As Associations Now recently reported, the International Studies Association (ISA) has a proposal on the table that would prohibit editors affiliated with its journals from blogging. Steve Saideman, political scientist and member of the ISA Governing Council, posted the text of the proposal on his personal blog.
The Executive Committee requests that the Governing Council of the ISA add language to ISA’s code of conduct policy that will state the following: “No editor of any ISA journal or member of any editorial team of an ISA journal can create or actively manage a blog unless it is an official blog of the editor’s journal or the editorial team’s journal. This policy requires that all editors and members of editorial teams to apply this aspect of the Code of Conduct to their ISA journal commitments. All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations. Adoption of this policy requires either stepping down from any such editorial responsibilities, or removal of affiliation with, and any participation in, external blogs for the duration of ISA editorial duties.”
In his post, Saideman primarily takes issue with the proposed ban’s implication that blogging is unprofessional.
What I see in the proposed ban is an association struggling to deal with its subject matter experts in a world where it’s not only possible but relatively easy for an individual to create, promote, and distribute content. What I see is ISA grappling with the entrepreneurial subject matter experts, or e-SMEs, in its ranks.
How Are You Dealing with SMEs?
Jeff coined the term e-SME to highlight the phenomenon of recent years that shows experts are increasingly acting as entrepreneurs and making it as independents.
And we’ve written a lot about the shifting balance of power between SMEs and the organizations they’re affiliated with, most recently in a post on 10 points we see as critical to preparing well for the future of the lifelong learning market.
As SWOT Analysis 101 teaches, where there are threats, there are opportunities. On the plus side, ISA is proactively addressing the issue of SMEs in the Web 2.0 world. I don’t personally agree with the ISA blogging ban proposal (and it doesn’t seem like many do, given the furor over the proposal), as I don’t think an authoritative, top-down, all-or-nothing approach is likely to work in a collegial, networked world. But I do think taking action is key.
So what action are you taking to strengthen and improve your relationships with your SMEs in today’s entrepreneurial landscape? Are you reaching out to them to ask how you can best support them as teachers and content providers? Are you looking to create mutually beneficial relationships where the individual expert, your organization, and your learners all win? I’d love to hear what you’re doing—please share in the comments.
If, as Saideman asserts, a view of blogs as unprofessional is driving the ISA proposal, think how your organization can support your experts as professionals—not, I’d suggest, by attempting to limit what they can do, but by improving what they do do.
The Price Problem
I also wonder if price is part of ISA’s concern. ISA publishes five academic journals and co-sponsors another. ISA members can access the journals online for free (or pay an additional fee for print copies). I’m sure the blogs in question are mostly, if not entirely, free—both in terms of money and public accessibility. ISA may feel threatened by the idea that interested readers can get free access to the editors and their expert opinions.
Next Thursday, we’re continuing our Leading Learning Webinar series with a session devoted to “How to Price Education Products.” We’ll talk about the impact of free products on pricing education. Clearly a timely topic. See our Webinar page to reserve a seat for the pricing Webinar.