the Irish for rights

Should academics, lawyers, and academic lawyers blog?

I hope to write a post early next week on my main blog about whether legal academics should blog. There are lots of angles here, including

– legal (professional and ethical considerations),

– academic (how, if at all, does it contribute to teaching, research, administration, society – update – and, importantly, whether and there should be institutional recognition for it),

– form (what form a blog should take, and how if at all should be it be supported by twitter and other forms of social media).

I have sketched out a lot of my own thoughts, and have quite a lengthy draft post already, but I know that I will have overlooked obvious points, so I thought I would try to harness the wisdom of crowds but putting this plea out there:

if you have any thoughts at all on the issue, please let me know.

A tweet, a link to an interesting source (blawggers, twitterers, websites), a comment, and email, even a carrier pigeon, would be great.

As Shakespeare might have put it:

The image is via wearcapefly.com.

Any and all thoughts gratefully recevied.

Many thanks, Eoin.

8 Responses to “Should academics, lawyers, and academic lawyers blog?”

  1. Miriam Cotton says:

    I don’t understand why this question even arises. It’s just another form of communication. Aside from the facts that it happens faster and reaches more people there doesn’t seem to be any fundamental reason why there would be a problem with it. Pros and cons don’t outweigh any other type of communication and as with the latter, one has only to be aware of them to avoid making unnecessary mistakes.

  2. John McGuiggan says:

    Actually your blogs make a real contribution to legal debate and often identify issues for which under pressure practitioners are eternally grateful. It is of course early days and you have been something of a ground-breaker in the field. Americans are of course well ahead of us and the quality of their work is first class. I hasten to add your work matches theirs in quality it just that there are not enough academics blogging.

  3. Eoin O'Dell says:

    Thanks Miriam and John for your responses. Miriam, my issue about academics blogging is whether there should be institutional recognition for it (in many cases, it is regarded by bloggers’ colleagues as at best a hobby and at worst a waste of time).John, I agree that it is early days, and my question is about whether and how we might encourage quality online contributions to legal debate.

  4. Fiona de Londras says:

    As you know Eoin I too am a legal academic who blogs, so I hope I can offer something helpful here from the academic’s point of view.The first thing is that while there ought not to be any obligation to blog (of course!) the decision to engage in online communication ought also not to be derided. There are, for me, at least five reasons why academics should seriously consider blogging.1. Blogging opens our perspectives out to multiple eyes and can spurn a better end product because it leads to engagement with other disciplines, other jurisdictions and non-academics (whether lawyers or not). Here I guess I am thinking mostly (though not exclusively) of how blogging can contribute to the production of published scholarship–use a blog to float an idea, or ask for perspectives, or put something out there in the course of writing a more formal piece on the issue in hand. I often do this and find it very helpful. 2. Blogging forces us to repackage our knowledge for a non-legal audience, so it improves communication skills (brevity, clarity, explanation etc) in a way that feeds into better writing overall (I should note that I may have a bias here as I have a strong preference for communicative, non-jargonistic language in legal writing)3. Blogging offers a way to carry out the traditional public university and scholarly endeavour of contributing to the public debate and feeding our work, research and expertise into public discourse. Increasingly one finds blog posts being cited by NGOs, parliamentary committees etc… all over the world, probably because the was public research (i.e. government research etc) is done is changing and a lot more source information is now being acquired through online sources than through hard copy sources.4. Blogging is an excellent teaching tool allowing you to bring a plurality of perspectives to classes and keep them up to date on Irish and comparative developments in certain fields, commentary etc… (It is not for nothing that packages like Blackboard include a blog function in modules)5. Blogging can enhance individual scholar and institutional reputation by acting as a showcase for the research being done (posts blagging articles, books, conferences, papers etc…)So there are five, I think solid, reasons why I find blogging to be a good exercise.There is also a danger to it, and that is that one can become so engrossed in blogging that one neglecs traditional publishing. However that is a matter of discipline both from the self and from the reward structures of the university. I guess this, then, feeds into your second question which was about how universities should recognise blogging.This is a tricky one for me. Let me say first of all that in my institution (UCD) as far as I know blogging would come under ‘contribution’ and not under scholarship; it might also come under teaching I suppose depending on the type of blog it is. The reason is very simple: in UCD (as in most top flight universities I suppose) non-peer-reviewed work is not counted as a research output. That is an absolute rule. Neither, to the very best of my knowledge, are non full-length pieces like case notes. So, for example, I wrote a case note in the AJIL–the most important journal in international law in the world–by invitaiton which has been cited more than 25 times.That is not a countable full output for me, in research output terms, but it is part of my esteem indicators that gives an overall picture of one’s standing in a field. I hope that makes sense. I rather think that blogging might be seen by universities in the same way. So they don’t want to stop it, necessarily, but it doesn’t do enough reputational work for the university to encourage it outright through counting it as an output. Here, though, I think a uni is justified in that only if its view is sufficiently refined. So there should be a dictinction between:(a) teaching blogs and posts(b) blogs and posts that feed into larger publication outputs(c) blogs and posts that are oriented at blagging published work, talks etc(d) blogs and posts that make a contribution to contemporary debate through detailed, well thought out and researched posts considered to be reputable in the fieldI don’t think (a) or (c) should be counted for research outputs. (b) gets counted ‘in effect’ through the counting of the formal outputs which are fed into. (d) is where things get tricky. I think cearta.ie falls into the (d) category and that universities should find SOME way of recognising that. I don’t exactly know how they would because of the lack of peer review (which will always be the knocker in anything self published)–maybe as an esteem indicator, as contribution or something?? Now, if a universitty has a R&P structure that DOES count non-peer-reviewed work (e.g. articles in the Irish Law Times are counted as a research output) then I don’t see any justification for distinguishing between that and a blog/post that falls into the (d) category proposed. Consistency is what is required, really. Either the university counts non-PR work as research output, or it doesn’t.FdL(PS apols for any typos–written on ipad and am still not very good with it).

