A Year After Proposed Blogging Ban, Studies Association Takes More Subtle Approach

Last year, the International Studies Association attempted to place a ban on blogging for those who work on the association's academic journals. That eventually faded away, but it also led to a stronger conduct policy and a seat at the table for academics who are active online.

The International Studies Association (ISA) isn’t saying no to blogging after all. It will, however, ask its members to hold themselves to a professional standard of conduct.

The conduct vote, which took place last month, is a significant turn of events for a group that found itself at the center of an academic-world controversy last year after ISA attempted to bar members involved in the writing or editing of the association’s academic journals from blogging.

The association quickly tabled the controversial proposal after news of the effort blew up online. But ISA didn’t let it go entirely, choosing to do a report on the issue to figure out the right course of action.

In the 2015 report of the Professional Rights and Responsibilities Committee, ISA emphasized that its reasons for suggesting the blogging ban in the first place—that sharing opinions outside of the context of an academic journal could compromise ethics and that commenting online could be seen as a reflection of the association—were sound. But even while critics of the proposal conceded these points, they emphasized that the association was fighting a losing battle by trying to manage online activity.

“Many argued that while private blogs provide editors with forums in which they can air opinions and intervene in policy debates, this was not unique to blogs: other social media afford the same opportunities, as do more traditional forums,” the annual report stated [PDF].

The committee recommended adding a new statement to a proposal that suggested a “soft norms” strategy for the association’s code of conduct, best exemplified by this addition:

ISA Office Holders, from the President and Executive Director to members of the Governing Council and Editors of ISA journals, have a special responsibility to uphold and observe the Code of Conduct, promoting in the Association’s activities a professional environment characterized by constructive debate and the treatment of all members with dignity and respect.

The new additions were approved at ISA’s annual meeting. Carleton University professor Steve Saideman, one of the leading critics of the proposed blogging ban, concisely stated the overall point in (you guessed it) a blog post on Duck of Minerva: “Bloggers Win.”

A New Step Forward

But the victory for Saideman and others who raised questions about the blogging proposal wasn’t just limited to the code of conduct. In immediate reaction to the proposal, Saideman pushed for the launch of a new “online media caucus,” which would encourage the sharing of academic research and commentary online.

As Saideman put it, the proposal “sailed through.” The caucus is currently working on launching online presences for itself and creating panels for future ISA conferences. The goal, he emphasizes, is to bring an online mindset to the organization—something that the controversy suggests may have previously been lacking.

“I don’t think it’s a super-ambitious effort to change the world,” Saideman told Inside Higher Ed earlier this week. “It’s just a way to share our experiences on how to do this stuff better.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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