This is the type of seminal insight that simply cannot be ignored nor praised too highly. From the Chronicle
So I would argue that the answer to the first question above, as to whether new approaches such as blogging constitute scholarly activity, is an emphatic yes. Which leads us to a more problematic question: How should we recognize it?
. . .
It’s a difficult problem, but one that many institutions are beginning to come to terms with. Combining the rich data available online that can reveal a scholar’s impact with forms of peer assessment gives an indication of reputation. Universities know this is a game they need to play—that having a good online reputation is more important in recruiting students than a glossy prospectus. And groups that sponsor research are after good online impact as well as presentations at conferences and journal papers.
Institutional reputation is largely created through the faculty’s online identity, and many institutions are now making it a priority to develop, recognize, and encourage practices such as blogging.
More seriously. It is certainly the case that blog reputation is a big deal for a University’s overall reputation and amazingly work in the traditional way.
One of the most surprising things I have noticed about blogging is the number of students who have offered to do work for me for free because of it. Given the infrastructure right now I can’t even adequately handle them all.
Given that tangible result its hard to see how blogging over time doesn’t attract the best graduate students and that is presumably the foundation of University reputation.
Moreover, I tend to think its just a better intellectual world when everything is open and instantly accessible from top to bottom.
In economics in particular you have journalists writing about the things people care about. Some economists taking those pop questions and turning them into economic questions. Others, framing theories and arguments about them. Others applying data to the argument. Other synthesizing the findings and reporting them back out to the Journalists.
Thus there is a complete loop between the larger world and the academic world, ensuring that the things academics work on are not only based on things people care about but circle back to influence the general state of knowledge.
Not only that but the format lends itself beautifully to intellectual history. At relatively low cost the entire academic blogosphere could be recorded and stored as a fully functional web with timestamps, links and everything else.
This in theory allows us trace the evolution of an idea almost precisely and possibly to understand better how and why certain ideas win out over others.