peer review. In certain cases, these experiments have productively challenged the nature of peer review, embracing forms of post-publication peer review, for example.

I would argue that in many cases conventional peer review is undesirable for blogs. Blogs facilitate:

  • Immediate (or at least rapid) publication, which enables authors to respond quickly¬†to timely events,
  • Conversation among authors of different blogs and through commenting, through which scholarly conversation can move along at a much quicker pace than through peer reviewed journal articles, and
  • Reflexive writing, thoughts on process, multimedia, and other forms of thoughtful, academically interesting writing that for various reasons are unlikely to find their way into a number of conventionally peer reviewed publication forums.

This capacity to engage in conversation and respond to current events is one reason Southern Spaces, the multimedia, online, peer reviewed journal at which I am an Editorial Associate, is considering launching a blog in the next couple of months to supplement its conventionally peer reviewed publications. A blog would provide the journal’s staff with a platform for participating in conversations about digital publishing and the U. S. South while also providing our authors with a venue to weigh in on timely current events.

The journal will need to determine what kind of pre-publication review posts will undergo. Ernesto Priego suggests that certain review processes involving a community of non-blind reviewers and blogging tools may be superior to conventional peer review in many respects and “empower authors to become active participants in the publication and promotion of their own articles” in his reply to my comment over at HASTAC.

I am planning to use this blog to publish a short piece to accompany a forthcoming publication. While the conventional peer review process at the journal to which I submitted my piece helped refine and shorten my essay, and rendered it more appropriate for the journal’s audience, this shortening left me wishing for a venue to publish some left out quotes and some writing on my own relationship to the events described in the piece. It is entirely possible that such forms of writing might be welcome in other conventionally peer reviewed spaces. However, I imagine that regardless of the forum, there is often some complementary material that an author may wish to make public and accessible, yet that winds up excluded from a given publication. I am willing to sacrifice the academic credit that might come from the imposition of peer review for the flexibility that I have in this publishing space.

What is emerging in the conversation on HASTAC referenced above is that certain forms of review may preserve the advantages of a blog while improving its scholarship. As online journals slowly proliferate and gain legitimacy, amid continuing exploration of what forms such journals can take, blogging should be thrown into the mix. By doing so, scholars and online journal publishers might also helpfully reconsider the form peer review takes in these spaces.