Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University

The Imagining America Tenure Team Initiative (TTI) was inspired by faculty members who want to do public scholarship and live to tell the tale. 

Publicly engaged academic work is taking hold in American colleges and universities, part of a larger trend toward civic professionalism in many spheres. But tenure and promotion policies lag behind public scholarly and creative work and discourage faculty from doing it. Disturbingly, our interviews revealed a strong sense that pursuing academic public engagement is viewed as an unorthodox and risky early career option for faculty of color. 

We propose concrete ways to remove obstacles to academic work carried out for and/or with the public by giving such work full standing as scholarship, research, or artistic creation. While we recommend a number of ways to alter the wording and intent of tenure and promotion policies, changing the rules is not enough. Enlarging the conception of who counts as “peer” and what counts as “publication” is part of something bigger: the democratization of knowledge on and off campus. 

We want this report to serve as a toolkit for faculty, staff, and students who are eager to change the culture surrounding promotion and tenure. It offers strategies that they can use to create enabling settings for doing and reviewing intellectually rigorous public work. 

Download the full report here.