  5. AndrewRens says:

    I too am a legal academic who blogs. Why would a legal academic blog?To communicate with an audience that she cannot otherwise engage. As far as I can tell legal academics blog in order to engage in conversations that they can’t engage in through the more traditional mediums of conference papers and publishing. It may be international colleagues who don’t have ready access to the national journals that one would publish in. It may be practitioners who don’t read academic law journals, or it may be non lawyers who are interested in a particular set of legal issues; those to do with media, or innovation or the environment. Before blogging many of those conversations wouldn’t have been able to take place.Not every legal academic wants or needs to communicate with the kinds of disparate audiences gathered by blogging. The prospect of a blog on the administration of deceased estates or new scholarship on Roman law seems unlikely. But then that depends largely on the blogger, there may well be an expert on the administration of deceased estates who could provide timely, insightful and witty commentary who could enthral estate administrators. From my claim about why legal academics blog I’d conclude that not all legal academics should blog, but that those who do should receive recognition for blogging. That is because a conversation with audiences that aren’t reached through legal journals is long overdue in many legal disciplines. It will be challenging to evaluate because it is both research and research output.

  6. Hugo Cox says:

    I have blogged about copyright law on the 1709 blog for over two years. I am currently working in private practice but have also worked in-house. I have enjoyed blogging because it makes me think a bit harder about legal news than I would otherwise have done. The downside is that it takes a lot of time and is unpaid. Blogging without remuneration is a luxury that I currently cannot afford.

  7. Daithí says:

    Great topic, Eoin, and some fabulous responses above, particularly Fiona’s list of reasons to blog, which should be included in handbooks for new academics. From my point of view (a first-job lecturer in a UK university, but blogging well before that), I’ve been able to make a case for blogging as an ‘enterprise and engagement’ activity, which is one of the three categories of assessment (alongside teaching and research) for probation, promotions and appointments in the university I work for (UEA). This wouldn’t necessarily be a reason to take up academic blogging but it has helped me to decide to continue and to justify it to myself when trying to assign time to different things.. I started blogging at the start of my PhD (early ’06) and although I submitted it in late ’09, I kept the blog going afterwards, albeit not with the same attention. The main reason for that was the everyday demands of a new job and in particular one in a medium-size school where you are doing a lot of different things and have quite a fractured day/week/year. I think there are reputational benefits too i.e. there are people who know me first through my blog and second through my publications (which may be locked behind paywalls or simply less ‘readable’). I think there are ways for people to dip a toe in as well – I coordinate a group blog where there are about 15 contributors, most of whom don’t otherwise blog on their own but are at least exploring the space.

  8. extemporeblog says:

    I have a (very short) piece in the works about this topic. Previous comments, especially Fiona’s, more or less cover it, but I’d mention/underline three points. The first is that blogging can complement traditional scholarship in many ways, including by allowing academics to float tentative ideas and get responses at an early stage. Second, academics who blog can do many valuable things that people who only use traditional form can’t—especially by providing near-instantaneous-yet-informed commentary on breaking developments. Third, the blog format encourages a refreshing clarity of written style. For example, I’ve never seen a blogger write “it is submitted that” …

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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