[C5033] Evaluating Digital Scholarship - Proposed guidelines for MESA

Created by Amy Singer
Sunday, 11/19/17 3:30pm


This Thematic Conversation continues from MESA 2016. There, senior and early career scholars as well as graduate students all expressed concerns about the degree of uncertainty that exists around what constitutes sound scholarship, measurable outcomes, significant contributions, and equivalencies to more traditional forms of scholarship when planning, undertaking or reviewing the creation of digital materials for research and learning, participating in large, collaborative digital research projects, or publishing digitally in a variety of formats. Not only are guidelines lacking that could be a point of reference in hiring, work, promotion and tenure, but there is a sense that equally lacking in some cases are people with sufficient understanding and experience in a department, school, faculty, etc., who might be mentors or evaluators.

Increasingly, disciplinary organizations relevant to the scholarship of MESA members have issued evaluation guidelines for their membership, to be used in considering digital scholarship in the processes of hiring, tenure and promotion. To the extent that MESA members are affiliated to disciplinary departments, these guidelines can be relevant and useful; where this is not the case, the lacuna may create uncertainty (stressful and unhelpful) or even skepticism (harmful) about digital scholarship of various kinds. Thus the 2016 Conversation led to the creation of an ad-hoc committee to draft MESA guidelines for Evaluating and Incentivizing Digital Scholarship.

This 2017 follow-up Conversation will consider the guidelines drafted and submitted to the MESA Board. These guidelines focus primarily on researchers who are in jobs where hiring, retention and promotion follow the traditional tenure track trajectory. However, we need to consider that our academic workforce participates increasingly in the parcellization of academic work throught adjunct employment and piece work. Funded digital projects can contribute to this by being a source of such work. Similarly, crowdsourcing these projects can easily slip from being an opportunity to engage experts and teach students into exploitation of free labor. Attention is needed to the complex implications of digital work, to discover new opportunitieis to recognize and compensate academic contributions in more robust ways. Finally, this year’s participants consider how to launch and sustain digital initiatives and experiments that may be specifically relevant to the study of the Middle East and Islam, including, for example, the rescue and preservation of endangered materials; how digital work can bridge divides of distance, resources, language, culture, and politics; and the unique challenges of multiple languages and fonts.






Virginia Aksan

(McMaster University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Amy Singer

(Tel Aviv University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;

Elias Muhanna

(Brown University)
Elias Muhanna is the Manning Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University, where he teaches courses on classical Arabic literature and Islamic intellectual history.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

E. Natalie Rothman

(University of Toronto Scarborough)
E. Natalie Rothman is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto, specializing in the history of Venice and the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period. Her broader interests include the history of cultural mediation, the relationship...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Chris Gratien

(Harvard University)
I earned my Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2015. My current book project, which is based on dissertation research, examines the environmental history of late Ottoman and early Republican Cilicia. Alongside my academic research, I also produce and...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;