Will Blog Posts Get Credit?

A newspaper or magazine article will be read by thousands, while one is lucky if ten people read an academic paper.  So if you want influence, write for the popular media, right?  Well, those thousands of newspaper readers will soon forget everything you said, but a few academic readers may well write papers influenced by your paper.  People almost never look up ten year old newspaper columns, but they do often read ten year old academic papers.  So an academic paper may still have a better chance at long term influence than a newspaper column.

A key difference is that academics organize into a network of specialists with social norms requiring them to cite related previous work, and to situate their publications so that they can be found by others working on similar topics.  These norms make it hard for an academic to republish previous work as his own.  In contrast, a newspaper columnist can easily repackage the central idea from someone else’s ten year old column, with no one noticing.  We pick columnists for their clever style and personality, not their original and important ideas.

So where will blog posts fit in?  While most academic papers and books are long, many ideas worthy of academic attention can be clearly explained in a short blog post.  In fact, many academic papers and even books consist of a short good idea and then a lot of other not especially useful material that shows the author can do impressive hard work.  So in principle, blog posts could fit into the world of academic work. 

But, if social norms allow academics to ignore blog posts, by not citing clearly relevant and influential blog posts just because they are blog posts, then blog writers will have little incentive to offer insightful comments that can be fit easily into an academic network of cited insights.  Blog writers will instead have the incentives of newspaper columnists, to provide an engaging style with little expectation of originality or cumulative expert influence.  Such blog writers might well cite each other, but more as a way to create an engaging multi-character show for their readers. 

So can we create an academic blog world, where blog posts get academic credit?  If someone gets a Nobel prize for developing an idea that was first explained in someone else’s carefully written but short blog post, will that blog author be celebrated, or will he be ignored as the sort of distraction that academics can’t be expected to pay attention to?  A lot will depend on whether blogs can organize themselves into networks of specialists, so that it is feasible for someone working on a particular topic to find the careful serious blog posts related to their topic.  This is obviously harder to do for many small blog posts than for fewer larger papers or books.  But it is not obviously impossible, and this is the blog world I hope to live in.

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  • Professors would take blogs more seriously if blog posts counted towards tenure. Robin, you could take a small step towards this if you pushed your department to officially take bloggings into account when considering someone for tenure.

  • The Mystery of the Referenceable Blogger

    How do we make the blogosphere credible? More dimensions of ratings and smarter ways of killing spam.

  • James, should I ever be in such a position of influence, I surely will take quality blog posts into account.

  • metoo

    This is an important problem. There have been times, due to similarities in ideas and phraseology (but probably not rising to the point of proveable plagiarism) where I’ve suspected that scholars have read my blog post(s) and incorporated ideas (and even phrases) in their work, consciously or otherwise, without attribution. Since I quite prefer blog writing to writing papers for presenting my ideas, if this is commonly accepted behavior this greatly sucks for me.

    There’s a similar problem in patent law. “Prior art” is based primarily on searching old patents even though probably most prior descriptions and “suggestions” of technological ideas are in old papers and other publications. While technically “prior art” is supposed to cover any such description or suggestion, in practice the overwhelming majority of time searching and of citations made are just prior patents and patent applications. I would have thought the Internet and search engines would have broken this barrier down, but it remains a strong bias in patent practice.

  • maybenotmetoo

    OTOH there are some reasons why accepting all but the most blatant of plagiarism of blog posts may become an unfortuneate necessity:

    * Citations to blogs look, and often are, dodgy, due to lack of peer review and their informal and popular nature, and if you cite too many blog posts in your paper your paper looks dodgy too. Academics don’t like to admit it but there is a very influential argument from authority just by looking good — having a lot of equations in economics, or citing a lot of cases and law review articles in law. (Compare, for example, citations to wikipedia, which have become a taboo faux paus in most academic circles, even if that is where many people secretly actually start, and sometimes even end, researching particular parts of their paper).

    * It’s unfair to expect academicians to research a large literature that doesn’t abide by the same principles of citation as it does. Blog posts, after all, far more often than academic literature fails to cite the appropriate literature. And that’s partly why we write them, because it take much less work to express our ideas on an informal blog than in a paper with its stickling requirements. If we require citation of blog posts, but not vice versa, we’re all lazy and will just stop writing papers and just write blog posts, which will then (up to being caught by Google or specialty searches) facilitate plagiarization anyway, due to the lack of good citation practices on blogs.

