Does blogging help one’s professional reputation as an economist?

From David McKenzie, there are more quantitative results:

In all three columns we see that, conditional on their RePEc rank, regular blogging is strongly and significantly associated with being more likely to be viewed as a favorite economist. Blogging has the same size impact as being in the top 50 of RePEc rankings for the under 60 economists, and a larger impact for the over 60 economists.

You will find the details and regressions at the link.  One obvious question, of course, is how the average returns relate to the marginal returns.  If David’s numbers reflect the reality, and I believe they do, why do not more economists blog?  I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists.  It’s simply a different set of skills.  The underlying cognitive model here still needs to be worked out, but it is not a story of smooth continuity.

By the way, do note his plea at the end:

We would love to hear from readers, bloggers, and policy makers of other examples where blog posts have changed policy – particularly cases which have involved economic analysis, rather than just reporting.

Comments

why do not more economists blog? I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly

Explaining a lot about Tyler's mode of blogging?

Yes, but does favorite translate into professional reputation? I think blogging is fine for older (read: tenured) economists, but the opportunity cost of blogging for younger economists might be fairly high in terms of research and publications considered by tenure committees. A highly-read blog is different from articles published in any of the major field journals, even if the former has a higher impact with respect to opinion and knowledge.

I've decided to take that risk (blog instead of writing more research articles) b/c I don't care about tenure and the only people who read ENTIRE research articles are grad students. Most article D/Ls are to argue or cite a point. The vast majority of academic research (via persistent citation) is useless. In other words, I'd rather know that I am having an impact via blogging than get lifetime job security.

Blogging is for those who understand their subject and are willing to defend their views - and persuade others in doing so. For the average economist, whose academic output has no relationship with reality, it is best to stick to academic publication.

Had Hayek been alive today, he would have had his own blog. That much is sure. And Mises. Keynes might have tried but been overwhelmed by opposition to his confused views.

In the end it is crucial for economists to get out of their "labs". They must influence the policy of their times, else they fail to do justice to their discipline, which is all about public policy. Blogging is similar to publishing in newspapers, only that hardly anyone reads newspaper articles these days. We simply get the RSS feed of our favourite economists and thinkers from wherever it is available.

I'm impressed that you promise "Elimination of poverty in three years"

http://sabhlokcity.com/what-would-i-do-as-prime-minister-of-india/

Congratulations. A belief in miracles must also come in handy as a blogger?

Yes, see details in BFN - based on Friedmans negative income tax - suitably refined. It is contingent on a complete change in government in India from current socialist government. I've been working on this project since 1998 - so that's the only delay. Else this would have occurred long ago.

Yes, a belief in good policy is handy for a human, whether a blogger, economist, or politician.

Good policy is actually a miracle.

Hayek certainly would have had a blog. Keynes strikes me as the kind of guy who would have a blog that he updated incredibly rarely, with long and, as you say, confused, posts.

Say, JSM and Bastiat all strike me as bloggy types of guys, particularly Bastiat. I admit I'm going on little more than intuition here.

Most contemporary economists are very highly specialised. Tyler, on the other hand is a quintessential generalist, and that's why he is probably the most successful econ blogger.

David Roodman's 'microfinance open book blog' (http://blogs.cgdev.org/open_book/) is mentioned in the article. The Kiva case is not the only issue raised by Roodman. His blog has been key in popularising a more nuanced view of microfinance impact. Some really interesting debates took place involving proponents (e.g. Pitt & Khandker), and fierce opponents (Patrick Bateman) of microfinance. Must have influenced policy.

Most blog entries are a page or less, you are expected to put that content out daily, and respond to commentators and events. Very different skill set then sitting in an office and spending a few months writing a paper.

I don't know about changed policy, but reading economics blogs has definitely helped shape my understanding of macroeconomics (despite having an undergraduate degree in economics) and my voting patterns might end up looking different.

1. Notice the qualification of the report as it relates to economists who write books, appear in the media, etc.: "However, if bloggers are also more likely to be engaged in other activities of a public intellectual, such as media appearances, writing books etc., and if these don’t all arise directly as a result of blogging, the estimates will conflate the impact of blogging with the impacts of these other activities, thereby overstating the impact of blogs."

2. The lower bound of influence was the number of hits on the paper.

3. The report does not separate the effect of blogging from writing a book, speaking and blogging, other than the comment of the lower bound ahead.

4. The Paper did not address: Which came first: the chicken or the egg: will I go to the website and blog of an unknown economist or go to the blog of a known economist who established him/herself with a book, public appearances, etc.

Answer this question: if every graduate Ph.D student or assistant professor wrote a blog, what would the effect be on their individual reputation, etc.

Bottom line: you have to create something that distinguishes yourself. Otherwise, blogging as a reputation enhancer would be as simple as opening a typepad account.

5. And, besides, everyone knows this truth: People go to these blogs because of the insightful observations in the comment section, and not the original post.

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Bill, Congratulations on #5.

It’s simply a different set of skills.

Additional skills.
Having an opinion, writing sententiously and.understandable.

The other problem I have with this study is that it fails to define "blogging" in the context of mixed media.

So, for example, is Krugman's blog in the New York Times finance page a blog that the authors are including in their definition of a blog? Isn't it just a short newspaper article or editorial piece with a comment section? Is that a blog? Do they mean standalone blogs created by individual authors where you have to be drawn to the author even to find it.

Also, note that in the case of newspaper (pardon me, although I get the Sunday NYT, I don't buy the paper version, so if you are thinking paper, think electrons, the newspaper has ALREADY SELECTED the person who writes on their pages or appears on their website. Although you may agree with whom they select, there is probably some selection criteria that separates out people who have not already established their reputation.

