Dean Sargent from Villanova has offered some additional thoughts in response to my comments on the subject here.My thanks to Dean Sargent for continuing the discussion. His comments follow:
In his thoughtful comments on my post, Brian Leiter advances the discussion, as usual. I'm glad to see we agree "in principle" that blogging can constitute scholarship, at least hypothetically. Brian's observations lead us usefully to the questions of how how it can do so, and how close current blogging by law profs is to that status. Here are some thoughts.
1. Brian's point that some law prof blogging can be better characterized as "service," in its familiar meaning in law schools, is a good one. Blogs that post links, workshop calendars etc. are a good example of that. Maybe even "reporting" from the AALS about a panel is really just "service" - a kind of journalism - but the "value-added" in the from of the type ofcommentary I've seen lately strikes me as being scholarly in nature.
2. It is certainly true that not all of the law prof blogs are "scholarly," and those that are also contain elements that cannot be described as scholarship. And most areas of legal scholarship do not have bloggers. That is merely to say, however, that the phenomenon is in its infancy. One could envision a time in the near future in which most of those fields have a few serious bloggers/group blogs, and that blogs become one of the primary areas for scholarly interchange. It's at that point where we can assess whether something new and important in the way we do scholarship has emerged.
3. The peer review problem is an interesting one. As Brian notes, the legal academy doesn't have much to brag about in this regard, so the question is whether the blogosphere may even be a kind of improvement. Again, this is a question of too soon to tell. Once the law prof blogosphere becomes more populated, and serious, well-regarded scholars begin using it regularly to comment on each others work, we will be seeing something very interesting develkop from the standpoint of evaluating scholarship. While not formal peer review, this can give an evaluator some information about how a scholars work is regarded by the intellectual community to which she belongs. This info may be more reliable than the opinion of the student editors at a law review.
4. There is also the question of where blog scholarship fits into the constellation of types of scholarship. For example, I agree with Brian's observation that Larry Solum's (terrific) Lexicon would fit into the category of scholarship directed towards students and would be evaluated in those terms. Other bloggers are posting things that in essence stand on the shoulders of their published articles and books (usually linked), and apply those arguments or insights to current cases or issues. This is often what Steve Bainbridge does in a very sophisticated way. Maybe this stuff will all end up in his next article, so what we are seeing is a type of scholarship in progress. Much will depend on where the next generation of law prof bloggers decides to go - will their blogs be a
venue for expressing clever idiosyncracies on random subjects or personal interests, or will they become an important tool for real scholarly interchange?
5. The question of the status of interchange about scholarship as scholarship is an interesting one, and it obviously sweeps into the inquiry listserv participation or even live workshop participation. I tend to think that interchanges of views in such fora is an important scholarly activity, albeit one that builds on the research and writing people do when they are by themselves. But I'd like to avoid trying to define the essence of scholarship, and simply ask the question,
"scholarship for purposes of what?" I certainly wouldn't suggest that blogging in its current form could possibly replace the type of extended inquiry and exposition that takes the form of articles or books for purposes of tenure. I actually started thinking about this in resonse to an aside from Steve Bainbridge about his blogging counting as scholarship with his dean, when I asked myself "How would it count with me?" The context there, of course, is merit raises. In that context, I think it's possible that the type of "serious" blogging I (and, I think, Brian) have in mind, very well might count now, and, concievably, could grow more important in the future. Of course, as with anything else, it
depends on how good the stuff is. Enless blathering about pseudo-scholarly nonsense on the net would certainly carry no more weight that hard print articles DOA.