    I’ve also seen times where blog posts are cited but the citer also dissed the idea even as they borrowed it, for example by saying it lacked any specific criticable proposal or actual workable design. This may be a reasonable compromise: blog origins of ideas should be cited but should not be taken very seriously.

    Another way to go is, as you suggest, to form communities based on blogs where some of these standards can be relaxed yet is vigilant enough (perhaps using advanced search tools) to detect and punish plagiarism. But much of the work that goes into an academic paper is in looking authoritative and avoiding the actuality or appearance of plagiarism, and I don’t know of any way to easily avoid these overheads just by changing the venue. They’re caused by the natural limitations of readers. Academics will still want their ideas to presented authoritatively and in a way that avoids the appearance of sloppiness or plagiarism, regardless of the forum, and readers will still greatly prefer ideas presented in this way as a signal for filtering and improving the quality before reading closely.

  • Sometimes the interactions between blogs and academia are hilarious. “Bad Science”, the blog of Ben Goldacre, skewered a postmodernist paper trying to show that evidence based medicine was fascist:
    But one of the authors decided to respond in another paper, responding to the comments in the blog!
    Does this mean blog comments should be treated on equal footing with academic papers? Perhaps it does, if one accept poststructuralism deeply enough.

  • I fear that it is going to be a long time, if ever, that blog posts will be given very much credence in academia officially, even if great, wonderful, and innovative ideas appear in them. Maybe if a breakthrough, Nobel Prize-worthy idea gets stated in one, and gets credited, this might change. But I can see many things holding this back for now.

    Heck, while it is at least not a negative, and I suspect is even somewhat a positive at GMU, where a lunch crowd of bloggers praises itself as respectively “brilliant,” “insightful,” and “widely knowledgeable,” with at least one of those a major, senior influence in the department, and the chair also blogging, in most departments blogging is still viewed as, if anything, a downright negative. The obvious poster boy for this is Daniel Drezner, who runs one of the more influential econ blogs, who was turned down for tenure in the U. of Chicago poli sci dept., reputedly because of his blogging.

    But then, heck, there are departments and universities where writing books is considered negatively. That was part of the jibe against the naughtily heterodox Notre Dame econ dept. that had its grad program taken away from it. Those people spend too much time writing books, and not enough time cranking out articles! For shame!!!

  • These are unusually good comments. Just to be clear, I agree that there is little hope that blogs in general will be considered quality academic cites. My question was whether some subset of blogs could gain such respect. And yes, the prospect don’t look especially promising, especially since it can be so hard to get academics even to respect books or journals of other disciplines.

  • Douglas Knight

    I don’t follow the first couple of paragraphs. Maybe citation standards force academics to be original, but don’t people always complain about how that’s overemphasized in academia? Nothing you say explains why we don’t pick newspaper columnists for old, important ideas, nor why the readers forget the column, except in a vicious cycle explanation.

    If one wanted communication, one would aim for ideas that are new to the audience (or at least not understood). The larger the audience, the older the idea. I believe there are a lot of columnists who illustrate a small set of ideas with new examples each week, though I don’t know if they’re trying to communicate, or to provide talking points.

    Maybe the point is that academics are a captive audience: they have to read everything so that they can cite it later. That sounds wrong to me. It certainly is true that if you want to influence academics, you should write for academics. Less cynically, academics like ideas and want to incorporate new ideas into their work, while newspaper readers seem to be reading for entertainment.

  • Douglas Knight

    Also, I don’t understand all this stress on plagiarism. If I tell someone an idea in person, I expect credit for it, even though I have less proof than a blog post. Maybe I’m a chump, or maybe my field’s different, but I don’t think I understand this post or the comments. One thing I do see is that blogs are different because they are broadcast. If people don’t give me credit for conversations, I can stop talking to them, but I can’t selectively screen them out of a blog.

    it can be so hard to get academics even to respect books or journals of other disciplines.
    Surely you don’t mean that it’s OK to plagiarize them, but rather that people don’t let you use the conclusions of those fields? That seems completely opposite to the situation with blogs, where the posts are so short, you could just copy the idea entirely. It would be about giving credit for ideas, not appealing to an authority. Do you mean something parallel to what “maybenotmetoo” said, maybe that the citation from another field degrades the idea, making it look worse than if you claimed to have invented it?

