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MLA Urges Evaluators to ‘Give Full Regard’ to Digital Work

The Modern Language Association wants evaluators to get with the digital program. In a revised set of “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media,” the association urges departments and committees that evaluate academic work in digital media and digital humanities to give it the weight it deserves and to make sure they know how to assess it in the first place. Candidates for jobs and faculty members up for review should also make sure they understand how they’re going to be assessed, negotiate terms for evaluation, and document their work clearly, the group advises.

“Digital media are transforming literary scholarship, teaching, and service, as well as providing new venues for research, communication, and the creation of networked academic communities,” the updated guidelines say. “Academic work in digital media must be evaluated in the light of these rapidly changing technological, institutional, and professional contexts, and departments should recognize that many traditional notions of scholarship, teaching, and service are being redefined.”

The guidelines lay out specific steps that evaluators and those being evaluated should take. Hiring and assessment committees should spell out expectations for digital work and how it will be considered; “engage qualified reviewers,” even if that means going outside the department or the institution; review work in the medium in which it was produced; and stay abreast of technology that allows people with disabilities to do their work. Candidates and researchers should ask up front how digital work will count toward teaching, research, and service; negotiate terms and conditions for the evaluation of their work; and “be prepared to explain the results, theoretical underpinnings, and intellectual rigor of their work.”

The association notes that technology changes so rapidly no one set of guidelines can cover everything. “A general principle nonetheless holds: Institutions that recruit or review scholars working in digital media or digital humanities must give full regard to their work when evaluating them for reappointment, tenure, and promotion.”

[Image: "Evaluation scale" by Flickr user billsoPHOTO. Used under a Creative Commons license.]

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