Standards for Interpreting Research and Creative Work
Final Draft, December 2008
Note: The standards below were used prior to December 2017. To see current standards, go to the "December 2017 to Current" page.
This document outlines the standards and practices employed by the Department of Visual and Media Arts (VMA) Development, Promotion and Tenure Committee (DPTC). It suggests ways that tenure-seeking faculty in the department collect, prepare, and submit their material for annual reviews and for the tenure and promotion review. It is also intended to guide tenured faculty serving as reviewers in order to develop consistency in the evaluation process and to support in-depth and candid evaluations.
This guide aims to help all parties understand how the Faculty Handbook's characterization of “nationally recognized research, scholarship, creative work and/or professional work" will be achieved within the Department of Visual and Media Arts.
Research/Publication and/or Creative/Professional Accomplishments
The Faculty Handbook states (7.2.1.) that the assessment of scholarly, creative or professional work . . .
- "includes but is not limited to, an inquiry as to whether the work ... 1. Effectively communicates ... 2. Is original and/or innovative ... 3. Demonstrates breadth and depth ... 4. Is externally validated through evidence of a juried or critical review process ... and 5. Is recognized in and makes a significant contribution to the discipline.”
The members of the Department of Visual and Media Arts engage in many different types of research, creative endeavors, and professional activities. Despite these differences the evaluation of research scholarship (broadly defined) for promotion and tenure requires assessment in two primary areas:
- the amount of work completed, and
- the quality of the completed work.
Evaluating bodies look for sustained productivity as well as distribution and dissemination in recognized forums. Hard work is important but not enough. The work must lead to scholarly and/or creative products that are validated by external indicators as important and significant in the field.
This document can provide no definitive statement indicating how many publications or creative works may be considered sufficient for promotion and tenure. The following guidelines are intended for both applicants and reviewers. In some rare circumstances, applicants and reviewers may need to argue that work of unusual quality mitigates the need for quantity.
The members of the department accept the following broad guidelines:
- The size and scope of the work is important. Books published with respected university presses are generally seen as more significant than journal articles, though a very significant journal article may carry more weight than a less significant book. The publication of a scholarly book will normally be considered sufficient for tenure, although additional articles in peer-reviewed journals are recommended. In the absence of a book, a minimum of five articles in peer-reviewed journals could be considered comparable. If the publications are of lesser quality or significance it follows that more of them will be necessary. However, quantity alone is insufficient to meet the standard of national recognition and promise of distinction.
- If the work is extremely significant and evaluated as exceptionally high quality (as indicated by journal selectivity, wide citation of the work, validation of external evaluators, awards, etc.), a modest number of publications may be sufficient to demonstrate national recognition and the promise of distinction.
- The more coherent the body of overall published research, the easier it will be to make the case that the candidate has achieved national recognition.
Regardless of the quantity of the work completed, any publication or professional activity must be validated through a peer-review process in order to argue that the work is of sufficient quality to merit reappointment or tenure. The DPTC, external reviewers (in the tenure review), and Chair will review the published and/or creative work in order to assess its quality.
The candidate is encouraged to submit additional evidence of the quality of the work. This can take the form of:
- Documented reviews or evaluations by others with expertise in the area – such as reviews in scholarly journals; reviews in the popular press and on-line journals; and recognized academic reviewing boards. The reputation of the reviewer is critical to the argument for the quality of the work.
- Documentation about the publication or presentation vehicle. Quality and significance can be indirectly assessed by the prestige of the book publisher, the academic journal, other publication outlet, or the forum of public presentation (e.g., conferences, invited lectures, keynote addresses, etc.). The appearance of the work in the citations of other published works is also important. The appearance of the work in the citation network indicates that others in the field recognize the quality and significance of the work. The prestige of the publication source containing the citation is further evidence.
- Information about the competitiveness of the selection process. Some book chapters are solicited by an editor from within her/his network without a review process; this may also be true of journal articles and conference presentations. Works that are competitively submitted to a blind review process and are accepted provide stronger evidence for quality and significance.
Faculty work in a wide variety of creative disciplines within the department. Consequently a single standard will not provide an adequate guide to assessing the individual candidate’s contribution to the discipline. The following is intended to provide as clear as possible a set of guidelines for the candidate and the reviewing bodies.