  • rippedoff

    >> it can be so hard to get academics even to respect books or journals of other disciplines.

    > Surely you don’t mean that it’s OK to plagiarize them, but rather that people don’t let you use the conclusions of those fields?

    Plenty of things that are not at all OK happen all the time. Implicitly they have been accepted as OK because there was no way to detect or stop them.

    If original ideas are often presented in blog posts, but papers seldom cite blog posts, it necessarily follows that plagiarism on a massive scale is going on, even if the academic community refuses to admit that it’s plagiarism.

    If you don’t have friends who are both trustworthy and very influential and you are not publishing widely, and your whispers (or even obscure writings) are clearly relevant they must and will get incorporated in the field, but by circuitous routes. Names and phrases will be changed, errors will be corrected, other ideas will be combined, and so on until we get a very different sounding idea that actually gets presented in an acceptable manner. The academics will think they and their colleague friends thought the whole thing up, or at least the important parts of it. That updated idea (and its official author(s)) gets the credit and the original creator of the revolution is forgotten, even to history. What was actually a radical innovation is believed by all concerned to be simply what was the common wisdom all along until the academic and the otherwise influential came along and edited and published and took credit for it.

    The original ideas may actually be quite revolutionary and cause a big change in the field, but it is the people who do this through official channels and as part of tight favor-swapping networks who get the credit, even in the history books, because the real inventor didn’t present them in the way ideas are expected to be presented (e.g. as a paper or patent) or as part of an influential favor-swapping club.

    The Internet and the “Wayback Machine” will make it much harder work for these idea-stealing elites to file off the serial numbers — phrases will have to be changed more radically, more substantive changes will have to be made to the original idea, and when found out more excuses and justifications will have to be piled on about how the original idea wasn’t very important or insightful — but I don’t know if even advanced search tools will stop this from happening. People can fool themselves into believing almost anything that authoritative-sounding people proclaim. And academics will be highly inclined to do what they’ve always done, give credit to their friends and those already in authority and forget about everybody else.

    People do now and will be inclined in the future, despite the poor incentives Robin cites, to publish ideas on blogs, because it’s much easier than writing a paper, especially if you’re focused on the ideas instead of on the bureaucratic overhead of getting your citations right and getting published. But because blogs are seldom cited those ideas will get incorporated into papers and into fields without credit. It will be plagarism on a massive scale and it will happen all the time and academics will get away with it except in the most blatant of cases.

    If the blog post is uncovered and the blogger objects loudly enough to prompt anything more than stony silence, they will simply be dismissed as some shallow daydreamer who was merely reflecting common prejudice and missed the “real insight” into the idea, and didn’t do the “real work” on the idea, which of course must have come from the official academics, the degreed scholars who actually sound and looks like well-read experts. All the actual inventor’s errors will be highlighted and spun by tight communities of scholars eager to use their intellects to defame the interloper.

    Meanwhile, of course, blogs themselves that don’t even have good citation standards will also rip off ideas on a massive scale.

    This isn’t a syntactic problem, although the more sloppy and unconscious plagiarizers will fail to change the wording of phrases. It’s a deep problem of semantics and judging the importance of ideas that probably can’t be programmed into any search engine.

  • rippedoff

    Thinking about it some more, the alternative that I think Douglas Knight was suggesting will increasingly happen: important ideas will simply be neglected because having first appeared on blogs they are both taboo to cite (because it’s just a blog) and taboo to use but not cite (because that’s plagiarism). Until they become considered to be the kind of common wisdom one can use in a paper without citing, they will just have to be neglected. Which means that academic papers, which are already often preposterously abstract and unreal, will become even moreso as they have to ignore more and more of the actual knowledge in the world even when it’s directly relevant and necessary to the subject being discussed in the paper.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    A solution might be to got the other way: encourage or set up blogs that discuss academic papers, and the ideas around them. If this becomes prevalent enough, then any academic publishing will be aware that his paper may get disected on a blog – maybe on the very blog he took the idea from, or one close to it. This would be a good deterrent to force citations.

    This very blog is good at that role – people posting here trawl through the litterature on bias, and will recognise if something familiar appeared. All we need to add is “naming and shaming” (or, most often, a simple contact to the author, pointing out that he should cite here), and the deterrent effect would be good (as this blog has sufficiently high-level academics to make it embarassing to ignore).

