An interesting development is the rise of blogs. Law blogs (‘blawgs’), sometimes complemented by online companions and other vehicles of ‘short form’ legal scholarship, may better serve the needs of the practitioners and enhance the scholarly debate among the academics. Their increasing popularity–especially in the US where law articles tend to be the very opposite of ‘short form’– raises new issues: might these blogs harm legal scholarship, or are they becoming a legitimate form of legal scholarship in their own right? Do blogs register intellectual property, as journal publications do? Will these blogs replace our thousands of law journals worldwide in the long term, and do libraries have a responsibility to preserve the blogs for future generations? All these new developments might even herald the coming of an era where legal scholarship will mainly be available online rather than in print … (pp. 233-34, footnotes omitted, emphasis added).
Overall, one-third of our scientists and scholars are reported to use LinkedIn and Twitter. Science and scholarship are rapidly transforming into a fascinating variety of digitally networked forms. Too often the distribution and communication of the products of legal scholarship are considered the exclusive responsibility of the publisher. However, making your work widely accessible is, as we have seen, primarily a duty of the scholars themselves. Until we make progress in this area, cross-border scholarly debate will continue to be seriously hampered (p. 260, emphasis added).These two insights trigger some important questions for further reflection. In my opinion, the answers that Law Schools give (or not) to these questions will determine whether they manage to attract or retain innovative legal scholars--who wants to work at an Institution that considers blawgging something you do on your free time?--and, maybe more importantly from the institutional perspective, whether they maintain or develop an online reputation that allows them to attract the best students, particularly at postgraduate level.
In my personal view--the reader should bear in mind that I blog as a passion and that I am very fortunate of my scholarship being on the top 0.5% of SSRN authors by downloads, so I may quickly be seen as conflicted on this--blogging about legal developments and engaging in debates and dissemination of research in social media are truly valuable activities and they should be recognised as such. Blogs allow for an immediacy of academic debate that is impossible to match for any other platforms, either printed or online. Moreover, given the increasing constraints on publishing "proper", "printed" research [at least in the UK as an (undesired?) effect of the REF], some traditional sorts of legal scholarship such as case comments or book reviews are languishing as scholars are pressured into publishing (only) 4* outputs (which, almost by definition, cannot be of those sorts). Consequently, I do not think that they will substitute all other forms of legal scholarship, but they are bound to fill a gap that has existed for a long time and that may be (in part) responsible for the distance with which practitioners look at legal research (if they ever look into law books at all).
However, blogs remain at the margin (if not completely outside) of academic assessments and blawggers are simply aficionados that share their views out of personal interest, search for fame/impact, or boredom. In my view, this needs to change. Not because that would make the life of the academic blawgger easier (which it certainly would), but because more academics would feel tempted to "take the risk to go online" if the incentives were not so clearly against it. And that would benefit all of us, both when the quality of the blogging was good, and when it was bad, as I would expect that academic debate and peer-review would swiftly establish quality controls or, at least, interesting exchanges of ideas.
Overall, to keep this rant short, I would like to see all deans and heads of law school's reading Prof. Stolker's book, at least to get the conversation really started.