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AAA Guidelines for Tenure and Promotion Review: Communicating Public Scholarship in Anthropology

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These guidelines are intended to assist tenure and promotion committees in assessing the quality of new, public forms of anthropological scholarship that are not typically accounted for in existing guidelines. We define public scholarship as that which is in dialogue with non-academic as well as academic audiences, and that is informed by anthropological scholarship and knowledge.

Anthropological scholarship in the twenty-first century has expanded in ways that require new ways of assessing and evaluating new forms of producing and disseminating scholarship in anthropology, especially for purposes of tenure and promotion. The American Anthropological Association acknowledges the importance of these new, public forms of peer-reviewed, editor- reviewed and non-peer-reviewed scholarship, as well as the ways they add to and complement traditional peer-reviewed publication of articles and books. AAA recommends that departmental and college/university tenure and promotion committees review their existing guidelines with the following considerations:

  1. Acknowledge the value of public forms of communicating, writing and publishing as scholarship. Some of this scholarship involves experimentation and risk-taking or requires rapid responsiveness. Some of this work is crucial in terms of community and public engagement, and in numerous instances it includes scholarship that blurs boundaries between research, teaching, and service. We encourage departments to familiarize themselves with this new ecology of writing and publishing.
  1. Articulate what counts for excellence in anthropological scholarship, as well as expectations for communicating research with different publics, including the community of one’s scholarship (where relevant and appropriate). Questions to ask include: In terms of design, content, and reach, what is the nature of scholarship under consideration? How does this work contribute to the profile of the scholar, the department, institution, and discipline? How should faculty categorize the various publication forms and scholarship activities on their CVs? 
  1. Develop approaches for assessing quality and impact of public forms of scholarly communication. These may be both quantitative (metrics, such as unique site visits, page views, citations, etc.) as well as qualitative (author reports on responses, faculty assessment of the publication venue; peer reviews of individual works or of a portfolio of work), and include considerations such as invitation-only publications. In addition, it may be crucial to evaluate online scholarship in its characteristic digital format rather than in one-dimensional print form.
  1. Seek out qualified reviewers for public scholarship, as necessary. One source of qualified reviewers is the AAA Resource Panel for External Tenure and Promotion Review and External Program Review, comprised of individuals with the expertise and knowledge to evaluate the accomplishments and contributions of practicing, applied, and public interest anthropological scholarship, and of the academic programs in applied, practicing, and publically engaged departments (created by the CoPAPIA). In some cases, seeking letters from external communities and individuals might be an important supplement to the traditional outside academic reviewers (e.g., members of Tribal Councils, community organizations, government representations, etc.).
  1. Connect with other departments on campus in order to create institutional guidelines for valuing public forms of writing and scholarship, and assessing their impact. The National Science Foundation’s guidelines would be useful for creating university standards for assessing the impact of writing, scholarship, and research-based activities. Once universities decide how to value and assess this work, institutions could detail how these forms of writing and scholarship will be evaluated during formal processes such as annual and mid-tenure reviews, or in offer letters that describe expectations of hired faculty members.
  1. Engage a full reassessment of tenure and promotion requirements to ensure a fair balance of expectations across all forms of academic work. In the broad ecology of expectations, the new forms of communicating anthropology cannot become additive to traditional responsibilities but requires a new balance of weights across publishing, teaching, service, and leadership. 

Read the PDF of the full report here



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