- Note A: National Body of Work
- The Handbook requires that a candidate produces “a nationally recognized body of work” in order to achieve tenure or be promoted to Associate Professor.
- Note B: Work in Area of Appointment
- Work must be strongly related to the faculty member’s principle area of appointment – as defined in the Letter of Appointment (bearing in mind the evolving nature of the curriculum and the faculty member’s place within that curriculum).
- Note C: Equivalency
- This document suggests certain benchmarks for the work of candidates within VMA; however, equivalency is very important. Candidates who wish to vary from the examples given in this document should work closely with DPTC, the Chair, and the Dean to formulate acceptable alternative standards. For instance, a film director who is not producing a single feature film may produce an equivalent body of work, such as two long “shorts” or a series of shorter works.
Equivalencies must be clearly defined by the end of the candidate’s first year and must be agreed upon by the DPTC and noted in a memorandum that becomes a part of the candidate’s file and subsequent dossiers. Any such agreement must be further reviewed and approved by the Chair and the Dean.
Artists who take sole creative responsibility for a work of art, or are responsible for more than one major creative role on a production. This category includes (but is not confined to):
- Animator (where the animator is the originator of the work)
- Interactive producer (where this person is solely responsible for all aspects of production)
- Experimental filmmaker/videographer
- Installation artist
- Sound Artist
In the past, film- and video-makers have been expected to produce the equivalent of a feature (in scope, complexity, effort, and contribution to the field), either as a single production or as “shorts.” This continues to be the expectation of the Department, and other individual artists should produce a significant body of work comparable to the above. In the case of an Interactive Producer this might be the equivalent of one major website or DVD serving a significant demographic, or a number of smaller high-quality projects.
The Department recognizes that not every artist falls within the industry model. Nevertheless, an experimental or non-industry-oriented film or video artist must produce a body of work that would cumulatively be comparable in scope, complexity and effort, to a single feature.
For fine artists (such as photographers, installation artists, etc.) the standard is less quantifiable, but the work must represent a significant contribution to the field, receive positive reviews, and be exhibited at the national or international level.
An animator may occupy a position between fine artist and traditional media-maker. If the work is entirely or substantially that of the candidate’s, then the expectations outlined in this section will apply. If working in a collaborative role, the expectations outlined in the section below, on “Working in a Single Defined Role in Production,” will apply.
Faculty who work as collaborative artists, sharing creative responsibility for a work (such as filmmakers or performers or composers co-creating a project) should precisely define their specific role in the collaboration. It is important that this kind of shared creation not be the only work submitted by the individual.
All candidates are expected to establish an understanding with the DPTC, Chair, and Dean as to what will constitute a body of work that satisfies tenure and promotion expectations within the context of the candidate’s area of appointment.
Producing a work as an individual artist will count more than working as a collaborative artist (see below) on a comparable project (i.e., one of similar length or scale).
Those Working in a Single Defined Role in Production
Artists who are hired or specifically selected to work on a production are usually hired on the basis of their existing high reputation, and thus being chosen is often a form of professional approval. Substantial effort is often expended in applying for work on such productions. Faculty engaged in such work should be careful to document:
- their specific role;
- the exact length of their involvement with the production. (Some artists work for months on a project, while others may be involved for only a few weeks. The composition, orchestration, and realization of an entire original score, for example, may represent a larger scope of work than the on-location sound recording of a few scenes, or sound-design and foley for an opening title sequence alone. The shorter the length of involvement with the project, the more engagements [or credits], are required.)
Such artists may not control the distribution of their project and, therefore, may not always be held accountable for festival screenings and reviews. Their work is thus subject to the opinions of independent external evaluators and peers within the College.
Major Creative Roles
Artists who make a major creative contribution (but not the sole or overriding contribution) to a project in a single role, such as, but not confined to:
- Director of Photography
- Editor (of a film or major television production)
- Supervising sound designer or supervising sound editor (on a major production)
Candidates should demonstrate sustained artistic involvement in the creation of at least two major productions at the national or international level, or the equivalent thereof as agreed to by the candidate, DPTC, Chair, and Dean.
