Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Evaluation of Digital Scholarship by Historians (2014)

Historians are increasingly producing online publications and using new media for research and teaching. The American Historical Association seeks to respond in creative and responsible ways to these exciting developments in digital scholarship. This committee is an important part of that response.

The committee will explore the landscape of digital scholarship and online communication, assessing existing models for the integration of digital publications into the hiring, tenure, and promotion systems of history departments (and in other disciplines as well). The committee will not be asked to provide a formal report on its findings about the situation as it exists now. Instead the research that the committee undertakes can be summarized in a brief memo, and aimed at producing a practical set of guidelines going forward.  Those guidelines will describe tools and resources to help departments effectively integrate the evaluation of digital work in history into the overall assessments required for hiring, tenure, and promotion.  

The document should include the following elements:

  1. Criteria for evaluating digital projects and online scholarly communication for hiring, promotion & tenure.
  2. A framework for applying those criteria to help departments and promotion committees in using them for actual cases.

The committee should consider:  

  • The different types of institution and departments in which the criteria will be applied
  • The diversity of content and form, which would include, for example, experimental work that is distributed in pre-review form
  • The question of peer review for digital publications
  • The kinds of projects, publications, and engagement that should be considered
  • The weight of different kinds of digital activity, including those related to teaching, research, and communication which are not peer-reviewed but can be assessed to show impact of research, engagement with a wider audience, etc
  • How we should review collaborative projects, or those that are editorial or curatorial by nature
  • How different types of contributions (e.g. software development, project management, consultation) to a work of digital scholarship count in assessing the work of historians.  

The success of the work of the committee will require engaging with historians working within and outside of digital scholarship, and obtaining input and feedback from scholars throughout the process of developing and revising the criteria. It is also important that even after the committee has delivered the materials that it remain engaged in the project by assisting actively with promotion and advocacy to ensure serious consideration across a wide range of institutions.  

The committee will be asked to produce its guidelines by November 15, 2014, for consideration by the AHA Council. The document will be reviewed, revised, and emended by Council for approval at the January 2015 meeting. It will then be published as a formal AHA document.