  • Stuart Armstrong

    Setting up a clearing house between the blog and the fully referenced papers might be a good idea too – something like the arXiv does for mathematics and physics. arXiv articles are often referenced in published papers, even if they are not directly peer-reviewed.

    And I don’t think that fear of citing blogs will dissuade academic papers from grappling with new ideas – most academic papers only have one or two new ideas anyway, and a couple of blog citations in the middle of a mass of respectable ones won’t offend.

  • The border between a blog and a journal can be blurred; Behavioural and Brain Sciences works by having target articles commented by other researchers, essentially a paper blog with very long posts and comments. One could imagine a peer-reviewed blog, where entries have to be approved by academic moderators (possibly with resubmission) and maybe even moderation of comments. The risk is that the blog throughput becomes so low that the social critical mass does not occur, of course. But with RSS even a low activity peer-review blog might be read and influential.

  • Excellent post, and you bring up a very good question. And many wonderful insights from the commenters too.

    I am working on a master’s thesis this term where some blog posts will have to figure in, so I have no choice but to cite a few of them. And I may need to cite this one to address the knotty problem that exists in citing blog posts.

    One item that would greatly help, assuming a conscientious academic did want to cite a blog post, would be to drastically reduce the transaction costs of obtaining all the requisite information in one place. Let me share how I think about the problem, and then offer one idea for a potential reduction in the transaction costs.

    If I see a blog post that I might want to reference in the future, I believe I should make a pdf file of the post and gather all the appropriate information to make an entry in my bibliography database, where I also keep my research notes about what was interesting or relevant about the post. I believe the pdf is required as I may one day need to substantiate the source, yet have no control over the original source URL which could dissolve into entropic internet dust. I also believe it is important to gather all the relevant bibliographical material in order to put the blog post on a reasonably level playing field with my other sources. Failing that, I might simply not recall details of idea origination well enough to cite, or the transaction cost of interrupting my writing to gather the info once again would exceed the benefit. This problem is magnified by the tendency of many “idea origination” blog posts to be short blurbs that link to a more extensive treatment.

    I do not know how to solve the last problem — “network-citations” anyone? — but I have a thought about how to help reduce the high transaction costs of making the citation entry in the first place.

    For that very small part of the overall blogosphere where people (and many professors and grad students) are doing academic work in a new medium, an improvement to the automated blog software could help tremendously. For example, if there were to be a “Cite” button adjacent to the existing “Permalink,” “Comments,” and “Trackback” buttons, I think the infrastructure could evolve to support a radically lower transaction cost citation. My initial proposal for the ‘cite’ button would be for that action to accomplish two things:
    1) save a copy of the post to an academic archive location. Perhaps something simple like a pdf file which would be the responsibility of the potentential ‘citer.’ Or blue skying just a bit, perhaps one of the academic publishers will figure out how to offer this, or a google-like or technorati-like cache service, or a non-profit dot-org created by some enterprising university department until they can sell it off to an academic publisher in a few years. GMU Econ?
    2) create a workable citation from the URL, Author (real name as used academically; it is a problem to cite ‘Jane Galt’ or ‘Wretchard the Cat’), title, date, date accessed, etc. Potentially allow options for saving the info as text, or in the file saved in step 1, or in a couple of the popular bibliography application formats like EndNote or BibTex.
    Configurable options saved in a cookie similar to Google Scholar preferences would then rather naturally evolve and be offered over time.

    While this is not a simple piece of software, it is quite doable. Recall what marvelous tools the blogosphere has self-organized to produce in just a few short years. I suspect some techies (Google? Technorati? Blogger-friendly academic publisher?) would commit resources to supply it if a number of academic bloggers were to band together to articulate the need for it, and agree to add the feature to their blog once it is in place. Growth (or failure) would be by market forces.

    I apologize for the long post. But that is my two cents, er, two bits.

  • There is a serious business here, even if those of you who are not academics do not understand or respect it (not unreasonable, the latter). Hiring, promotion, tenure, merit pay increases, funding for whole departments, and even their accreditation or being allowed to have programs (Notre Dame econ losing their grad program), depend on publications in “acceptable” outlets, which are most importantly within a given discipline a subset of journals (although books do usually count in the humanities), and even more important at the higher levels, citations. Citations, again in the right places, are the real coin of the realm in academia.

