Sunday, November 25, 2007

Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion

Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion

In 2004 the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association of America created a task force to examine current standards and emerging trends in publication requirements for tenure and promotion in English and foreign language departments in the United States. The council’s action came in response to widespread anxiety in the profession about ever-rising demands for research productivity and shrinking humanities lists by academic publishers, worries that forms of scholarship other than single-authored books were not being properly recognized, and fears that a generation of junior scholars would have a significantly reduced chance of being tenured. The task force was charged with investigating the factual basis behind such concerns and making recommendations to address the changing environment in which scholarship is being evaluated in tenureand promotion decisions.


Giving Only Limited Recognition to Digital Scholarship

As expectations for publication have crept upward for individual faculty members and outward to a widening circle of institutions, it seems important that new forms for publishing and disseminating scholarship be able to gain recognition. Recognition for work published in digital formats remains limited, however, and high percentages of departments report little experience with scholarship produced in new media. Digital monographs still remain more prospect than reality in our field, and departments’ lack of experience may reflect the paucity of examples that have been produced to date. Even so, it seems clear that departments need to take special care not to treat scholarship produced in new media prejudicially. It seems a particular cause for concern that departments in the doctorate sector report the least experience with new media.

Recognition of Digital Scholarship

Unsurprisingly, the percentages of departments that report experience with refereed articles produced in digital form is higher than for monographs. But 30% to 40% still report having “no experience.” More troublingly, 60% of departments in Carnegie doctorate institutions say refereed articles in digital format either “don’t count” for tenure in their departments and institutions or that they have no experience evaluating them. Again, it’s possible that some number of respondents who reported that articles in new media “don’t count” may be saying that examples have not yet been forthcoming and so they haven’t yet had the opportunity to have them count. As the task force recommends, departments and institutions should recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarship.

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