Last month I reported on an effort by the Kansas Board of Regents to make “improper use of social media” a ground for firing tenured faculty. Now Steve Saideman reports that the executive committee of the International Studies Association (ISA) wants to compel all members of the editorial teams of its six academic journals to give up their personal blogs:
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.
Saideman and many others have already stated reasons why such a policy is silly and unproductive. I also doubt that the ISA would have much legal ground to actually fire an editor who chooses to violate this policy, given that it offers no rational reason for distinguishing blogs from other types of speech. Blanket bans like this rarely survive courtroom challenges. The policy is so broad that it encompasses cat blogging, blogs used for teaching, as well as attempts to bring scholarship to a broader audience (our goal here at the Cage). Anything that is not a formal ISA blog is off-limits.
The impact of the proposed ISA policy is obviously much more limited than that of the Kansas Board, as it only applies to a subgroup of ISA members who decide to engage in a contractual relationship with the organization as editors. Yet, if this were to become policy it would affect a significant proportion of international relations (IR) scholars. Dan Drezner reports that 28 percent of IR scholars had contributed to a blog and 7 percent do so on a regular basis.
Look, I understand the impulse. Editors could say things in social media that affect the integrity of the editorial process. I get that this is a concern. Modern editors will have to develop guidelines on what are and what are not proper uses of social media. But arbitrarily banning one form of speech is just a really shortsighted way to go about this.