    So, if blogs are never cited, they will not count. However, I do not rule out their being cited at least somewhat, as the note from Kirk shows. They may come to be to some extent. A similar issue is working papers. Increasingly these are cited, but there can be a problem if a website for their location is cited, and that location ceases to exist. Archives from blogs and internet lists can also disappear, which can be a problem over the long run.

    As for plagiarism, if someone never knew about the source, they are not plagiarizing. There is independent discovery. Happens all the time, and even when it happens, plagiarism can sometimes be hard to prove. Some plagiarists are mighty crafty.

  • Citation is not the only form of credit. Promotion and tenure depends on letters from people in the field, and the letter writers form their opinions based not only a candidate’s papers but also on their total knowledge, including experiences with the author at seminars, conferences, discussions, etc., and their colleagues opinions of the author. The physical productivity has to be there, i.e., the candidate has to have written the requisite books or articles, but the significance of those articles to the letter writer depends in part on the letter writer’s opinion of their author. As more and more academics come to read blogs, blog postings will come to contribute to this body of knowledge of the author, for good or ill.

  • rippedoff

    BR> There is independent discovery. Happens all the time.

    I am highly skeptical of this claim. Independent simultaneous discovery of great ideas is extremely unlikely. But it’s a great excuse for stealing ideas. When two people write about the same new idea and one doesn’t cite the other one there are only two significant possibilities:

    (1) plagiarism, conscious or otherwise; or

    (2) the idea, which had never been thought of before in the known history of billions of people on our planet, has now been made so reachable by some _other_ idea or development that it becomes probable that the newer idea will be thought of by multiple people.

    In case (2), it is the _previous_ ideas or discoveries that are more likely to be the great events for which great credit should be given. The two “independent” discoverers of the newer idea did not think of anything that would not have soon been thought of by some third person soon anyway. So why bestow on either of them large credit? And they are not in fact independent — they are both dependent on the previous recent ideas.

    If it is a really great idea, the chances that it will be simultaneously discovered are exceedingly small. If it’s such an obvious thought, given some other new ideas, that multiple people thought of it for the first time in history around the same time, then very little credit is deserving to any of them.

  • Adrian,

    Funny things can be done with letters. For example, I know of several cases, I could name names and institutions, but discretion forbids it, where individuals were approved for tenure by overwhelming majority votes of their departments, had good pub, etc. records, and good letters. Then someone who does not like them and has influence with the relevant dean, goes and solicits letters from people in cahoots with said individual that diss the work of the person up for tenure, and, poof! no tenure. Believe me, it has happened.

    Here is a bottom line. If you have a lot of citations, especially visible ones, even if you get shafted in the manner above, you will be able to pretty easily pick up and go somewhere else. You may be able to do so also if you have lots of publications, but you will be able to do so a whole lot more easily if you citations (and not ones that say you are wrong and an idiot). Of course, it is very rare, although not unheard of, to have citations without publications, although that may be the issue at hand here in this thread.


    There are lots and lots of examples of independent discovery. Just for one, Newton and Leibniz independently discovering the calculus.

  • toomuchwork

    “…it is the _previous_ ideas or discoveries that are more likely to be the great events for which great credit should be given. The two “independent” discoverers of the newer idea did not think of anything that would not have soon been thought of by some third person soon anyway.”

    Hey “ripped off”, if I take this potentially brilliant insight and do it up properly with Bayesian equations and publish it, who is going to know that it came from some ill-tempered pseudonym on this obscure blog? And what good would it do to give a pseudonym credit anyway? And the acidity of your posts makes me tempted to do it. It’s no wonder you are getting ripped off!

  • Barkley,

    I agree that these things happen. However, my point is that blogs may come to complement citations. Citations are just a form of recognition of you and your work. Blogs can be a way of getting you, your ideas, and your work known more widely so if the sort of thing you mentioned occurs, you have alternatives. Note that in the example you mentioned, the original cites and letters didn’t protect the candidate, they simply helped them get another job. Same with blogs. To throw in an anecdote, I know of a case where someone was turned down for tenure (I didn’t see the letters so I cannot comment on the nominal merits), but landed a good job, with tenure. I do know that blogging helped cement the job offer for the individual involved and even positively influenced the money offered. That’s what I mean about credit.

