Will this help me keep my job, or lose it?

I’ve just finished rereading the postings and comments through yesterday morning, and I have four session topics to propose after seeing our group-generated body of work so far. I’ll make separate postings for them, since the group will probably want to consider them individually. Here’s the first one:

How will the academic rewards system treat work in the Digital Humanities, for purposes of tenure and promotion?

The question of academic recognition of computationally-assisted scholarly work arose indirectly in Molly’s post on librarian-faculty collaboration: how do think about each other’s work? I think of it when I see Ryan and Megan’s comments about developing evaluation practices for multimedia assignments. Will the value of that time investment be recognized by our peers? New DH faculty and their colleagues who must evaluate their work have the most to benefit from a consideration of this topic. Marlowjm’s questions in that post about recognition by administration and faculty and support by an IT department indicate the importance of knowing how DH efforts will be considered in faculty evaluation, and several comments on that post seem relevant to me. In Amy’s Finding one’s way, Michelle’s comment about “teaching the technology at the expense of teaching our subject area” has relevance to how our work might be evaluated by our peers, and Amy’s thought about taking an introductory computer science course herself raises the important issue of whether we can afford such time investments for training and education (particularly if a tenure clock is involved). Blake’s excellent example of assessing computer-assisted music composition indicates a substantial issue in all of our fields. If evaluating digital work challenges specialists in our disciplines, how can a small-college tenure-and-promotion committee know how to judge it’s value?

I am particularly aware of this issue, having been part of the expansion of a technologically intensive field (computer science) housed within related departments (of mathematics) at two SLACs. The more I read in these postings and comments about colleagues pouring time into learning new technologies, the more I want those pioneers to understand how that investment will be recognized and valued, so they can make wise choices. With some proactive steps, I’m hoping tenure and promotion guidelines can adjust for DH in a more timely manner than it did during the CS transition.

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About Dick Brown

I've taught computer science at St. Olaf College for 21 years, and I supervise interdisciplinary undergraduate research. I'm especially interested in finding ways to apply high-performance computing in fields that are far from the areas typically associated with computing, in collaboration with faculty and undergraduate students in those fields.