Publish or perish: Why legal scholars need to embrace social media

Published 3 October 2018

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As U.S. President Trump shows us every day, Twitter is a powerful megaphone to reach and move an audience. In a new article for the Tilburg Law Review, Dr Antoine Duval, senior researcher at T.M.C. Asser Instituut, argues that legal scholars should embrace social media and blogging to meet their readers.

Why blog and tweet?
Many legal scholars are busy rethinking law to deal with the societal changes triggered by the Internet. But they have been slow in assessing its impact on their own communication and publishing practices. Drawing from his own experience, in his article, Duval highlights the advantages of blogging, the practical challenges faced by academic bloggers, and potential strategies to tackle them. He answers questions such as why, if at all, should a legal scholar blog? And what is the impact of blogging?

Duval is convinced that legal academics will have to embrace social media, if they wish to be read. Not all legal scholars understand the value of using blogs and Twitter to diffuse ideas and publications and to reach an audience. Duval: “There is a need to wear off a rather common disdain vis-à-vis these modes of communication, as social media and blogging are often perceived as of lesser academic value. But they should be viewed as an integral part of our academic pursuit. A ‘good’ paper needs to be translated into a variety of formats for it to find its audience.”

The responsibility of academic managers
According to Duval, investing time and energy in blogging and tweeting is often considered a loss of time for individual academics - time that is barely rewarded by the academic management. He calls for academic managers and policy-makers to incentivise researchers to diffuse their work in such a way that it actually reaches their target audiences. Duval: “If academic managers are serious about their push for impact, diffusion and public relevance, they need to change the mix of incentives that drive academics.” Duval also calls on law faculties to recruit social media experts and skilled web designers and to organise regular trainings for their research staff.   

For Duval, engaging in social media is not a magical cure to populism, to democratise our world or to spread the rule of law. It is just necessary to meet the public where it currently is. In other words, “social media is not superior to older media, but it certainly is the media of our times.”

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