  • JMG3Y

    There is that old joke that administrators can’t read but they can count. And count they must, using objective rather than subjective measures. They are under increasing pressure to bring in the “indirect” dollars to run the institution. Administrators are forced to pay at least lip service to supporting the broad definition of scholarship, liberal undergraduate education, collaboration and academic service but team success is repeatedly landing extramural grant funding.

    “Hard science” departments are often explicit about the requirements for tenure – at least XX first author (or second author to your grad student) papers in refereed journals and at least $X00,000 of extramural research funding. Miss getting that NIH R01 on three rounds (currently ~20% first submission success rate) and a new tenure-track faculty member is likely done because even if they land one later, they likely won’t get enough papers over the critical hurdle of acceptance for them to be counted. Elite institutions hire several tenure track assistant professors, telling them that only one of you will get tenure here but the rest of you will most likely be able to move into tenured positions at lower ranked institutions elsewhere.

    All this makes for an intensely competitive environment, all the way from the inter-institutional to the college to the department to the individual level, bringing out the full range of behaviors that humans manifest in competition. Faking, stealing and so on. Rumors, not frequent, of papers being held up so the reviewer can get their out on the same topic or stealing an idea from a grant proposal that they anonymously reviewed. Special earmarks through legislation to avoid the competitive government grant funding process.

    In the end it all boils down to $$$ and the ability to attract them, a critical component of which is a consistent record of publishing the results from previous awards in journals that are well regarded by ones peers who will be reviewing one’s proposals for that next award. IMO blogs in this environment likely provide the same function as the after conference session bar talk but in a faster and more public way. Both are very useful but not for citation.

  • Adrian,

    Whatever counts starts to get gamed. Given the definitely increasing focus on citations at several levels, there becomes increasing pressures by authors on others to cite them. As a journal editor I regularly see referees telling authors to “cite me here, cite me there, cite me over there and under the mud puddle!” etc., to the point of absolute nausea, although on occasion such requests are justified (they are usually more effective if they are limited to one or two references and are buried in a longer list of other appropriate additional things that should be cited, just to give you all out there a tip).

    Needless to say, if blog post citations actually start to “count,” we shall probably see a much greater expansion of the sort of thing that the GMU bloggers lunch crowd does, that is regularly praising each other in their respective blogs for being “the most brilliant,” “the most insightful,” etc. etc., although I think with them they actually believe it, as I think they view their lunch table as the new Athenian agora.


    Yes, pretty grim. In econ, there is not quite as much pressure on grants and funding as in the hard sciences because, except for the experimental crowd, there is less need to keep labs funded, which is a big deal of course. Of course, in any discipline an ability to get outside money is always a plus, and at the top institutions in econ a failure to do so is certainly going to count heavily against one (grad students need to be supported, even if labs don’t generally), with only a serious list of pubs in the very highest journals, with plenty of accompanying impressive citations getting one off that particular hook.

    The end of that is that, ironically, in econ it is probably less absolutely “all about $$$,” although $$$ certainly speaks louder than words in pretty much any discipline.

  • Among me and my friends, grad students in CS about to get our PhDs, it is very common to communicate important ideas in blog posts and comments. It seems to be the general consensus that one does not cite blog posts directly but treats it as “out of band” information relative to published work.

    For example, a friend might put some random thoughts about what they’re doing in their research in a blog post. I might notice something and comment on it, after which a discussion ensues. When they go to write up the idea, they might ask me to be a coauthor and collaborate (option 1). Or, they might say something like “thanks to X and Y for discussing early versions of this idea with us” in the acknowledgments (option 2). If I like their idea and decide to write a paper, I would first ask the original blogger if they wanted to be coauthor. Otherwise I would say something like “this work was inspired by a comment by X, to whom we are indebted” in the acknowledgments (option 3). With options 2 and 3, it would also be appropriate to have a URL listed so the reader can go back to see the discussion (if the blog still exists), but it would not be required.

    I think the philosophical basis of this system is that blog posts and comments are “published” but not archived reliably. Blog posts don’t cite all their references so they should not expect to be cited the same way as academic papers. I think the key thing is giving people credit, which is always easy to do. My friends and I don’t expect citations on our blog posts, but we do expect that other people won’t be jerks and write up our ideas without saying we came up with them.

    The exceptions to this style would be specific things like a long well thought out blog essay by someone that doesn’t publish within academia. In this case referencing the post would be a full citation with URL and date. The argument here is that the post is not “out of band” communication during academic discourse, but rather is primary source material.

