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Robert Farley: The Political Scientist as Blogger: Food for Thought for the 2013 Kauffman Foundation Economic Webloggers' Forum Weblogging

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Robert Farley:

The Political Scientist as Blogger: My article at Political Science and Politics is now available, gated here, ungated here. Key graph:

If you are reading this article in PS, the article has gone through a vetting and editing process that has probably lasted at least 18 months. This process undoubtedly improved the quality of the article, but it also substantially delayed its entry into the debate. Had I simply posted this discussion as a blog response to Sides, it probably would have taken me three or four days to write and edit it. I would have included multiple hyperlinks, effectively “citing” not only Sides article but a plethora of different pieces on blogging and the academy. The article could have been viewed by some 4,000 regular visitors to Lawyers, Guns and Money, plus another 8,000 or so subscribers. Any one of these subscribers could have responded (helpfully or unhelpfully) in our comments section, likely generating a long debate both on the merits of the article and on the merits of the author. Sides could have responded within a day, and a multitude of other political science bloggers might have chimed in during the ensuing weeks.

Instead, I published the article here in PS, giving up all of that in return for a line on my CV with the “peer review” annotation.The delay of this article, the loss of all of the interactivity that the Internet provides, and the substantial reduction in the number of people likely to read the piece buy me a slightly improved chance at tenure and promotion.

To say that this makes little sense is an understatement.

This article is a response to John Sides’April 2011 article “The Political Scientist as Blogger.” Core argument is this: Sides treats blogging (and what I tend to think of as associated “public intellectual” activities) as adjunct to a successful political science career.  I, on the other hand, think that we should take seriously the possibility that these activities should become the main course of a successful career in political science (and other fields). As the above passage suggests, there are severe drawbacks associated with the centrality of the peer review system to academic hiring and promotion.  To add another; I wrote the first draft of the attached article in June 2011, and my calendar tells me it’s now April 2013, which is perhaps why the article now feels dated. As we try to make the case that political science is sufficiently relevant to public policy to deserve NSF funding, we have to take seriously the problem that career incentives in our field do not support the efforts of scholars to make significant, timely policy contributions early in their careers.

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