But are peer-reviewed publications, read and cited by only by a select group of those peers, the best way to assess influence and importance? They are certainly no longer the only way. My 2006 paper on iron-deficiency anemia and menstruation has been cited by six other papers; my 2011 blog post on this paper has been viewed tens of thousands of times and received almost sixty comments between its two postings. Some anthropology blogs have been responsible for starting entire new branches of the discipline, others show an applied side of anthropology that helps us see the impact of this field in our everyday lives; some ground their writing in a historical and evolutionary approach or move us with their perspective on war and poverty, where still others are not only influential, but regularly get more hits than the website for our main professional association. Some use their blog as a service to the discipline, and a newcomer is dispelling myths about milk (full disclosure: both of those blogs are by collaborators, kickass collaborators in fact). This is by no means an exhaustive list.
This is another confirmation of earlier observations I and others have made about the relative impact of academic blogging and publication in peer reviewed journals. Kate Clancy also remarks
There are two problems with the current criteria for tenure: they don’t reflect modern, interdisciplinary scholarship, and they don’t include metrics to evaluate influence and perspective beyond peer-reviewed publications.
One might add that this applies to criteria for promotion as well as tenure. There is no doubt that the global university as an institution is ill-equipped at present to deal with innovative practices engaged in by the academics in its ranks. This is perhaps one of the effects of the corporatisation of the university over the last twenty years. Academics have been recast as employees of an institution, rather than the university being an administrative arrangement to support the work of academics as they seek to introduce innovation into various fields – including how their own work is dessiminated within the social body.