International Studies Group Draws Scorn Over Proposed Blogging Ban

Academics often rely on personal blogs to push forward ideas—and an association's proposal to limit that activity for those who work on its journals has many crying foul.

Academics often rely on personal blogs to advance their ideas—and an association’s proposal to limit that activity for those who work on its journals has many crying foul.

In many industries, professionals think nothing of starting a blog to discuss the their work, but one organization in the world of academia just told its members: Not so fast.

A new proposal from the International Studies Association’s Executive Committee appears to imply that blogging should be a no-no for academics within its association—or at least for the ones affiliated with its scholarly journals. And that has many members crying foul. More details:

Breaking down the proposal: A recent post by Steve Saideman, an ISA Governing Council member, centered on a pending proposal that would bar those involved in the editing or writing of ISA journals from blogging outside of official ISA blogs. Writing that he was surprised to find such a proposal among the items up for debate before the council in March, he posted the statement from the ISA Executive Committee, which is in charge of making changes to the association’s code of conduct. “The committee believes that any connection between blogs and ISA journals should be severed or separated,” the statement reads. “There should be no connection between independent/personal blogs and ISA journals.” The council will vote on the rules—which would affect those with ties to five association journals—the day before the ISA’s March 25 annual meeting in Toronto, Inside Higher Ed reports.

A strong reaction: Saideman, a professor of international relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, was one of the many bloggers in academia who took issue with the proposal—particularly its implication that blogging is inherently unprofessional. He points out that editing an academic journal can be a three-year commitment that crowds out other work. “Editors might be so busy doing their editorial work that they might find blogging the best way to stake claims as their research agendas slow down while they work on the journal,” he argued. “Such a blogging break would definitely disrupt the relationship that bloggers have with their audience. Building such an audience is not easy and takes time.” The Duck of Minerva group blog—which Inside Higher Ed noted sparked controversy last year with a contributor’s somewhat salty post—also had a number of posts assailing the policy. Meanwhile, The Duck of Minerva launched a contest to award blogs that “demonstrate the professionalism and the significant intellectual and scholarly contribution that blogging makes to the [international relations] profession.”

The association’s position: ISA President Harvey Starr, a University of South Carolina professor, said the intention behind the proposal is not to condemn blogging but to add a line of separation that helps avoid confusion between personal blogs and scholarly journals. “Often the sort of ‘professional environment’ we expect our members to promote is challenged by the nature of the presentations and exchanges that often occur on blogs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “The proposed policy is one response, not to blogs per se, but to issues that can arise with people confusing the personal blogs of the editors of ISA journals with the editorial policies for their journals.”

Saideman is using the controversy as an opportunity to help drive a bigger conversation about social media in the organization. On Friday, he announced a campaign to launch an “Online Media Caucus,” which he hopes will help teach members about the value of online media and to give online writers a voice within the organization.

“On the bright side, the reactions to the ISA’s misguided proposal demonstrated that there is a vibrant community of scholars who rely on ‘web 2.0’ in a variety of ways,” he said.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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