Monday, February 19, 2007

Promotion and Tenure Criteria for New Media

Some of those brave pioneers who have celebrated what the internet has to offer the experience of university teaching, and who have looked towards the internet to enhance their offerings, may well have found it somewhat frustrating to find that their initiatives have not always met with wholehearted endorsement from their bosses. I am one of the lucky ones. I was in an institution (the University of Birmingham, Dept of Theology and Religion) that was open to initiatives in electronic media, and I always felt supported and encouraged in my attempts to try new things, something that was often controversial, especially in the relatively early days of the world wide web. Although I would not have managed promotion in that system if I had focused solely on electronic media for teaching and research, I did feel that the use of electronic media, especially in teaching, was recognized and valued. I think the same was true here in getting tenure in the Duke University Dept of Religion too, a sense that while print publications were paramount, the use of electronic media played a reasonable supporting role. I make these remarks to make clear that I have no personal axe to grind here, because it is clear that not everyone feels this way about their institutions, and I have talked to some scholars who have been pioneers in the use of internet resources in academia who have not felt supported by their institutions. It is felt that print publications will always trump the internet, and recognition will not be forthcoming for those who spend too long staring at their computer screen.

One of the difficulties is that in some institutions, those involved with appointments, promotions and tenure, have not yet realized how rapidly the scene has changed in the last decade or so, and just how valuable it can be to have academics who invest a lot of time and energy in new media. It is encouraging, therefore, to see reference on The Stoa Consortium to this piece from the University of Maine:

New Media Department, University of Maine
Promotion and Tenure Guidelines Addendum: Rationale for Redefined Criteria
New Criteria for New Media
ABSTRACT: An argument for redefining promotion and tenure criteria for faculty in new media departments of today's universities.
As the Stoa post comments, "It seems to provide an excellent point of departure for a discussion of how to include a proper assessment of new media contributions in the tenure and promotion processes in Humanities and Social Sciences." I agree. I hope to see other universities following suit.


Danny Zacharias said...


What do you think about electronic sources vs. print sources?

I use Accordance heavily and they have many good resources for lexical and grammatical studies, as well as dictionary articles. Whenever I cite them in an essay, inevitably my teacher will put "cite print version". This actually just happened in an essay I am preparing to submit- I got the comment from two people who I asked to read the work.

What do you think of this occasion?

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Danny. I couldn't comment on your specific case, of course, but in general I am happy with the citation of electronic sources, especially if they are (1) properly cited and (2) the best available source for the piece in question. In relation to (2), it is sometimes the case that someone will have used an electronic resource to cut a corner, and I don't like to encourage that.

Tim Bulkeley said...

But cutting corners is what electronic resources do best! ;-)

I have colleagues who take the "always cite print" approach. I would like to suggest that students use the electronic versions which are easier and quicker, to cut the corner, but then to keep the dinos happy pretend to have read the papyrus version. But that would be dishonest, pity, a JBL article is a JBL article whether on paper or screen. And a JHS article is usually good even if it never touches paper! WShat matters is the quality of the resource, not the medium.