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Environment vs. personal choice? (re: attribution and ownership of ideas)

It’s an interesting intersection of themes and conversations. I was writing a piece on how blogging might not work in an environment where the risks of sharing half-baked ideas in public outweigh the benefits of doing so, when I realised that at the end it’s not the environment, but the way one chooses to deal with it.

An academic environment is a good example: it is makes a lot of sense not to blog work in progress, since it is exposes raw ideas to potential competition and creates all kinds of issues with publishing finished work. Just as I blogged a piece from PhD chapter on attribution and ownership, Carol reminded me of possible implications of doing so (via Facebook wall, so I’m not sure how to permalink):

saw your status update about you wondering whether to blog your PhD chapters… I personally would recommend publishing in a journal first, you could then blog about your journal paper after. But if you publish your chapters on the blog first, you may automatically restrict yourself from publishing in journals where often you are required to not have published the work anywhere in the public domain first…. it’s a copyright issue…

Well, while being well aware of the risks of doing so I still want to do it. Partly because given my longer-term plans I can afford ignoring potential problems with a journal publication, but mainly because I find more important that the results of my work reach people than that they do it in a particular format.

An environment might provide favourable (or not) conditions for blogging, but I guess the real issue is how far blogging resonates with personal values and ability/readiness to act on those values given the circumstances.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Aldo de Moor August 3, 2008, 21:26

    Right on! I have published core ideas of mine on my blog first, then wrote papers/articles around them later. I guess that, as long as the journal article is not a verbatim copy of the blog post, there should be no problem. Moreover, most journal articles are rewrites of conference papers anyway. Similarly, you would have to rework your dissertation chapters for publication in a journal. Finally, the chapters are published first as an official thesis as well (often with ISBN number, so much more formal than a blog post), so if journal publishers accept that (which they do), they should accept a (draft) version on a blog for sure!

  • Cornelius August 10, 2008, 15:02

    I’d like to pitch in as well, since scholarly publishing (as you know) is a topic close to my heart. While it’s a general convention that journal publishers prefer material that is original (= that has not been published elsewhere before) this is not per se a copyright issue, unless you’re dealing with a commercial publisher who intends to take your copyright away and lock down your paper in a closed-access journal.

    I hope I don’t come across as too much of an activist, but academics should think twice (at least!) before publishing under a model that restricts their ability to make a digital copy of their work freely available on the Intenet (in a blog, on their personal website etc). I think academia is in a sad state when many researchers (and I’m not talking about you here at all – more of a general qualm) give away their findings with no understanding of who in the end owns the content. Alternatives exist – journals like JCMC and Language@Internet (just a few coming to my mind) are peer-review and professional, but enable open access for all readers.

    In my mind (and I know I may be a tad radical) anything that you can’t publish freely on the Net may just as well not be published at all, since only a small and highly specialized audience will ever get to see it if it’s locked away behind Elsevier’s electronic paywall.

    Ehh, end of rant. 🙂

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