Proposal from the Executive Committee to the Governing Council on Changes to ISA’s code of conduct policy
BackgroundThe Preface to the ISA Code of Conduct states: “The purpose of this document is to provide an authoritative statement regarding the expectations for professional conduct for all who participate in ISA meetings and conventions, and it will be especially useful for those who are new to the profession and/or the ISA. It is borne out of the ISA’s commitment to maintaining and promoting a professional environment at its meetings and other organized activities, and it is guided by the conviction that the advancement of knowledge flourishes most readily in an atmosphere of constructive debate in which all members treat one another with dignity and respect.”The issue of “maintaining and promoting a professional environment” is particularly pertinent to the material that is made public through the use of blogs. It is the sense of the ISA executive committee that ISA’s Code of Conduct applies not only to individual members but also to ISA publications. The committee believes that any connection between blogs and ISA journals should be severed or separated. There should be no connection between independent/personal blogs and ISA journals.
ProposalThe Executive Committee requests that the Governing Council of the ISA add language to ISA’s code of conduct policy that will state the following: “No editor of any ISA journal or member of any editorial team of an ISA journal can create or actively manage a blog unless it is an official blog of the editor’s journal or the editorial team’s journal. This policy requires that all editors and members of editorial teams to apply this aspect of the Code of Conduct to their ISA journal commitments. All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations. Adoption of this policy requires either stepping down from any such editorial responsibilities, or removal of affiliation with, and any participation in, external blogs for the duration of ISA editorial duties.”
There is so much wrong with this stance and this policy, so let me focus on a few key aspects:
- There is heaps of irony since the preface the Executive Committee cites focuses on "constructive debate" and implies (there is no explanation or justification for why blogs are singled out here) that blogging is somehow antithetical to constructive debate.
- Indeed, the language here reminds of collegiality clauses in tenure rules that often do more to quell dissent than to create a positive environment.
- If blogging is so unprofessional, why are these restrictions not applied to the executive committee of the ISA?
- If we are concerned about professionalism of editors as they communicate with the outside world, we need to ask editors not to blog, not to tweet, not to engage in facebook or any other social media. Moreover, we need to worry about other forms of communication, too, right? such as writing op-eds or appearing on TV/radio , right? What distinguishes blogs from other media through which scholars communicate?
- There are increased expectations by grant agencies to have knowledge mobilization plans so that the findings go beyond the academic world, and blogging is often imagined to be such a pathway. So, will future editors have to choose between their funded projects and editing? Indeed, schools also are expecting greater engagement via social media?
- Who should we ask not to edit ISA journals? Jason Lyall and Erica Chenoweth at MonkeyCage, Barbara Walter, Erica C and others at Political Violence at a Glance, Dan Drezner and Marc Lynch? I can go on and on, listing all of the IR folks who blog (perhaps folks can submit their faves in the comments).
- Women and minorities are underrepresented in blogging and maybe in editing—do you want them to not blog, narrowing the voices there so that they can edit or vice versa?
- Some people use blogs (and other social media that logically should fall under the same taboo) in their teaching, so what happens to them?
- This sends a pretty chilling message beyond those who serve on journal editorial teams. It tells the profession that blogging is inherently unprofessional. That might not be their intent, but that would be the result.
While some might think that a three year blogging cease fire might be fine for editors and those who fill various slots on journals, it might be especially problematic for such folks. Editors might be so busy doing their editorial work that they might find blogging the best way to stake claims as their research agendas slow down while they work on the journal. Such a blogging break would definitely disrupt the relationship that bloggers have with their audience. Building such an audience is not easy and takes time. A three year hiatus (how long is an editorship?) might damage produce lasting damage to an editor's blogging. Moreover, blogging can help one's teaching and one's research, so this policy asks editorial folks to lose one of their adopted strategies for inspiration and working out of ideas.
The funny thing is that I would not have been surprised to see something like this ten years ago when blogging was rare, where only the strange/daring would go (that would be Dan Drezner, Marc Lynch and other early adopters). Social media is so much more commonplace these days that I would not think that zero tolerance kind of rules would be applied, especially to those willing to sacrifice considerable time and effort to help the association through the relatively thankless task of journal editing
The real issue is not about blogging but responsibility. You want any editor to be professional and responsible, regardless of the media through which they choose to communicate. So rather than saying editors cannot blog, why not just ask them to be professional? And if you cannot trust your editors to be professional, then study some principal-agency theory to figure out how to delegate and then oversee.
I am sure that I missed some other reasons why this proposed policy is a bad idea. So, please comment below with whatever I missed. And if you think this proposal is a good idea, please do comment below. Of course, that would just illustrate the advantage blogging has as an interactive media that facilitates interchange (which is inherently unprofessional?).