  • I think that ever since internet lists got going seriously over a decade, largely to be supplanted more recently by blogging, there has been a lot of research stimulated by the discussions on the internet more broadly. But I think Nathan Whitehead’s remarks are probably more the way things go.

    I can’t resist this bit of naught wisecracking. In watching the mutual backscratching and citations of the GMU lunch bloggers crowd, I am beginning to get the impression of a high school about to put out a yearbook. So, any minute I expect one to call another “class clown,” and another will be described as “having the whitest teeth,” and, gosh, we might read that another “was most likely to get his hair cut when his mother told him to in the third grade,” while yet another might be “most likely to save a damsel in distress in a dank dungeon guarded by a demonic dragon.”

  • Barkley, since this is the forth time you have brought this up, it apparently really really bugs you that I offered a few parenthetical words of praise for my colleagues. You’ve made your point; can we get on with other topics now?

  • Robin,

    I’ll let it go, and will note that I have turned it into mostly teasing, which is largely my attitude towards it. However, it is not just you. All of you have indeed been praising each other to the skies on your respective blogs. The “most brilliant” is you, after all, not so described by yourself (whew).

    Certainly you all have a right to do so, and I shall say no more about it, at least not in this venue (I do apologize for having overdone it here). But since you seem to be bothered by my appearance of being bothered by it (which I am not, really, I have been teasing, as I know most of you), you might just ask yourself how it looks to anybody like me who has actually been paying reasonably close attention.

    BTW, I think you are the one with the whitest teeth… :-).

  • outcast

    Whatever the truth of Barkley’s jibes he rudely raises a point central to the subjectis of this blog. People being highly biased in favor of their friends is very common phenomenon, and perhaps the biggest source of bias of them all. To what extent the “lunch bloggers” are yet another among billions of examples of this I have no personal knowledge and it would be a good idea to use examples in which this community is less personally involved.

    In the academic world some bias in favor of friends and close colleagues is of necessity since the language talked by subgroups is so alien they are mutually unintelligible for the most part. They thus must either cite things they don’t very well understand or stick to their own little highly biased and highly obscure (to all but themselves) clique. As long as cites by friends count as strongly as cites by strangeers there will remain a very strong incentive to carry on this cite barter among mutually trusting friends, even though such cites indicate social connection rather than anything we should consider to be academic achievement.

  • Nathan,

    That was what I was working my way towards. You definitely put it more clearly.


    You are of course absolutely correct that what gets measured gets managed. If we start counting mentions in acknoledgements then people will troll for those as they now troll for citations. (By the way, when trolling for citations as a referee, I do try to keep it under control, and bury the suggestions in a list of others, if for no other reason than to avoid making it too obvious that I was the referee. 🙂


    You make a neat point. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we could discount citations by the closeness of the citee to the citer (perhaps measured by cross cites), or at least add double count cites from fields outside the field in which the paper was published.

  • Hi Robin,

    First of all, thanks for your comment on my site (how did you find it by the way).
    Second, I agree with you that blogs should be treated more seriously by the academias. The hyperlinks do make blogs a great tool for academic research.
    What I am saying in my post is to abandon the instrumental way of treating blogs. As Whitehead remarks, human beings are co-evoluting with technology. The unique styles and features of blogs to some extent re-configure acamedic writing.

  • post alcoholism,

    Including apparently to generate neologisms, e.g. “co-evoluting” and “acamedic.” Does the latter refer to medical schools? 🙂

  • always check the spellings! hehe

  • You are of course absolutely correct that what gets measured gets managed. If we start counting mentions in acknoledgements then people will stroll for those as they now stroll for citations.JUst be more open for those things.

  • Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

  • I’ve been looking around http://www.overcomingbias.com and actually am impressed by the amazing content material here. I work the nightshift at my job and it is so boring. I’ve been coming here for the previous couple nights and reading. I simply needed to let you know that I have been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look forward to reading more.

  • I am rowan atkinson. I am agree with you. Hi Robin,

    First of all, thanks for your comment on my site (how did you find it by the way).
    Second, I agree with you that blogs should be treated more seriously by the academias. The hyperlinks do make blogs a great tool for academic research.
    What I am saying in my post is to abandon the instrumental way of treating blogs.