Position Paper: Promotion and Tenure

Invited in-person discussant: Willeke Wendrich, outgoing director of UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities

The challenge of acquiring tenure while involved with digital scholarship is very specific problem for those currently in or expecting to gain tenure-track positions that require the successful completion of a tenure case within a fixed time period (typically six years). Promotion, on the other hand, is a challenge everyone faces and is more broadly defined as “the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank in an organization.”

Whether the goal is tenure or promotion, critical for our participants is the acceptance of 3D work as viable scholarship and work product. This is a multifaceted challenge. Depending on the situation, it may require changing attitudes at a disciplinary level by educating colleagues and administrators about the process and the scholarship involved, and establishing 3D research as a new form of knowledge production. While the wide variety of 3D technologies fosters innovation and experimentation, it confounds efforts to educate colleagues about the importance of this work. How does one tease apart the differences between building a reconstruction model and generating a PhotoScan model for use in archaeological field work? The two are equally valid uses of technology, but involve entirely different research objectives, tool sets, outputs, and scholastic investment. At minimum, an argument that is both compelling and irrefutable must be made for 3D work within the context of one’s unique work situation. For an archaeologist, that argument might revolve around the uses of 3D technologies for recording and disseminating field data. For an instructional technologist, that argument might involve the learning benefits of interaction with virtual worlds.

For those facing academic tenure and promotion challenges, there are a growing number of guidelines on the evaluation of digital scholarship. The recommendations in the disciplinary guidelines echo the advice many have given to students: that the research objective for the digital work be clearly articulated, that said research objective was sane and appropriate, and that there is evidence that the technological approach successfully addressed the objective. The common thread is scholastic rigor. From the CAA/SAH guidelines: “… evaluation will depend on the clarity of the argument and the scholarship, as well as the assessment of impact and evidence of review by the field of specialists. This standard holds in digital scholarship as it does with non-digital scholarship.”


How best to build compelling arguments for 3D work when it’s not one size fits all? How best to educate colleagues on the validity and importance of 3D work? How best to build a compelling tenure or promotion case that includes 3D work? Beyond competitive grants and extramural support, how else might we validate 3D work for tenure and promotion cases?


Closing the evaluation gap. Journal of Digital Humanities, v1, c4, Fall 2012. (An entire issue of the journal devoted to discussion of “assessment and the scholarly vetting process around digital scholarship.) http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-4/

Humanities Indicators – Tenure (a pdf of graphs pulled from http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/)

Rockwell, Geoffrey. “On the evaluation of digital media as scholarship.” Profession (published by The Modern Language Association of America) (2011): 152-168.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Peer review, judgment, and reading.” Profession (published by The Modern Language Association of America) (2011): 196-201.

Zorich, Diane M. “Transitioning to a digital world: art history, its research centers, and digital scholarship. May 2012. (NOTE: Specifically, the section ‘Challenges for art history in the digital realm” that begins on page 19.)

American Historical Association. Guidelines for the evaluation of digital scholarship in history. 2015. https://www.historians.org/teaching-and-learning/digital-history-resources/evaluation-of-digital-scholarship-in-history/guidelines-for-the-evaluation-of-digital-scholarship-in-history

College Art Association and the Society of Architectural Historians. Guidelines for evaluation of digital scholarship in art and architectural history. January 2016. http://www.collegeart.org/news/2016/02/23/the-college-art-association-and-the-society-of-architectural-historians-release-guidelines-for-the-evaluation-of-digital-scholarship-in-art-and-architectural-history/

Modern Language Association. Guidelines for evaluating work in digital humanities and digital media. (online only) https://www.mla.org/About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional-Issues/Committee-on-Information-Technology/Guidelines-for-Evaluating-Work-in-Digital-Humanities-and-Digital-Media

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