I am going to throw out a few initial ideas about comparing academic journals and blogs as publication channels, as a kick off to a writing project I’ll be doing with Cristina Costa.
Let me start by saying that it is very difficult to generalise about either academic journals or blogs as channels since they are each in a state of flux, changing and interpreted differently by different users and audiences. This post has been provoked by recent discussion on peer review and journals within my (albeit limited) network. The issues that interest me are:
- development of research and writing
- the role of peer review and editing
- dissemination of research
Obviously, I will be collaborating with Cristina and we will both improving our review of the literature to find what is already known on the subject.
development of research and writing
Blogs can play a role in the development of academic writing. An author can try out ideas and get feedback. I have tried this myself (but can’t point to the posts as they are sadly lost) on a paper I wrote for Networked Learning 2010. Also I recall a learning developer who posted successive drafts of an essay on their blog in response to readers’ feedback (would love the link to this if anyone has it). I think the intention of this was to reveal the sometimes messy journey of writing rather than to recommend this as a method of writing.
I see writing as a process with a product that emerges from privacy to publication with more eyes seeing and commenting along the way. A tweet may take only a minute to write but increasingly this text is wraparound/trigger to click a link to another text /multimedia artifact such as a blog post or video created over a much longer period.
There are different styles of blogging and plenty of tips on how to do it and writing for different audiences is very useful for an author’s toolkit.
Writing an article for a scholarly journal is likely to be a much more lengthy process with commenting and revisions emerging from the exchanges between authors, reviewers and editor(s) not all which are ‘public’ in the sense the article itself is. The process for rejected articles is private with no publication endpoint. Journals with a commitment to the development of their authors will try to ensure that peer review is as much about development as about selection/ rejection. I am interested in the role that blogging and other social media can play in writing development.
the role of peer review and editing
Journal peer review can be double blind (where neither reviewer nor authors are known to each other – though it is sometimes possible for them to guess each others’ identities); single blind where the reviewers know the authors’ identities but they remain anonymous to authors. Usually peer review remains a relatively private exchange with comments and responses sent by email. Different levels and types of openness are possible. JIME, Journal of Interactive Media Education conducted very interesting dialogic review and I am interested to research into evaluations of that and similar approaches. I do know that reviewing can help writers develop, and that editing has had an impact on my reviewing and my writing.
I was also interested in Alan Cann’s experiment with open review but think that much more work needs to be done to tease out more and less effective methods of using feedback to develop writing. I am not at all convinced by Doug Belshaw’s linkage of transparency to better in relation to peer review (see last sentence).
With blogs, comments are usually (but not always) invited and open, but may be moderated by the blog owner who may choose to reject comments e.g. spam comments. The blog owner has quite a few powers at his/her discretion moderation, deletion, opening/closing comments. You could say they are their own editor – as they make the decision on publication of post and comments. Some bloggers (like Seb Schmoller at Fortnightly Mailing ) invite guest contributions that they then edit before publication. So power relations are exercised in both blogs and journals in relation to what is published and how, and in both cases there may be room for more research into how the dimensions of power are operationalised.
dissemination of research
At Research in Learning Technology, we are keen to explore the role of social and other media in disseminating the research articles we publish in our newly Open Access journal. I have blogged about this here and here . The joy of Open Access is that every article has a clickable link so we can safely tweet links to articles knowing that all readers can open the article and read some or all of it as they wish. In Actor Network Theory terms, we hope to grow our network of human (readers, authors, etc.) and non-human (articles, web sites, tweets, blog posts, etc.) actants. And if you wish to read more about ANT you can check this article or this one or this one.
It will be really interesting to see what the literature throws up on journals and blogs as publication channels, and I would also be very grateful for any comments and suggestions that you have to make. Clearly the openness of processes in writing and publication is worthy of question and shifts in practices should be observed and evaluated to achieve potential benefits of digital publication for readers, authors and others. Clearly there are cases when openness can help to emancipate but I can’t help but wonder if slavish openness can also have the potential to reinforce existing power differences and may even aid discrimination if not handled carefully.