This could be either a “talking” or “making” session depending on what we want out of it, but I thought THATCamp might be a good place to have an extended conversation about processes of promotion, tenure, and peer review in the digital age. As a current PhD student who thinks of traditional modes of scholarly production (books, articles, etc.) as somewhat limiting conceptually and, in certain respects, intellectually and is eager to cultivate a cv/resume that features a range of digital projects and collaborative experiences that, in all likelihood, deviate from what my department—history—thinks of as “creditable” scholarship, I feel like now is the perfect time to strategize ways to push our respective departments in more open-minded directions when it comes to evaluating and appreciating the methods and results of the digital work we are producing.
This issue is perhaps best described by Alex Galarza, Jason Heppler and Douglas Seefeldt in their call to redefine historical scholarship at the 2012 AHA:
“Digital tools are transforming the practice of history, yet junior scholars and graduate students are facing obstacles and risks to their professional advancement in using methods unrecognized as rigorous scholarly work. Their peers and evaluators are often unable or unwilling to address the scholarship on its merits…The disconnect between traditional evaluation and training and new digital methods means young scholars take on greater risks when dividing their limited time and attention on new methods that ultimately may not ever face scholarly evaluation on par with traditional scholarly production.”
Not to be assigning homework for a fun, informal event like THATCamp, but The Journal of the Digital Humanities recently did a good job of explaining what is at stake regarding the assessment and review of digital scholarship, while also providing some solutions and potential guidelines for academic departments and scholars to follow.
Therefore, I propose we talk about promotion, tenure, and peer review as it relates to the various digital projects we and others are pouring our time and mental energies into. If we are feeling up for the challenge, we could even draft a white paper to present to our respective departments that illustrates the merits of digital scholarship and how it might be properly assessed in line with existing disciplinary standards. Sure nothing may come of it, but at least we’ll have made our voices heard.