A report last year commissioned by our provost’s office looks at the changing practices of academic work and calls for three major areas of change in evaluating faculty for promotion, both to associate with tenure and to full professor:
- Faculty engagement with the public outside the traditional scholarly community
- New forms of scholarly work and communication
- Work across disciplinary lines
At a discussion yesterday about implementing the report, one full professor whom I very much admire and respect said that only 10% of faculty production is really new knowledge anyway; since most faculty work is dissemination, publicity, gatekeeping, etc., we should acknowledge and honor that by expanding the tenure and promotion criteria to take these into account.
I understand and even probably agree with this impulse. My hesitation has to do with where the new line should be drawn. Say I decide to run for office, and I give a bunch of really good speeches. Since I work on political culture and citizenship, do my speeches count as a new form of scholarly communication? What about scatterplot posts? Weekend chats with my neuroscientist friend?
Peer review is broken–I get that, really I do. But I’m not sure how to evaluate what replaces it as a way of evaluating the scholarly value of academic work. And I’m pretty sure I don’t think we should just throw caution to the wind and designate anything said, done, or written with a modicum of thought to be scholarly work.