Standards for Evaluating Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work

Emerson College and the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies are committed to providing support and guidance that enables faculty members to fulfill the criteria for tenure and promotion. The Emerson College Faculty Handbook directs each faculty unit to: “define expectations for [scholarly/creative] accomplishments appropriate to the [represented] discipline or disciplines….” (8.2.2)

Tenure-Seeking Faculty (Assistant to Associate Professor)


A candidate’s work may cover more than one area of scholarly or creative endeavor, but as a whole, the work should exhibit a cumulative breadth and/or depth of scholarly/creative endeavor. The body of work should show a trajectory that exhibits the potential for future work that builds on what has been accomplished. We encourage the candidate to articulate how the body of scholarly/creative work represented in the dossier provides promise of development, enrichment, and creative intellectual engagement for future work.

Assessments of a candidate’s scholarly/creative production will take into account the objectives, aims and priorities identified in the candidate’s Personal Statement. Institute faculty are often engaged in interdisciplinary scholarly/creative work; reviewers familiar with and cognizant of the merits of such work should be solicited.

The interdisciplinary nature of professional work produced by Institute faculty may include components of creative accomplishment; these are to be understood as having parity with research or other scholarly productions and are subject to the criteria of coherence, significance, and productivity. Dossiers may include publication of scholarly work exclusively, incorporate scholarly and creative accomplishments, or include a preponderance of creative work. Assessments of the merits of any candidate’s work must give appropriate attention to the scope of work and external validation from the field offered as evidence of excellence, and apply criteria appropriate to the variety of media of production.


A candidate’s work should advance knowledge, appreciation, or understanding of the area of specialization of her/his scholarly/creative work. There are many ways of judging the significance of scholarly/creative work. Significance is usually indicated by the selectivity and professional reputation of the venues in which the work is published, exhibited, performed, or otherwise disseminated. The list that follows indicates broad parameters of the types of evidence that may be used to indicate the significance of the body of scholarly/creative work under review:

  • The candidate’s work appears in venues that indicate excellence as judged by professional peers. For example, scholarly work is published in relevant journals that use a blind peer-review process or creative work is showcased at juried festivals or other venues known for high artistic merit such as exhibitions in museums or academic institutions organized by reputable curators. Some fields of scholarly/creative work are community based or otherwise involved in civic engagement; in such cases, significance could be indicated by impact at the local rather than regional or national level, and venues for such work should be appropriate to the nature of the artist’s or scholar’s work.
  • The publishing journal is a reputable one; it may have a national or international audience; dramatic performances or exhibition of other creative work takes place in respected professional venues with recognized stature in the field. If a book is published, the press is considered credible by professionally accomplished members in the area of specialization.
  • Impartial evaluators of the work, who are themselves respected in the candidate’s area of scholarly/creative work, identify it as a significant contribution; for example, a work of visual art may be included in a museum show and its merits addressed by the curator in the exhibition catalog. The candidate’s work may be cited by scholars, journalists, artists or other academic/public figures relevant to the field. The work may have received awards indicative of esteem by peers.
  • For work produced in collaboration with other artists or scholars or featured in a group exhibition or an anthologized collection, the collaborators are professional artists or scholars with distinctive reputations in their own right.
  • The candidate has been invited to comment or lecture on his/her work in public or academic venues.
  • The work, in aggregate, conforms to standards of excellence articulated by relevant professional organizations.

With respect to creative work, special evidence may be considered in the evaluation of candidates whose dossiers include this kind of work. For instance, live performances or events that are innovative or experimental present unique challenges for quantitative and qualitative review. When such work is presented in a venue that does not engender the presence of a reviewer from a national publication, an established voice in the field may be enlisted as a peer assessor to attend the event and submit a review. A peer review process specific to each production/performance may be put in place when and if it is unlikely to be reviewed by the local/national press.

The candidate is advised to address the question of the significance of the body of work in the Personal Statement by, for example, citing impact factors, blind vs. non-blind peer review processes, acceptance rates, reputation of the editorial or curatorial staff, prestige of the other contributors to the production, and/or other relevant measures of the significance of the context in which the work is viewed or disseminated.

The external reviews solicited by the College for the promotion and tenure review are especially important in measuring the scholarly/creative significance of the candidate’s work. The external reviews must be seen in the context of the evidence provided by the candidate and be viewed as offering additional, well-informed assessments of a scholarly/creative agenda. The external reviews are not the sole arbiters of the significance of the work included in the dossier. External reviews must be from experts in the field who are more senior than the candidate and are not members of the family or a close personal friend.

