Digital Scholarship for Tenure & Promotion

September 29, 2011

Approved (from http://www.clker.com/clipart-9830.html)At McGill I’m appointed in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, which is a new department that formed this summer as an amalgamation of the individual departments of Hispanic, Italian, German and Russian. One of the benefits of joining a new department is that most of the rules and regulations need to be reviewed and updated. Reviewing rules and regulations may not sound like a benefit at first glance, but it does provide an opportunity to look for ways of better representing digitally-oriented research and teaching.

This morning’s order of business was to look at the department’s criteria for tenure and promotion. While I wasn’t able to substantially challenge the assumption that humanists should have a book, I do think there’s other language in the research criteria section that can provide enough leeway to allow for alternatives on an ad hoc basis. Two other things I care a lot about are 1) recognizing co-authorship (which I was overjoyed that one of my other colleagues brought up and we added language to the document to reflect that) and 2) and the inclusion of digital resources for tenure and promotion. I mentioned various guidelines and resources, including the MLA wiki on The Evaluation of Digital Work, and proposed the following addition to the document (hastily composed during the meeting):

Consideration may be given to digital resources (web sites, databases, programs, etc.) when the dossier provides evidence that such work represents original and substantial scholarship. Types of assessment may include formal peer review, citation metrics, and public impact.

I was very pleasantly surprised that my colleagues seemed unanimously and immediately supportive (there may have been objectors who remained quiet, but there was definitely a majority nodding in approval, not to mention the unanimous vote on this and other amendments proposed). In fact, one of my colleagues asked why we would put “consideration may” instead of “consideration should” – I replied that not all digital resources are created equal and that the onus can still be on the candidate to decide what to include and how to justify it as significant scholarship. Anyway, sometimes one anticipates the battles in the wrong places.

The document we were working on was specifically about criteria for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, and the clause about digital scholarship doesn’t really apply to anyone currently in the department, but I’m really delighted that my department has taken a pro-active step in recognizing digital scholarship.

2 Responses to Digital Scholarship for Tenure & Promotion

  1. [...] Digital Scholarship for Tenure & Promotion | Stéfan Sinclair At McGill I'm appointed in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, which is a new department that formed this summer as an amalgamation of t… Source: stefansinclair.name [...]

  2. Katherine Harris on September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Stefan, thank you for posting this. I’ve forwarded it to my Dean, Chair, and members of the departments T&P committee. There have been some attempts to alter the governing T&P policies at the university level, but these amendments are often met with roadblocks (because it’s complicated at my university). However, departments can take action by amending their T&P documents to offer assurances of consistent reviews of digital projects and/or collaborative scholarship. I think the biggest issue in our department is maintaining consistency from year to year, especially when there is a turnover of committee members (and hence variances in standards).