This is old news, but Zoe Corbyn wrote an excellent feature on academics who blog in the Times Higher – By the blog: academics tread carefully (October 2008).
Scroll down the article, stop about halfway and stuck between Zoe Brigley of Northampton University and David Petley of Durham, you can read about this blog!
Zoe's article outlines the key reasons why academics blog, which I have roughly summarised here (based on the main article and comments beneath it):
- Test area – float ideas or reflect when preparing papers and lectures etc.
- Obtain Feedback – from students, colleagues and others.
- Enhance reputation -People use blogs for a bit of personal online marketing, although that can also help their university or college.
- 'A day in the life' / diary – explain what it is like to work as a scientist in a lab – if that's what you do.
- Accessibility – open up a subject / specialism. Some departments do this in a formal way to engage with A Level students and hopefully recruit.
- Personal reminder – to record key events in the blogger's day or life.
- Feeds directly into teaching – many universities encourage students to blog /reflect online.
This list could apply to just about anyone who has ever blogged, if you just remove the educational stuff. But there is an interesting debate about how much you reveal in the public space, particularly when it comes to scientific research. Research in the arts tends not to be so lucrative or competitive – so nobody seems to give a toss if academics in the arts give away all the great 'secrets' for free (not that there are many!).
The article also states that there isn't really a community of 'academic bloggers' , as people seem to stick to their own subject fields. Most academics read blogs written by those in industry, as well as those in their field of education.
My ever-increasingly-long list of articles that I have starred in my Google Reader using my phone reflects this. It tells me I read a wide mix of journalism academics such as Paul Bradshaw and Andy Dickinson.net in the UK (these have both set the standard in academic blogging and really should have made it into the THE feature), those written by full-time hacks like Martin Stabe, Charles Arthur and Neil McIntosh and those about IT and gadgets in general. These blogs (and, of course, many others) remind me of interesting developments that I really MUST discuss with the students.