A post intrigued me over on Kings of War by Dr Thomas Rid about how many people read and download certain journals and articles. Of course, an articles importance is measured in its terms of citations, which allows academics, and most notably the REF, consider the all-important issue of impact. However, while all of this is important, and we will always seek to publish our work with journals (This author has just submitted his first article to War in History, so I am as guilty as anyone is), I was pleased to read Thomas’ conclusion about the growing importance of blogs:
Yet one thing is certain: if you’re a scholar, blogging can be a win-win: you’re doing a public service, contributing to the wider debate, getting more eyeballs to read your article, and you’d be boosting the broader impact of scholarship.
This is good news. Perhaps the most salient point is that more people seem to read blog posts as they are short and to the point. Yes, they may not go through a peer-review process but they are an excellent way to get aspects of your research across to the public in bite size chunk, and this surely must be part of the point of academic impact. I hope that people read will continue to read the ramblings on blogs and contribute to the discussions, as blogs are a useful medium for developing ideas. It is the main reason I often post abstracts to conference papers that I give. I want to hear what people think and debate my reasoning with them. The key thing here is that I want to engage with people.
On this note, it is good to see a few new blogs from academic historians emerge in the past few months. First up is a blog by Dr Martin Gibson who recently completed his PhD at the University of Glasgow on the subject of ‘British Strategy and Oil, 1914-1923’. His blog can be found at ‘War and Security’. Second, is Stephen Gray’s blog, ‘Coal, the British Empire and the Royal Navy, 1870-1914’. Stephen is a Maritime and Naval Historian reading for his PhD at the University of Warwick where he is working on a project entitled, ‘Imperial Coaling: Steam-power, the Royal Navy and British Imperial Coaling stations circa. 1870-1914’. Finally, is Dr Mark Stoneman’s blog, ‘Stoneman’s Corner’. Mark completed his PhD on ‘Wilhelm Groener, Officering, and the Schlieffen Plan.’
I think we only need to look at the success of King’s of War, for the broader War Studies field, and Brett Holman’s blog to see how successful a good blog can be, and what sort of impact it can be. However, I would temper the enthusiasm by suggesting that because they do not currently add anything to REF scores etc then they are done outside of an academics main role and on their own time. It will only be when department and organisations, such as the REF, realise the potential impact that new media can have on academic impact that they will become more readily accepted within wider academia.