Recently there has been marked interest in the impact of blogs on teaching and research. David McKenzie and Berk Olzer of the World Bank have argued that there are benefits to the blogger and substantial positive externalities associated with good economics blogs.
I do not want to make the all the arguments for blogging now. One of my research leave dreams is to put together a presentation on why South African economists should start blogging and to travel the country, spreading the word. For now I want to mention David McKenzie's recent blog on journal turnaround times to highlight the power of blogs.
His point is that it takes time to publish papers and few journals publish turnaround times. The AER is way out of my league but it is interesting to note that in 2011 a paper there was in review for an average of 37 weeks. From submission to acceptance took 69 weeks and from thereon a further 61 weeks to publication. This is not to say that AER is quick or slow, but that the latest issue of any journal does not present the latest research. And then a paper in the AER represents to pinnacle of a body of good work that was built up over years before that first submission.
So how does one get to know what is going on, or let others know what you are working on? Earlier this year Paul Krugman wrote about open science:
...the traditional model of submit, get refereed, publish, and then people will read your work broke down a long time ago. In fact, it had more or less fallen apart by the early 80s.Even then, nobody at a top school learned stuff by reading the journals; it was all working papers, with the journals serving as tombstones.
You knew which working papers to read by being in the right conference loop. "Journal publication was so slow relative to the pace of ongoing work that it no longer acted as an information conduit". Today it is all about online working papers and blogs.
A key part of the research process involves academic engagement: demonstrating and defending your work. Typically this occurs at seminars and conferences and eventually publishing working papers and journal articles. Blogs provide an additional outlet to disseminate ideas and receive feedback. The format holds a number of benefits:
- The writing has to be accessible, which opens the discussion to non-specialists, policymakers and students.
- The feedback is rapid.
- It can foster a virtual community – you do not need to be in a large department with an active seminar series and can participate from anywhere.