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Your Personnel Committee Has Questions

Christopher Francese

Dickinson College

You are under review. Driven by fear, ignorance, and suspicion, your personnel committee is hostile to digital work and the plunging descent of scholarly standards that it represents. Where in God’s name is the peer-review? Who can keep up with publication formats whose shelf life is like unto that of soup? Who can even understand this stuff? How many journal articles is it equivalent to? Your review is doomed unless you can explain your work in 250 words. Go.

The first thing to do is to patiently describe the nature of your scholarly contribution and its lasting value. When that has been settled, help the committee to ask better questions the next time. This talk will give a list of nine questions or sets of questions that personnel committees should be asking of scholars who produce digital publications. They cover topics such as platforms and technical requirements; user experience; scholarly context; relationship to teaching and service; impact; the life cycle of digital projects; defining roles within a project; and grants.

The chaotic nature of digital publishing imposes added burdens on DH scholars to explain and justify their work. We might also need to take on the task of helping personnel committees to do their jobs more effectively. By asking better questions, colleagues and administrators can learn to discriminate varieties of, and levels of quality within, digital scholarship. The act of engaging in this dialogue about evaluation on an institutional level will also have salutary effects on digital projects themselves as they come to better articulate their purpose and place in the intellectual landscape.

This talk is based on digital scholarship standards already in use at Dickinson College (“Evaluation of Digital Scholarship at Dickinson” memo of 2014: ), which are themselves indebted to Todd Presner’s article, “How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship,” Journal of Digital Humanities 1.4 (Fall 2012).

Session/Panel Title

Evaluating Scholarship: Digital and Traditional

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