10 June 2015

Blogging vs other writing

Kate Davis' post from several days ago on why she hadn't been blogging really struck a chord with me. Among many other reasons, Kate mentioned finding it difficult to blog while also trying to write more research-oriented things. It was good to be reminded that blogging is a great way to make a professional contribution, but not the only way.

About eighteen months ago, I did some hard thinking about how best to add my voice to the professional discourse in the areas I had been working in (mostly research data management). I'd done a lot of conference presentations but was re-evaluating the effort required for this compared to doing more writing. As an introvert, the public speaking side of conferences has never been easy for me, and I was finding it harder to justify to myself the amount of work required to prepare for what could sometimes be a fairly ephemeral engagement with peers. (Not all conferences are like this, of course, VALA being a good example of a conference that requests a full peer-reviewed paper and publishes proceedings.) I decided to make a conscious effort to direct my energy into longer-lasting written contributions rather than presentations. When performance plan time came around late last year, I added a couple of goals to submit at least one individually written manuscript and one co-authored manuscript to relevant journals and to blog monthly. 

While I haven't blogged much this year, I was lead author on a peer-reviewed article that's been accepted for publication in a special issue of Program: electronic library and information systems being guest-edited by an academic that I really admire, Dr Andrew Cox. While we would have preferred to publish in an open access journal, my colleagues and I decided that presenting an Australian viewpoint in an international special issue on research data services was important. We also felt that the journal's policy enabling us to upload a pre-print to our institutional repository immediately on publication of the article (no embargo) satisfied our need to have a version of the content freely available for download by practitioners like ourselves.  

Writing that article took a lot of time: I'd conservatively estimate my own contribution at fifty hours, most of which was done in the evening or on weekends. In addition to the writing itself, the process involved a lot of other activities:  meetings with my co-authors and email correspondence as we refined what we wanted the article to achieve, drafted separate sections, and then tried to weave those into a coherent and balanced whole; integrating relevant literature and referencing it properly (thank you, Zotero) to meet the more academic standards of the journal; uploading the paper through a manuscript submission system clearly designed to put off all but the most persistent potential authors; and responding to a round of constructive feedback from peer reviewers (which most definitely improved the final article).

Kate's post reminded me that while I've been feeling bad about not blogging, I really haven't taken the time to celebrate getting a journal article accepted and giving myself some credit for all the work that was involved in that. Maybe I will feel more celebratory when it is actually published and can be read by people other than me and my co-authors? There is definitely something to be said for the immediate satisfaction of pushing 'Publish' on a blog post and seeing it out there in the world.