Friday, January 12, 2007

MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion

In December 2006 The Modern Language Association of America issued an important report: MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion. The following is an extract from the Executive Summary:
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 tenure and promotion decisions. . . .
While publication expectations for tenure and promotion have increased, the value that departments place on scholarly activity outside monograph publication remains within a fairly restricted range. Refereed journal articles continue to be valued in tenure evaluations; only 1.6% of responding departments rated refereed journal articles “not important” in tenure and promotion decisions. Other activities were more widely devalued. Translations were rated “not important” by 30.4% of departments (including 31.3% of foreign language departments), as were textbooks by 28.9% of departments, bibliographic scholarship by 28.8% of departments, scholarly editions by 20% of departments, and editing a scholarly journal by 20.7% of departments. Even more troubling is the state of evaluation for digital scholarship, now an extensively used resource for scholars across the humanities: 40.8% of departments in doctorate granting institutions report no experience evaluating refereed articles in electronic format, and 65.7% report no experience evaluating monographs in electronic format.

Among the Report’s 20 recommendations:

3. The profession as a whole should develop a more capacious conception of scholarship by rethinking the dominance of the monograph, promoting the scholarly essay, establishing multiple pathways to tenure, and using scholarly portfolios.
4. Departments and institutions should recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration, and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarship.
16. The task force recommends establishing concrete measures to support university presses.
Click here for the full Report.

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