Tenure and promotion is an issue for engaged scholars but maybe not for the reason you think

David Phipps thinks tenure/promotion policies are probably just fine. It is the tenure/promotion committees that are challenging for engaged scholars.

Tenure and promotion (T&P) has long been an issue for engaged scholars. Engaged scholarship takes longer than solo research. Processes of engagement must contend with issues related to power and the time it takes to balance power differentials. Engaged scholarship is concerned with creating impact with community and may not be the subject of top tier journals. All these things matter when preparing a T&P file not least because most of the members on a T&P committee will not be engaged scholars and therefore don’t appreciate these issues.

There is an ongoing call for institutions to change their T&P policies to better accommodate engaged scholarship. Fortunately, there are also resources available to help.

The caveat I have about all of these is – in my opinion – it isn’t about the policy, it is about the implementation of the policy. Take York U for example, look at our policy, section B2 which has community engaged scholarship and public engagement throughout. That’s great. But since departments implement the policy researchers report to me that it is papers and books (according to the discipline) that dominate the review process.

Similarly Thompson Rivers University T&P policy and  guidance document indicate that departments should use Boyer’s categories of scholarship: “Discovery (research), Integration (synthesis), Application and Engagement (practice), and Teaching (learning)”. In theory a researcher at Thompson Rivers should be able to gain tenure and be promoted based on application and engagement of scholarship; however, my understanding from faculty (ok, only one) is that the scholarship of discovery dominates the review process.

If my conjecture that it isn’t the policy but how it is implemented is true, then the opportunity isn’t to change the policy but to train T&P committees to recognize standards of excellence for engaged scholarship. To do that those standards need to be established to inform tools and training so T&P committee members don’t replicate scholars who look just like them.

Anyone got any promising practices to share?