AHA sets up committee on professional evaluation of digital scholarship

tags: digital history




Historians have been creating works of digital scholarship for over 20 years. Online databases have transformed discovery and access to both primary sources and secondary literature. There is a growing infrastructure within universities to support and sustain this research, and the NEH and others have funded groundbreaking historical scholarship executed in digital media. There are, however, no widely accepted standards or guidelines for the professional evaluation of these types of projects. In recognition of the importance of these new forms of scholarship, the American Historical Association has set up an ad hoc committee on the professional evaluation of digital scholarship by historians.

This committee is charged with producing a set of guidelines for departments to use in processes of hiring, tenure, and promotion. The work of this committee will not only help departments deal with existing means for publishing scholarship in digital formats (ebooks, blogs, websites, etc.), but by creating paths to more formal recognition for projects and historians, it will encourage experimentation and recognize the value of new forms of scholarly communication.

Chaired by eminent historian and president of the University of Richmond Edward Ayers, the committee is made up of historians from a range of institutions and fields, who all have significant experience in digital history along with more traditional forms of scholarly communication.

The range of types of scholarly outputs that the committee will have to consider as well as the different kinds of institutions that will be applying the guidelines makes this a complex undertaking. Some of the most important issues the participants will take up include: the relationship between digital and traditional forms of scholarship; the collaborative nature of many digital projects; the issue of peer review; the kinds of projects and publications that should be considered; and the rapid pace of change in digital history.

Committees looking at similar issues, such as the Working Group on Evaluating Public History Scholarship have been very successful in the past and have enabled departments and institutions to factor such work into their decisions on promotion and tenure. Council approved this committee last year and has since been working to recruit an excellent group of historians committed to digital scholarship. The committee will produce draft guidelines for sharing with the community of interested scholars, and then a final version for the AHA Council will be completed by fall 2014 for consideration when the Council meets in January 2015. At several stages in this process we will be seeking the input of the community, so please get involved and help us encourage innovation and support the scholars who engender it.

Committee List

Edward Ayers (University of Richmond, US history, committee chair)

David Bell  (Princeton, European history)

Peter Bol (Harvard, Chinese history)

Tim Burke (Swarthmore, African history)

James Gregory (University of Washington, US history)

Claire Potter (New School for Public Engagement, US history)

Jan Reiff (University of California, Los Angeles, US history)

Kathryn Tomasek (Wheaton College, US history)



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