Legal scholars and legal publishers often look at legal blogs as off on the side and not relevant to their more “learned” work. More demeaning yet, law blogs are often looked at as merely advertising or marketing.

The fact is that legal blogs likely generate citation of their legal publications (journals, reviews, periodicals, treatises) and drive discussion of the subjects written about in the legal publications. In addition, legal bloggers serve as a resource to legal scholars and publishers.

Matt Shipman (@shiplives), a science writer and public information officer at North Carolina State University, wrote this week that there is a correlation between science blogging and journal citations.

Shipman’s post is based upon a paper (pdf) entitled “Do blog citations correlate with a higher number of future citations? Research blogs as a potential source for alternative metrics,” published this year in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

The authors of the paper wanted to determine whether journal articles blogged about shortly after publication generated more citations than other articles from the same journal that were not written about in blogs.

The researchers focused on over 10,000 blog posts that discussed journal articles published in 2009 and 2010. Further refining their work, the researchers arrived at some powerful findings.

The median number of citations was higher for 10 of the 12 journals in 2009, and much higher for the New England Journal Medicine (NEJM), in which blogged-about articles had a median of 172 citations, as opposed to a median of 56 citations for papers that hadn’t been written about in blogs.

The numbers for 2010 were even more pronounced. The median number of citations was higher for 16 of the 19 journals. Again, NEJM led the way, with blogged-about articles garnering an average of 138 citations, versus 51 citations for the journal’s overall median.

Two takeaways for Shipman.

  1. Researchers might be well served to answer a blogger’s questions about their work – a resulting blog post may help boost citations for the relevant journal article.
  2. Bloggers are not working in a void. This paper indicates that blogging may be more than idle entertainment. When you write about a paper that captures your interest, you may be helping to capture the interest of other researchers in related fields – drawing attention to the paper, contributing to discussion in the field, and ultimately helping to increase citations for the paper in question.

Though we have no study of the correlation between blogged about legal articles and citations,  there is good reason to believe we’d see similar findings.

Legal blogs drive online and offline discussion of legal matters, including matters written about in legal journals, reviews, and publications. Not getting blogged about as a legal scholar and publisher is a sign you and your work may be becoming irrelevant.

What’s this all mean?

  • Bloggers can make themselves more relevant and influential by referencing traditional publications. You’ll become a resource and drive legal dialogue.
  • Legal scholars and publishers ought to look at ways they can engage and build relationships with legal bloggers. Develop relationships with communities of legal bloggers ala LXBN. Your publications will get cited and be seen more. You’ll pick up resources for your ongoing work.
  • Open online and democratic dialogue is where the world is headed. Legal scholars and publishers no longer have a monopoly on legal dialogue.
  • Those legal bloggers who do look at blogs as merely a way to market themselves ought to wake up.  By entering into this open legal dialogue you not only advance the law, you grow your own influence.

We’re still at the infancy of legal blogging. Expect things to really jump when legal scholars and traditional legal publishers recognize  the benefits of aligning with legal bloggers.

Image courtesy of Tracie Hall