Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? My sense of this is pretty schizophrenic: on the one hand, in the age of digital publishing, we potentially have access to a whole range of net-native metrics that can tell us about the significance that publications have for their fields, and so if we’re bound to “measurable standards,” there are lots of things that we can look at (hits, downloads, inbound links, comments, public discussion, and so forth).

But on the other hand, I don’t want to see our standards become even more focused on quantities than they already are, in which (as I said in the peer review panel yesterday) one ends up bean-counting one’s way to tenure. If tenure is actually given as a marker of “promise” — your work over the last six years suggests that you will continue to be an active and invested member of our faculty — then some evidence of that work over the last six years will continue to be important, of course, but so might a range of other things. Like, maybe during your junior professordom you began an extensive digital project that will take fifteen years of shepherding to complete; maybe in that case having gotten a grant, completing a stage of the project, developing a plan for the project’s future, and generally being quite focused on its “completion” should suffice. In other words, we definitely want to see work that’s been done, but we also want to see a roadmap for the future, and clear evidence that you’re really on the path.

The trick in evaluations that shift the focus from finished objects to an ongoing research agenda is going to be getting committees (and administrations) to learn how to read, rather than count. Ultimately, I think “measurement” is the wrong term in such an evaluation — what we need to be thinking about is judgment, something that we currently tend to want to erase by rendering objective or outsourcing, but that a really ethical engagement with the profession requires us to wrestle with.