The importance of blogging for academia

Blogging is increasingly being used by academics and researchers alike to debate research, policy issues and in some cases, to lament about the trials and tribulations of academia. The way in which we access information is changing; blogging has opened up key debates to a wider audience, encouraging all to share their views and opinions and supporting the accessibility and discoverability of these issues.

Supporting and enabling debates around social policy and the social sciences is a core part of our remit at SAGE, as is part of our deeply held commitment to ensuring that the value of social science is recognised.  We are therefore delighted to be supporting the first ever bloggers reception at the 2013 International Studies Association (ISA) annual conference next year. Today, we interview Dan Nexon, editor of the eminently influential Duck of Minerva blog who is launching the OAIS Awards at the reception to recognise bloggers in international studies. The OAIS awards are intended for English-language international-studies blogs and bloggers whose output has significant scholarly content. Falling into five categories, the blogs recognise the best group blog, the best individual blog, the best post, the most promising new blog and the Special Achievement OAIS prize, awarded to the blogger who has made the most outstanding contribution to international studies blogging.

We asked Dan to tell us more about the awards and to tell us more about his thoughts on blogging in academia.


1. Thank you for joining us Dan. For those who may not have come across The Duck of Minerva blog, please introduce yourself.

My name is Dan Nexon. I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. I’m also the founder of The Duck of Minerva, a “venerable” international-relations weblog.

2. What is academic blogging for? (Is it about a particular specialism, about research or has it become a part of teaching and academia in a wider sense?)

The correct question should be: what is academic blogging not for? Specific academic blogs may wear a variety of different hats – from promoting research, to working out ideas, to engaging with policy questions, to forwarding a particular field of study, to commiserating about the profession, to writing about sports, to just about anything else that you might imagine.
3. How would you say blogs impact the development and access of knowledge across academic fields? What is their relationship to the production of “traditional” scholarship?

We’re still trying to make sense of this. The most successful blogs in international relations and political science fall into a number of different categories. Some, like The Monkey Cage, exist primarily to interject self-described social-scientific perspectives into writing about politics. They’ve had a big impact on political journalism, mostly by “myth busting” a lot of the nonsense that goes on in writings about American Politics. Some, like Daniel Drezner’s, Marc Lynch’s, or Steve Walt’s blogs at foreign policy are primarily about informing and engaging in pressing political questions from a scholarly perspective. Some, like Lawyers, Guns & Money, are best understood as partisan blogs written by thoughtful academics. Whatever else they do, blogs in my field have started to form a free-wheeling community of discourse in which academics engage with one another — and with plenty of non-academics — on subjects of professional and personal interest. These discussions can be quite fruitful in terms of producing traditionally scholarly outputs. For example, I worked out a number of academic articles through blogging. But they’re also interjecting a new medium and a new sensibility into scholarship. Academics are starting to realize that a middle-tier blog affords much more exposure for their work than journals. Thomas Rid of Kings of War got (accidental) access to a prominent commercial publisher’s article-download statistics and realized they lagged far behind page views on his own blog. Blogs provide particularly good forums for pieces that are too “scholarly” for opinion-editorials but engage with time-sensitive debates, such as the recent controversy over the Human Security Report .

4.  Some academics are concerned about the value and or purpose of blogging. In your opinion, and from your experience with The Duck of Minerva blog, how can academics best use blogging?

I don’t think the issue is how to “best use it,” but how best to function in an environment in which Web 2.0 technologies are increasingly prominent. Charli Carpenter has nice presentations about this that she put up on YouTube, the gist of which is “we don’t know where we’re headed, but we know we will need to adapt.”

5. Tell us more about The Duck of Minerva Blog.

Our about page pretty much sums it up: “The Duck of Minerva focuses on world politics from an acad pretentious letters after their names, or are in the process of getting them.

Current core contributors teach at a number of different institutions, including American University,Georgetown University, Hobart & William Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Reading University, the University of Louisville, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of Southern California. Guest contributors hail from an even greater number of institutions — be warned, though, that the Duck’s administrators aren’t very assiduous about keeping the list of guest bloggers updated.

Dan Nexon founded the Duck in May of 2005 (unfortunately, the comments from our salad days have all been lost). He soon invited Patrick Thaddeus Jackson (PTJ) and Rodger Payne to join. Ever since then, the blog has, in a Borg-like fashion, assimilated an ever-growing roster of academics in an attempt to increase “intellectual diversity,” i.e., reduce the burden on existing members.

No one is quite sure what the name of the blog is all about. Not even Nexon. But we do know that it only quacks at twilight.”

Our tagline used to be “international politics… and some other stuff.” There’s a lot of other stuff: science fiction, baseball, and stuff about the profession…. Our most popular posts have about such topics as counter-insurgency doctrine in the Harry Potter series, the game theory of “Call Me, Maybe,” and applying to graduate school.

6. What can new readers to the blog expect to see? 

We’ve been running a podcast series that (mostly) interviews international-relations scholars about their work and the discipline. I should be publishing an interview with Barry Buzan soon, and have a few more scheduled for recording. I try to get one up every week, but life intervenes. In fact, keeping that and my other podcast channel going is pretty demanding… I don’t always succeed. We also have a symposium on Iain M. Banks’ Hydrogen Sonata with contributions from a number of international-relations scholars that will appear this month.

On Monday-Saturday you’ll likely find a link roundup that covers blog posts and news stories of interest to our readership. We have a feature called “Friday Nerd Blogging” which is pretty much what it sounds like. Brian Rathbun has an irregular series of posts making fun of the field of IR.

The truth is, however, that the blog is more like an extended jazz session composed of lots of improvisation and not a few intermissions. We’re not a magazine. We don’t have a publication cycle. We have a lot of people who cycle on and off of the roster. Our interests shift. We play around with new ideas and new modes of presentation. The only unifying theme is that we all have an academic background in international studies.
7. You’ve just launched the OAIS awards. Tell us what why. What is your advice to people thinking of entering the OAIS awards?

There’s a lot of terrific content out there, including scholarly writings that are at least as good as what you would find in traditional outlets (and less long-winded). In some important ways, the network of international-studies blogs constitutes the most intellectually diverse and most vibrant community of ongoing conversation in the field.  We’ve been thinking for some time about how to increase awareness of international-studies blogging among our colleagues in the discipline. SAGE suggested a blogging reception at the International Studies Association, and awards were a logical next step. Awards provide something for people to point to as a sign of external recognition. They play an important role in promoting ideas and allocating prestige in the field. Indeed, international and comparative politics are late to this particular game. So why not?


The deadline for the OAIS awards submissions is January 01 2013. If you would like to enter the awards please see here, where further details on each category and the terms and conditions can be found.

If you are interested in reading more about the Duck of Minerva, the blog can be found here.

Good luck to all those who enter the awards!

About SAGE Publications

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1200 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC, our publishing programme includes more than 640 journals and over 800 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.
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6 Responses to The importance of blogging for academia

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