What Do You Need to Publish for Tenure?

Do several articles in peer-review journals fit the bill? Or do you need to have published a book? According to this study by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California-Berkeley, it all depends on your discipline.

Most research universities still require historians seeking tenure to require a book. Here are some of the history-specific findings:

  • Peer-reviewed articles, chapters in edited collections, edited collections, and documentary editions do not replace the monograph in tenure decisions.
  • Electronic books or e-books are gaining ground, but they have not reached the level of prestige associated with a hard copy book published by a prestigious university press.
  • Historians are still skeptical of non-peer-reviewed writing and articles that appear on websites such as History News Network.
  • Writing for public audiences is encouraged, but too much of it can work against a scholar coming up for tenure.
  • Most research universities require a book for tenure and a second or third book for promotion to full professor.
  • The success of a book and its contribution to the field is judged by reviews in major journals.
  • The “most competitive” departments are now requiring two books and “three to five articles in top journals” for tenure.
  • The “two books for tenure” requirement seems to be “trickling down” to less prestigious colleges and universities
  • History graduate students are much more “professionalized” than they were a generation ago.
  • Pre-tenure scholars are encouraged not to distract themselves with college service or teaching.
  • Disciplinary politics always play a role in tenure decisions.
  • Commercial presses are less impressive than university presses for first books written by faculty at prestigious universities

This is an amazingly thorough and valuable report. I would make chapter 6, the chapter dealing with the discipline of history, required reading in any graduate program in the field.

There is a clear elitism to this report. It assumes that the tenure process at Research One universities is representative of the tenure process for academic historians everywhere. Most historians teaching in American colleges and universities do not have these kinds of requirements placed upon them. The fact that a scholar does not need two books for tenure does not mean that he or she is somehow less of an historian than those at the big research institutions. Yet this seems precisely how a “historian” is defined in this report.

Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.