Sunday, 22 December 2013

250 and Counting: What I've Been Blawging About and Why

Although I had not planned to reach a staging post by this time of the year, the happy coincidence of year-end and post #250 gives me a chance to reflect on my blawging enterprise.

Why Blawg?
I was pleasantly surprised to find a large gap in the blawg market: there was no sustained commentary dedicated to administrative law. I found this puzzling not least because "administrative law" can cover such a wide variety of issues. This year alone I have written about assisted suicide, Supreme Court of Canada appointments, drug-taking mayors (although we didn't know about the drugs at the time) and guns. And the usual suspects have provided a steady diet: substantive review, procedural review, remedial discretion, the prerogative, justiciability, and so. This mix seems interesting to me and evidently to quite a few of you.

The blawg also serves as a personal notebook. The content is a mix of commentary on cases and articles of interest and ideas I have developed or am developing. The majority of the content focuses on Canada, but I also try to keep an eye on major developments elsewhere. With cases and articles, I tend not to comment on everything I read (though my Twitter feed is more extensive): my primary goal when posting is to alert readers to interesting developments, but I also try to add something extra, usually by taking a position on a case or article. This notebook is useful when I am invited to give conference talks and also when putting class materials or articles together.

Its utility for the purpose of writing articles leads me to the vexed question of whether blawging should get academic credit. Requesting academic credit for this blawg was not something that crossed my mind when I started, though the positive feedback I have received from readers in all walks of legal life has tempted me to change my views.

I am expected to shoulder a 40/40/20 workload: 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% community involvement. Blawging should certainly count, in my view, towards the 20% community involvement requirement. Newspaper articles and interviews with journalists do, so blawging should too. But community involvement is rarely if ever what makes the difference to an academic's reputation or tenure decisions.

The tougher question is whether blawging should count towards the 40% research requirement. My view (though I welcome comments) is that it should not. Peer review rightly remains the gold standard as far as academic credentials are concerned (with textbooks, at least in my part of the world, running a close second). Blawging is not subject to the same restrictions. Nor should it be. Blawging is better seen as facilitating the development of ideas, which may later become peer-reviewed publications or academic textbooks. My posts on the destruction of the gun registry data will appear in article form in the New Year; my posts on l'Affaire Nadon should also probably provide the basis of a publication in the near future.

There may be situations in which the academic content of a blawg is so excellent that it deserves recognition itself. But in that case, the author will presumably rely on the blawg content in developing articles and books for peer review.

In short, when the time comes for my tenure application, this blawg will be in there, but it will not be at the front page. I have a contract renewal submission coming up shortly and will report back on how the blawg is received!

Clawbies 2013
I have been humbled to receive several nominations for the Canadian Law Blog Awards. Thanks to all those who nominated me. Fingers crossed!


I made my nominations for this year on my twitter feed.

2014
I have just started a period of parental leave which will last until March 2014, so things may slow down depending on whether little Liam approves or not. But whether they slow down or speed up, the diet will remain the same.

A happy festive period to you all and good luck in the New Year!

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