Publication Date

October 1, 2001

Editor's Note: The AHA brings the following document to the attention of its members, as an aid in assessing new kinds of scholarly work. This was adapted from the MLA Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media in the Modern Languages ( by the American Association for History and Computing, an affiliate of the AHA. The AHA Council voted to endorse these guidelines at it January 2002 meeting.


Consideration of technology-related activities (such as e-books, scholarly databases, multimedia projects, and online articles) in the tenure, promotion, and review process (TPR) has become important to both young and senior scholars. Unfortunately, across the historical profession, there is much uncertainty about the status of digital activities in the traditional categories of teaching, professional development, and service. As a result, many historians remain hesitant to develop or use electronic materials or to have their scholarship published in a digital format.

During the spring 2000 semester, the American Association for History and Computing ( conducted a survey of tenure, review, and promotion policies concerning technology-related activities at the 650 plus history departments listed in the American Historical Association's 1999–2000 Directory of History Departments and Organizations. The goal of this survey was to obtain a snapshot of the policies and practices that are currently in place as barriers and incentives and to determine what guidelines are necessary to advance serious, sensible, innovative work with digital technologies. The full results and an analysis of the AAHC survey are available in the Journal of the Association for History and Computing ( ). The data showed that there are few history departments with formal policies concerning the place of digital history in continuing appointment, and that, in fact, junior faculty could be penalized for working too heavily in nonprint, nontraditional media. Several junior faculty anonymously reported being denied tenure and/or promotion for overemphasis of digital activities, and many senior and junior faculty expressed great anxiety about the current ambiguity and confusion. These lessons convinced the executive council of the AAHC that there is an urgent need for guidance and guidelines.

As a result of the survey's disturbing revelations, the members of the executive council of the AAHC have been working with members of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the last year in crafting appropriate guidelines for the current context. Recommendations and guidance are needed immediately to benefit scholars who are going through the TPR process this fall and in the near future. Thus, the AAHC offers the guidelines below. Similar guidelines have been adopted by the MLA and the APSA, and we hope that collectively, these recommendations will help institutions during this transitional period and will enable scholars to more confidently pursue digital activities that will enrich the profession.

Institutions and, when appropriate, departments should develop their own written guidelines so that faculty members engaged in research and teaching with digital media can be adequately, fully, and fairly evaluated and rewarded. Institutions should also take care to grant appropriate credit to faculty members for technology projects in teaching, research, and service, while recognizing that because many projects cross the boundaries between these traditional areas, faculty members should receive proportionate credit in more than one relevant area for their intellectual work. Written guidelines must provide clear directions for appointment, reappointment, merit increases, tenure, and promotion and should take into consideration the growing number of resources for evaluating digital scholarship.

Guidelines for Appointment, Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committees

1. Delineate and Communicate Responsibilities

When chairs and hiring committees seek candidates who have expertise in the use of digital media, explicit reference to such work should be included in job descriptions, and candidates should be apprised of their responsibilities relative to this work. When candidates wish to have work with digital media considered an integral part of their positions, the expectations and responsibilities connected with such work, and the recognition given to it, should be clearly delineated and communicated to them at hiring.

2. Engage Qualified Reviewers.

Faculty members who work with digital media should have their work evaluated by persons knowledgeable about the use of these media in the candidate's field. At times this may be possible only by engaging qualified reviewers from other institutions. The American Association for History and Computing will help departments and review committees in search of appropriate expertise to locate and coordinate qualified outside evaluators whenever requested.

3. Review Work in the Medium in Which It Was Produced.

Since scholarly work is sometimes designed for presentation in a specific medium, evaluative bodies should review faculty members' work in the medium in which it was produced. For example, Web-based projects should be viewed online, not in printed form.

4. Seek Interdisciplinary Advice.

If faculty members have used technology to collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines on the same campus or on different campuses, departments and institutions should seek the assistance of experts in those other disciplines to assess and evaluate such interdisciplinary work.

5. Stay Informed about Disability Issues.

Search, reappointment, promotion, and tenure committees have a responsibility to become and remain informed of technological innovations that permit disabled individuals to conduct research and carry out other professional responsibilities effectively. Information on this issue is available at CAST ( and the Adaptech Project (

Guidelines for Candidates and Faculty Members

1. Ask about Evaluation and Support.

When candidates for faculty positions first negotiate the terms of their jobs, they should ask how credit for work with digital media in teaching, research, and service will be considered in the reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes. In addition, candidates and faculty members should confirm that they will have institutional support and access to facilities so that they can work creatively and productively with digital media.

2. Negotiate Your Role.

Faculty members and job candidates should negotiate their responsibilities and departmental roles in the use, development, and support of information technologies in their teaching, service, and research. Faculty members and candidates for positions that combine administrative and faculty responsibilities, including the development and support of technological infrastructures, must have a clear understanding of how their work will be evaluated.

3. Document and Explain Your Work.

Faculty members who work with digital media should be prepared to:

Make explicit the results, theoretical underpinnings, and intellectual rigor of their work. They should be prepared, to the same extent that faculty members in other fields are held accountable, to show the relevance of their work in terms of the traditional areas of teaching, research, and service.

You should take particular care to:

Describe how your work may overlap or redefine the traditional categories.

Describe the process underlying the creation of work in digital media (e.g., the creation of infrastructure as well as content).

Describe new collaborative relationships with other faculty members and students required by your work in digital media. Document and explain the nature and degree of your contribution.

Documentation of projects might include recording sources of internal or external funding, awards or other professional recognition, and reviews and citations of the work in print or digital journals.

The pace of technological change makes it impossible for any one set of guidelines to account completely for the ways digital media and the work done with them is influencing historical research, teaching, and publication. The principle underlying these guidelines is that when institutions seek work with digital media and faculty members express interest in it, the institution must give full regard to this work when faculty members are hired or considered for reappointment, tenure, and promotion.

For details about the guidelines, contact Dennis Trinkle, Executive Director, American Association for History and Computing, Department of History, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN 46135.

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