Professionals who contribute to a work of media art (in many instances in creative ways), but do not exert a major creative influence, often work on a project in a supportive role with delegated responsibilities. Such roles might include, but are not confined to:
- Web designer
- Line producer
- Production manager
- Sound recordist
- Editor of industrial or promotional work
Those engaged in these pursuits should clearly indicate who their employer is and cite examples of the employer’s producing record as well as provide information about the distribution of the work itself, reviews, and other forms of recognition and/or evaluation. The Department approves of such work if it confers prestige upon the candidate and, by extension, upon the Department itself. Financial arrangements between faculty members and their employers is not relevant to the review process.
Such professionals should show evidence of sustained output in their fields from year to year at a national or international level.
Screenwriters must have the equivalent of a screenplay or series pilot optioned by an established production company with a proven track record.
Media Artist/Media Studies
Faculty members should always produce work in their principle area of appointment, but some regularly teach courses outside this area such as production faculty who also teach studies courses. In these cases, publication may be considered in conjunction with media production. Those who wish to combine scholarship with production should discuss this in advance with DPTC, Chair, and Dean.
Faculty may sometimes work in more than one of the above categories. For instance, someone may be an executive producer on one project and a production manager on another. Or an experimental artist might also work as an editor on another project. Candidates who do this must document such activity clearly and must provide a statement as to how such work is strongly related to the faculty member’s principle area of appointment – as defined in the Letter of Appointment, bearing in mind the evolving nature of the curriculum and the faculty member’s place within that curriculum. Candidates must also note how such work is consistent with the Department’s expectations as outlined in this document.
Publication and Professional Appearances
Media artists show engagement in their field by reflecting upon it in print. Candidates strengthen their cases by publishing books, textbooks, and articles. Active participation in panels, symposia, and other professional appearances is also encouraged. However, publication and professional appearances will not substitute for artistic achievements in the candidate’s principal area of appointment.
Review and Distribution
With regard to media production, DPTC recognizes the increased difficulty in obtaining funding and distribution for independent productions, which makes the current climate of very different from that of the earlier years. Media producers increasingly have to seek alternative distribution models -- such as distribution or exhibition through digital delivery platforms or through technologies or delivery systems yet to be developed.
The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of the current opportunities available to media artists to have their work exhibited and reviewed. Suggestions about information to be submitted are included, but candidates should always include as much detailed information as possible. In particular, candidate must consider (a) whether the work is a solo or group effort; (b) whether the venue, platform, or process is juried or by invitation or self-produced; (c) whether it is local, regional, national, or international. Information about competitiveness and prestige must always be justified.
- Articles: Include article, publisher, publication, date of publication, reviews, notices, and all other relevant material.
- Authored web publication: Copy of article or web page, web address, reviews, notices, and all other relevant material.
- Books authored: Include contract from publisher (payment details not necessary), copy of manuscript or book (if already published), reviews, notices, etc.
- Collections: State which collection, describe the collection, notices and reviews.
- Contracts: Include copy of contract (payment details not necessary).
- Exhibitions/Installations (including On-Line Exhibition): State venue, single or shared exhibition, dates of exhibition, include catalog, notices and reviews.
- Festival: State festival, date and location, number of entries vs. number of entries accepted, category in which the work was entered, awards, notices, and reviews.
- Grants: Granting body, date, application process (how was the grant judged?). competitiveness (number of applications vs. number awarded).
- Honors & Awards: Give title of award, awarding body, date, certificate, and any other substantiating documentation.
- Licenses: Include copy of license.
- Performances (such as sound works): State venue, single or shared performance, dates, include catalog, notices and reviews.
- Presentations at Conferences, Symposia, etc.: Give details and provide substantiating documentation.
- Residency: Title of residency and institution, length, application process, competitive or bestowed.
- Reviews: Include copy of review, date, and publication details.
- Screening: State venue, date and location. If televised, give details of transmission.
- Work cited: Give publication, date, publisher (if applicable) and include the actual citation.
Standards for Promotion to Full Professor
Pursuant to section 7 Assessment of Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty and 10.1.1.3 Advancement from Associate Professor to Professor of the Emerson College Faculty Handbook, the Development, Promotion and Tenure Committee of the Department of Visual and Media Arts hereby submits this recommendation regarding Standards for Promotion to Full Professor.
Section 7.2 Scholarship and Creative/Professional Work of the Emerson College Faculty Handbook states that:
- "A faculty member enriches the academic community by being a productive scholar, artist, or professional. The specific form of activity varies among academic departments due to differences among disciplines. Departmental standards, established in accordance with Subsection 7.2.2, specify the evidence of productivity."
