News From the Center

Assessment of Humanities Research

A panel discussion moderated by Robert D. Newman, President and Director of the National Humanities Center

Panelists

  • Randy Diehl, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, University of Texas at Austin
  • David Holdeman, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, University of North Texas
  • Dennis Kratz, Dean, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Brent Lindquist, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Texas Tech University
  • Pam Matthews, Dean, College of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University
  • Lora Wildenthal, Interim Dean, School of Humanities, Rice University
  • University of Houston Dean (pending)

Presented by

Date and Time: Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts, Glickman Conference Center, Austin, TX

UT-Austin College of Liberal Arts
University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts

Background

In September 2017, the National Humanities Center convened a group of leaders from some of the nation’s leading external fellowship programs and funders to discuss issues surrounding the evaluation of fellowships and fellowship programs. In addition to a robust discussion about best practices, challenges, and future collaborations, it was felt the next phase of a national conversation might focus on how universities themselves are evaluating humanities research. This panel, with academic leaders from Texas universities, was the first gathering in this effort.
Assessment of Humanities Research The need for such a focused discussion emerges from escalating concerns among many in the humanities about research assessment and accountability practices that are too often based on ill-fitting metrics derived from scientific and social scientific paradigms which do not consistently align with the goals and methodologies particular to humanities research. These assessments in turn contribute to the dismissive rhetoric, funding cuts, and misunderstandings increasingly seen in educational settings as well as in public responses signaling both an implicit and explicit devaluing of humanities research.
While some form of external critique or peer review is inherent to virtually every field of humanistic inquiry, demands by accreditation boards, trustees, funding organizations, legislatures, and government agencies for stronger and more quantitative reporting of “outcomes” have produced much consternation. Increasingly, justification for humanities research has focused on its tangible impacts on undergraduate teaching and on preparing students for professional careers. Further, the advanced research that typically supports ambitious public humanities projects is sometimes in tension with these projects in terms of both audience and impact. Finally, the changing landscape of scholarly communication has contributed to a sense that assessment metrics and methodologies need rethinking, and all of the above factors enter into promotion and tenure decisions.
The February 7 panel discussion focused on two points of emphasis: assessment of humanities research in (1) tenure and promotion decisions and (2) the broader public sphere.