Changing how academia works

An interesting conversation has emerged over the last few weeks on several economics and legal blogs, usefully encapsulated by Kim Krawiec at The Faculty Lounge, “Why Doesnt Everyone Blog?” The point of departure is a series of analyses from Development Impact, showing that academic blogs in economics shape how people access the academic literature, scholars’ reputations and influence, and institutional reputation. Strong social science stuff, and I’m linking because I think the science blogging ecosystem may benefit from similar self-examination (which I know some scholars are beginning).

Anyway, the obvious question: Why aren’t these demonstrable benefits more widely encouraged?

What explains this disconnect between bloggers, nearly all of whom are convinced that their nonsense provides substantial professional benefits for themselves, their institutions, and the profession as a whole, and regular academics?

Tyler Cowen’s reaction at Marginal Revolution, “Does blogging help ones professional reputation as an economist?”, includes the quip:

[W]hy do not more economists blog? I believe it is because they cant, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists. Its simply a different set of skills.

Well, it is easy to embarrass oneself, but I don’t think that’s the explanation. I think it’s generational, that there are a few pioneers with established careers making good use of the new forms of communication, and that younger people are more and more comfortable with them. They don’t all call themselves bloggers, but they’re changing how academia works.