This document is intended to specify the evidence of productivity for those faculty members who are applying for promotion to Full Professor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts. In addition to the criteria established in section 7 Assessment of Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty and 3.4.4 Professor, faculty members are expected to meet the criteria below in order to be promoted to Full Professor.
As stated in article 3.4.4 Professor of the Faculty Handbook:
- "A Professor meets all of the requirements for appointment as an Associate Professor. Additionally, a Professor must exemplify distinguished achievement in teaching that is supported by a record including both student evaluations and peer evaluations. A Professor must demonstrate a continuing record of nationally recognized scholarly, artistic or professional work that is mature in nature. The Professor will demonstrate leadership in service contributions to the Department, the School, the College and/or the profession."
The candidate may choose to continue the trajectory of their previous work, explore new modes, forms or subjects as assured by academic freedom. A significant shift in research. scholarly and/or creative work will require an articulation of relevance to previous work and/or discipline.
The Department recognizes that our fields of study and practice are increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary. We consider such work of value to our students and the future of the College. However, the candidate is responsible for clearly articulating the parameters of his or her contribution to collaborative projects and to contextualize the relationship of interdisciplinary work to the Department.
It is expected that a candidate for Full Professor will have completed a major research, scholarly and/or creative project or equivalent based on work produced since promotion to Associate Professor or Tenure. This body of work must have been: nationally or internationally disseminated; and recognized within the field as an original, substantive contribution to the discipline. In so doing, the professor must meet and exceed the standards for promotion to Associate Professor.
Note: The following standards have been developed with specific reference to the Departmental Standards for Promotion to Associate Professor. The standards articulated in that document will also pertain to promotion to Full Professor with the addition of the following criteria:
The size and scope of the work is important. Books published with respected university presses are generally seen as more significant than journal articles, though a very significant journal article may carry more weight than a less significant book. The publication of a scholarly book will normally be considered sufficient for tenure, although additional articles in peer-reviewed journals are recommended. In the absence of a book, a minimum of five articles in peer-reviewed journals could be considered comparable. If the publications are of lesser quality or significance it follows that more of them will be necessary. However, quantity alone is insufficient to meet the standard of national recognition and promise of distinction.
The work should be significant and evaluated as exceptionally high quality (as indicated by journal selectivity, wide citation of the work, validation of external evaluators, awards, etc.), a modest number of publications may be sufficient to demonstrate national recognition and the promise of distinction.
Note: The wording in this section of the Department document on the standards for promotion to Associate will also apply. In addition, the candidate should submit evidence that the work has clear national and/or international significance and places the candidate at the forefront of their discipline
The candidate must produce "a nationally recognized body of work" that places the candidate at the forefront of their discipline, for promotion to Full Professor.
Here and throughout the rest of the document; please also refer to definitions in the Department 's Standards on Promotion to Associate Professor.
In addition to the standards set out in the Department's document on promotion to Associate Professor, the work should have clear national and/or international recognition (in terms of awards or reviews or catalogue copy) and demonstrably place the creator at the forefront of his/her field.
Those Working in a Single Defined Role in Production
Major Creative Roles
Candidates should not only demonstrate sustained artistic involvement in the creation of at least two major productions at the national or international level, or the equivalent thereof as agreed to by the candidate, DPTC, Chair, and Dean, but candidates must submit clear evidence of their creative involvement and stature in the field (in terms of individual awards or citations in books or articles, or statements by peers or other recognized experts in the field).
Such professionals should show evidence of sustained output in their fields from year to year at a national or international level, submit clear evidence of their creative effectiveness and stature in the field (in terms of individual awards or citations in books or articles, or statements by peers or other recognized experts in the field).
Screenwriters must have the equivalent of a screenplay or series pilot optioned by a major, established production company with a proven track record. If the script is not produced, the candidates should also demonstrate their stature in the field by citing other projects that have been submitted to producers or work that has been performed in prestigious contexts (such as script-readings at significant venues, performance on radio, significant authorship in a related field, etc.).
Media Artist/Media Studies
The existing statement stands with the proviso that promotion to Full Professor requires the additional burden of proof that the candidate is a leader in his/her field.