In 2004, the Modern Language Association created a task force to study publication requirements for tenure and promotion in the U.S. In December 2006, the task force released their findings, which included the following:
- Over 50% of PhD granting institutions have no experience evaluating new forms of scholarship.
- Print publications count more than digital scholarship for tenure and promotion.
- Candidates producing only digital scholarship may be at risk.
- The monograph remains dominant.
The task force made many recommendations, including the following two having to do with the definition of scholarship and new media publication:
- “The profession as a whole should develop a more capacious conception of scholarship by rethinking the dominance of the monograph, promoting the scholarly essay, establishing multiple pathways to tenure, and using scholarly portfolios.”
- “Departments and institutions should recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration, and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarship” (p. 5).
The task force leaves the specifics of re-defining scholarship and creating new evaluation procedures open to interpretation in local contexts. But the document does not point to existing examples of online publications that might represent an expanded conception of scholarship and help guide departments in rethinking their evaluation procedures and criteria.
“This Is Scholarship” is a movie that attempts to fill this gap. In providing examples of different forms of scholarship that exist online, the movie argues that existing online scholarship is multiple and varied enough already that a more flexible definition of scholarship has emerged, even if it is not yet valued by many tenure-granting units. The movie further argues that these examples can guide tenure and promotion committees in creating new procedures for evaluating this new scholarship, and it offers suggestions for how to begin to build new values into tenure and promotion policies.