Social impact is another dimension of significance to be considered. Social impact is defined as research and/or creative work that directly benefits communities or publics outside of one’s professional circles, and provides concrete and actionable solutions to societal problems. To demonstrate social impact, the faculty member must be able to apply accepted metrics (such as reputation, scope, and external validation) and document specific changes (such as to an organization, community or policy) that are a direct result of the project.


The range of scholarly/creative work produced by Institute faculty cannot be predicted in advance; therefore, these standards cannot be exhaustive in listing all possible equivalencies. Those engaged in review of dossiers must take care to ensure parity in assessing scholarly and creative work.

A typical dossier exhibiting an appropriate level of scholarly productivity may include 5 blind peer-reviewed journal articles judged as significant (in aggregate) using the criteria above over the pre-tenure period. The articles should appear in journals appropriate to the disciplinary, sub-disciplinary, or interdisciplinary focus of the candidate’s work. (Articles accepted for publication, but not yet in print, may be used as evidence of productivity if accompanied by a letter from the editor indicating acceptance and anticipated publication date.)

In some scholarly fields, a single-authored multi-chapter book with peer review protocols constitutes the level of productivity expected. If the published monograph is based on the candidate’s dissertation, evidence of continued productivity and future trajectory is expected. The candidate’s Personal Statement should provide clear indication of the peer review process. (Books accepted for publication, but not yet in print, may be included as evidence of productivity. A completed manuscript and signed final contract with accompanying letter of commitment to publish and timeline are necessary.)

For faculty whose tenure trajectory has been defined in terms of creative rather than scholarly work, or a combination of these, the creative works may be equal in weight to scholarly publications if the work is presented in venues that can provide evidence of external validation through a critical peer review process, whether the review process occurs prior to or follows public display or dissemination of the work. For example, a book length monograph of creative work may be indicative of appropriate professional accomplishment, depending on the standing of the press. Publication of a short story in an academically respected press would be the equivalent of an article in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal in terms of productivity. A work of visual art selected by a jury for exhibition in a venue understood professionally as well-respected beyond a local audience would also be considered as equivalent, as would taking a significant role in a performance in a venue understood as having more than local standing. Candidates who submit work to competitions, festivals, or other public exhibitions are expected to outline the process for selection and other relevant evaluative information.

Serving as a journal editor or editor of a book does not constitute creative/scholarly work on its own, but rather is a supplemental indicator of productivity. However, an editorial introduction to a special journal issue or book collection, if substantial, may be considered as a primary contribution to productivity, depending on its scope, length, and significance. Should the candidate include her/his own article or chapter, it would be considered as a separate piece of work.

Invited book chapters, when it can be demonstrated that the book has undergone blind peer review (for example, through the press or area editor), and depending on length and scholarly merit, may be considered the equivalent of blind peer-reviewed journal articles. Weighing these factors, reviewers will assess whether the book chapter will count as a full or partial or supplemental item toward productivity.

In most cases, textbooks, while indicative of service to the professional field, do not constitute an original contribution to that field; that is, they are supplemental indicators (see below). However, a textbook regularly and widely used in classes and/or that is recognized by peers in the field as a significant contribution and that includes sustained and original assessment of, or commentary on the material included may be considered an indicator of productivity. In this instance, a candidate should work closely with the DPTC, DFD, and Dean to determine equivalencies. In no case does publication of a textbook suffice as the sole indicator of productivity.

In some fields the norm is sole authorship or solo performances while in others jointly authored scholarship or other types of collaborative work is common, and in still others collaboration is at the heart of any production. It is important in cases of collaborative work that a candidate’s contribution be significant rather than peripheral; the issue should be addressed in the Personal Statement.

Dossiers may contain evidence of scholarly/creative work that is not easily comparable to the examples above, such as that of a curator, set designer, civically engaged scholar/artist, or translator. The candidate should explain the nature of sustained endeavor necessary for the production of the work in the Personal Statement. Both internal and external reviewers should explain how the work is equivalent or comparable with the examples above when assessing adequate productivity.

Candidates who wish to vary from the examples given in this document should work closely with the DPTC Chair, DFD, and Dean in their first two years to formulate equivalencies to guide the third-year and tenure reviews. These will be noted in a memorandum that becomes a part of the candidate’s file and subsequent dossiers (for third-year and tenure reviews).