Soon someone will be saying that Facebook pages enhance an economists reputation. I suppose it could. I'll have to run some regressions to find out, but as in the study above, I wouldn't be able to separate out public speaking activities of the author, prior writings, etc. from the "Facebook effect" (TM Bill 2011) or even the blogging effect.

But which direction is the causation? I've got a lot to say, but I don't bother blogging it because people (probably quite correctly in this case) wouldn't pay much attention. If I were a favorite economist then people would be much more likely to pay attention, and I would likewise be much more likely to blog.

I think economists should have Facebook pages.

That way you can see how many other economists Friend them.

Lots have LinkedIn pages where you can check that out.

I commented on the papers site (you do not have to follow that link because I am including my comment and the response here, and, if you did, that would show MR caused more hits on a paper), so here were some additional comments and the reply:

In noting increased downloads from an author who has a blog than from one who doesn't, you are failing to control for the composition of the audience.

Let's say an economist doesn't blog: he gets so many downloads, mostly from hits by other economists in his field.

Let's say an economist blogs, and has an audience composed of economists and many non-economists, and even students from his class, and he gets hits and download requests mostly from his students.

You could say the blogger got more hits. That's true. But, the audience is different and thus the comparison has to be adjusted.

The RESPONSE from McKenzie: Our point on this was simply that the RePec ranking of economists includes paper download statistics as one element of the ranking. So it doesn't matter who downloads the paper, if a blogger manages to boost his or her downloads by blogging a lot about their own papers, this would still increase their RePec rank - and therefore by controlling for RePec rank, we would be underestimating the overall effect of blogging.

I don't understand the response. Can you help me? You mean to say a RecPac rank will get you tenure if the hits are from acned 17 year olds?

We are running a regression of the form

Reputation = a + b*RePec Ranking + c*Blog + error

c then measures the impact of blogging on reputation (as measured by polling professors), holding RePec ranking constant.
The comment is merely noting that blogging might also increase Repec ranking, so that the overall impact of blogging differs from the conditional effect.

Of course the very valid concern many people are raising is that of additional omitted variables which are correlated with both blogging and reputation (like being a public intellectual, writing books, etc.). This is a separate issue.

Glad to see the interest and helpful comments- hopefully we can provide some more convincing evidence in our next post when we provide experimental results.

Gee, I didn't even know I was saying that when you put it in all those highfalluten words, but it sounds fancy enough for me to bow in submission.

I think every new graduating Ph.D economist should get their own blog so that they can advance in their career with maximum RePec rankings.

But, if they all do, then they won't, unless they link to each other.

Oh, the blogging arms race. Where will it end.

If Facebook existed in the 1930's,

Would you Friend

Keynes or Hayek,

Or Both?

The reason I ask the question is that I regularly go the the university or college Vitae page of economists I like, or whose work I expect to later see in an article. They write working papers, and often link a draft or an early working paper or a presentation to their Vitae, even though the same article may be gated elsewhere.

With this post today about academic blogging, I thought to myself: why don't these guys just have a Facebook page so I could Friend them and see whenever they posted a new working paper or presentation.

As opposed to blogging, which generates a few paragraphs of content, a working paper has to be more rigorous and involves more thought and invites the scrutiny of others in the field.

A blog, on the otherhand, invites the uniformed comments of persons like me.

If it is true that blogging enhances reputation, or RePec hits, then we will cause economists to go for ground balls, rather than strive to hit home runs.

On the other hand, if we live in a Facebook universe, and I can Friend an economist to see his/her working papers, and this enhances reputation, then we will have urged people to become better baseball players, hitting more home runs for the audience.

So, Friend an economist, and you will get more working papers, hopefully stimulating more working papers.

Friend a blogger, ask what do you get that lasts longer than the next days blog.

See academia.edu etc. though so far it is dominated by grad students. A major reason I have a blog is to link my papers and explain them in more general terms etc. The kind of thing media offices at universities are supposed to do, but may or may not do so, and certainly don't do for all of your papers.

The comment about level of seniority of bloggers is important. While blogging is looked upon reasonably favorably at Mason, it is not necessarily so at all other institutions, generally being labeled part of "service," and one can get in trouble with colleagues or administrators based on what one says in a blog (I once had someone approach my dean demanding that I be fire due to something I said on the internet, although I did have tenure at the time). While I have seen it claimed that it was ultimately his having insufficient publications, it was alleged at the time that Drezner got turned down for tenure in poli sci at Chicago at least partly because of something related to his blogging (not sure if he wrote something annoyed somebody, or that it was viewed as a waste of time, or what, or maybe not).

I am aware of one case of an apparently untenured tenure-track econ AP who runs a blog under a stage name, "Economic Logic," (or "EL" to his fans). I have had some serious debates with him on his blog, but have suggested to him that he would get more credibility and attention if he were to drop the stage name (he frequently complains about not getting more attention) and go under his real name (or at least reveal it in the links on his site, which he does not). He has never responded to this, but the hints that have been given about his status might be the reason he is not: fear of not getting tenure due to possibly annoying somebody with power over his tenure and promotion due to something he might say in his blog.

Your point about administrative displeasure with tenured or untenured professors blogging on what might be viewed as political issues rings true.

I believe your conservative Virginia Attorney General was investigating whether someone used university computers and electrons to blog on some political issues, and I believe at Wisconsin one of the Neanderthals there tried to go after a political science professors for the same reason, and asking for his web traffic as well!

I bet Tyler uses his own computer and generates his own electricity with a bicycle generator.

Bill,

Nobody would have been able to friend Keynes in 1970 as he died in 1946.

Barkley,

I said in my short poem: "If Facebook existed in the 1930′s.....,

Even though you made an error in reading my poem, I will still Friend you.

You're right. Not only am I becoming senile, I am going blind...

this is my weblog about all you need for your business.

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