How can academics best use blogging to research and rehearse their ideas, network with peers and boost their careers?

Blogging has taken a high profile on site last week. Friday saw the launch of The Guardian’s Higher Education Blogs Network, a work-in-progress directory of some of the most interesting and informative blogs on higher education and HE issues globally. Then on Monday, the newspaper marked international Blog Action Day 2012, with an article by Ernesto Priego of UCL’s Centre for the Digital Humanites on blogging’s “power of we, not me“.

The higher education blogosphere is sometimes caught between a rock and hard place, accused of narcissism on the one hand and of being an institutional echo-chamber on the other. Enough of the mythology, says Priego, who argues that blogging is the ultimate form of collegiality – if we understand collegiality as the relationship of professional colleagues united in a common purpose and respecting each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose.

Already the most populated sub-section of The Guardian’s new blog directory is research, which along with teaching is surely academia’s highest common purpose. Blogging is a multi-tool for today’s academic, whether early-career, established or somewhere in between. Useful for both researching and rehearsing ideas, it can even be an early form of publication.

But like any power tool, it’s not without its dangers. Those can be external, for example the internet trolls who bring a whole new meaning to the concept of peer review, or internal. As your own self-editor, you can quickly land yourself in hot water (reputational, legal or otherwise) with a blogpost. However if, as Priego sees it, blogging is an individual voice that only becomes meaningful when addressed to the collective, does that same collective ensure accountability too?

“Blogging and social media in higher education and academic research offer plenty of examples of successful and positive collective action,” says Priego, as evidenced by the huge popularity of group blogging sites in academia. “We must make our voices heard, especially when others do not want to hear us,” writes Denise Horn, a contributor to one of the best, the University of Venus. “Minority academics who blog must, now more than ever, be aware of how important it is to articulate their ideas and their knowledge outside of our departments, our journals, and our conferences. Blogging is a space in which we can do that.”