Some types of work present unique challenges with regard to the metrics employed to establish equivalencies and to determine if an item should be regarded as primary or supplemental. As with the above process of enlisting an established voice in the field as a peer assessor to aid in the interpretation of significance for certain types of creative performances and events, so too can a peer assessor assist in determining how and if a live performance or event that is innovative or experimental may count toward the productivity threshold.

The internet provides ever-expanding opportunities for placing scholarly/creative work. The stature of such outlets will typically be determined in a parallel fashion to traditional research/creative outlets. The candidate should address the issues of selectivity, reputation, review processes, and audience of electronic venues in the Personal Statement. Reviewers should explain how the work is equivalent or comparable with the examples above when assessing adequate productivity. Reviewers are asked to examine the material in the media/um in which it was produced whenever possible.

Candidates whose scholarly/creative work appears in venues not published in English or whose creative work is presented or disseminated in languages other than English are asked to provide information in English as to the content of the work (for example, an abstract), the review process, selectivity of the venue, and so forth. Work appearing in non-English-language venues, but conforming to the standards articulated above, must be assessed on a par with work appearing in English-language venues.

External Funding, Grants, and Fellowships

External funding from grants, contracts, and fellowships (“Sponsored Research”) are important resources for faculty in their scholarly/creative pursuits. Substantial research grants, fellowships, and contracts that have undergone a rigorous review process and been awarded could, depending on their scope and prestige, be similar to a publication of a major work or to a reputable peer-reviewed journal article. Non-funded or pending large-scale applications are positive contributions to the dossier but do not count as items to be assessed in tenure and promotion. Successful funding procurement may not constitute the only evidence of scholarly/creative accomplishment.

All relevant information related to the funding should be identified in the candidate’s dossier, including its status (funded, non-funded, pending), the candidate’s role in the project (Principal Investigator, Consultant, etc.) and any percentage of involvement in the work in a co-authored enterprise. Candidates are strongly encouraged to discuss the relevance of these and any additional types of scholarly/creative work in their Personal Statements.

Supplemental Indicators of Productivity

Additional evidence of scholarly/creative productivity, though not as strong as the above examples, includes book reviews, entries in disciplinary encyclopedias, and introductions to editorial projects (if not judged substantial enough to count as primary). While these show good standing in the profession and service to the scholarly field, they should not be viewed as sole determinants of productivity.

Public readings or paper presentations at relevant conferences or other venues are useful for demonstrating active participation in one’s discipline but are not counted independently as scholarship. In general, papers are considered preliminaries to publication. Professional or commissioned creative work that is not subject to a juried or critical peer review process also provides evidence of active participation in the candidate’s field.

Serving as an officer in professional organizations, member of an editorial board or manuscript reader for a peer-reviewed publication, or on the board of a professional organization also demonstrates active participation in the field and is testimony to the professional respect granted the candidate. It is a meritorious addition to the record but it is not a substitute for reasonable evidence of a productive scholarly/creative agenda. These activities are properly understood as examples of service to the profession as established in the parameters of service in the Faculty Handbook.

Tenured Faculty (Associate to Full Professor)

The tenured faculty member seeking promotion from Associate to Full Professor should have demonstrated continued production of significant peer-reviewed scholarly/creative work according to the guidelines above. Coherence and significance will be assessed on the basis of the foregoing criteria. With regard to productivity, and again consistent with the above, publication of a book by a reputable press or 5 peer-reviewed articles or established equivalents since promotion to Associate Professor with Tenure is required. Earlier work may be referenced in the dossier to help establish trajectory, but should not be a focus.

In addition, a senior academic is expected to have established and maintained a national and/or international reputation in her/his area of expertise. This may be demonstrated by publications and activities that attest to the scholar’s leadership in the field. Additional evidence of national and/or international presence, quality, and impact of the scholarship/creative work will be provided in letters solicited by the College from full professor tenured external reviewers in the field who are not members of the candidate’s family or a close personal friend.

As with promotion to tenure, while these standards suggest certain benchmarks for candidates, equivalency is very important. Candidates who wish to vary from the examples given in this document should work closely with the DPTC, DFD, and Dean to formulate acceptable equivalencies to guide the promotion review. These will be noted in a memorandum that becomes a part of the candidate’s file, and is included in materials sent to external reviewers.

All references in the section on promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor to the enlisting of an established voice in the field to serve as peer assessor to assist in providing evidence for and interpretation of significance and productivity are pertinent too for faculty applying for promotion from Associate Professor to Professor.