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The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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Digital scholarship guidelines

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Figure 4 Digital outputs

These recommendations specify a number of approaches to recognising digital scholarship activity. A more common approach is to produce more general guidelines which set out broader criteria for assessing the quality of scholarly activity. These can include a catch-all term to accommodate new forms of outputs, for example, the Open University promotion guidelines state that ‘other appropriate outputs from scholarship can be taken into account including a demonstrable influence upon academic communication mediated through online and related web mediated technologies that influences the discipline’.

The Committee on Information Technology of the Modern Languages Association (MLA) has developed its own guidelines [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for promotion committees to consider when dealing with digital media in the modern languages:

  • Delineate and communicate responsibilities. When candidates wish to have work with digital media considered, the expectations and responsibilities connected with such work and the recognition given to it should be clearly delineated and communicated to them at the point of employment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stay informed about accessibility issues. Search, reappointment, promotion and tenure committees have a responsibility to comply with federal regulations and to become and remain informed of technological innovations that permit persons with disabilities to conduct research and carry out other professional responsibilities effectively.

Some of these will seem like common sense, for example, reviewing work in the medium in which it was produced, but even such a small step may come up against opposition when there is a strictly regulated promotion process which has been designed to suit the needs of print outputs.