Tenure and Promotion of Classical Archaeologists

Considerations Regarding the Tenure and Promotion of Classical Archaeologists Employed in Colleges and Universities, with Addendum, Guidelines for the Evaluation of Digital Technology and Scholarship in Archaeology

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is an international organization of archaeologists and archaeology enthusiasts. The AIA serves as the national professional organization for classical archaeologists (i.e., those concerned with ancient Greek, Roman, and related cultures) in the United States of America and Canada. In this capacity the AIA offers the following considerations regarding the evaluation of classical archaeologists for tenure and/or promotion at colleges and universities in North America.

Because there are few departments of archaeology in North American institutions of higher education, most classical archaeologists are employed in academic departments dedicated to other fields of study. Most often these are departments of classics, history, and art history. Archaeological field research differs in some significant ways from research undertaken by classicists, historians and art historians, and so it is quite common for classical archaeologists to be evaluated by colleagues largely unfamiliar with the nature, the quantity, and the pace of archaeological research.   For example:

1. Data Collection. Research in classical archaeology usually involves the collection of data at venues (e.g., archaeological sites, museums, archives) located in Europe, North Africa, or the Near East. Classical archaeologists employed in North America are thus able to carry out the collection of data only irregularly, at considerable cost in terms of both time and money, and during those blocks of time (the summer, sabbatical leaves) that many other academics employ for activities such as grant writing, data analysis, library research, writing, and course preparation.

2. Research Permits. In order to conduct archaeological field research (excavation, regional site survey, restudy of excavated and/or standing remains) or to analyze artifacts in museum collections in a foreign country it is generally necessary to apply for and receive authorization from representatives of that country. This is often a complex process that is difficult for the applicant to control, and this requirement may result in very considerable delays in the initiation or continuation of a research project or lead to its premature termination.

3. Funding. Archaeological field research is an expensive undertaking. For example, a six-week field season in the Mediterranean can easily involve a budget in the six-figure range in US/Canadian dollars. Additionally, major sources of federal research funding in North America provide limited support for classical archaeology. In the USA, for example, the NSF only rarely funds research in classical archaeology, while the NEH provides only partial support for a small number of projects. The directors of research projects in classical archaeology thus spend a substantial amount of energy applying for numerous small, short-term grants and pursuing the identification and cultivation of philanthropic donors.

4. Multiple Authorship. Much archaeological research is collaborative and involves the participation of a wide array of specialist scholars and technicians, often at multiple institutions in the US and elsewhere. This not only renders the conduct of archaeological research more complex, time-consuming, and expensive than research conducted in other fields, but also results in a higher incidence of multi-authored publications. This is true not only for book-length publications such as final project reports and museum catalogues, but also for many article length publications. Individual scholars may have limited control over the venue, length, nature, and frequency of publications, as these decisions are often made by directors / P.I.s of research projects on behalf of the collaborating group. While there is no discipline-wide standard for book and author credit lines, it is often the case that the names of the primary authors (those individuals who undertook the most prominent role in the published research) are given first.

5. Pace of Research. Archaeological research projects usually take several years to complete. They can last decades, with years of gradual data collection required before synthesis and interpretation are possible. For this reason, a candidate for tenure and/or promotion who has conducted an active and productive field research program for a period of several years may have completed few publications related to that project at the time of a personnel action.

6. Access to Images and Publications. Research and publication in classical archaeology often requires the review of scholarship in multiple languages that often appear in publications not widely available in North America. In many cases it is also necessary to obtain specific permission to publish photographs and drawings obtained from these and other sources, which often adds significantly to the time and expense of formal publication.

7. Publication in Digital Formats. The results of archaeological research projects are traditionally published in the form of large monographs that contain a substantial amount of primary data and a large number of images. It is increasingly the case that this model for publication is not economically viable. As a result, much archaeological research is now disseminated to the scholarly community and the broader public in an economical and timely fashion in digital formats. A growing number of online peer-reviewed journals now offer appropriate venues for publication.

8. Publication in International Venues. Classical archaeologists employed in North America regularly publish with international journals and presses and often in languages other than English in order to reach more effectively their target audiences. The fact that many international journals and presses do not employ the same peer review system widely utilized in North America should not be taken as an indication that these venues are less selective or prestigious than similar North American publications. 

9. Citation Indices. The citation indices for the arts and humanities, and for the social sciences, canvas only a small portion of the journals and other venues in which classical archaeologists publish their research. Accordingly, they do not offer a useful indication of the academic impact of a classical archaeologist’s work.

10. Leadership Roles for Younger, Pre-Tenure Scholars.  For the reasons noted above, those evaluating candidates for tenure-line positions in classical archaeology, or the progress of classical archaeologists toward tenure / promotion, should recognize that an expectation that younger scholars must direct large field projects outside the US prior to tenure may not be realistic, and can exert undue pressure on candidates.

The AIA hopes that this information will be useful to faculty and administrators unfamiliar with research in classical archaeology when evaluating classical archaeologists for tenure and/or promotion. Clarification on any of these points and/or additional information regarding research in classical archaeology is available from the AIA Committee for Archaeology in Higher Education.

Authored by the AIA Higher Education Committee (2013). 

*The AIA Higher Education Committee has since been replaced by the Research and Academic Affairs Committee. All questions can be directed to the AIA Vice President for Research and Academic Affairs.


ADDENDUM to the Considerations Regarding the Tenure and Promotion of Classical Archaeologists Employed in Colleges and Universities 

Overview and Rationale

The application of digital technology has become central to archaeological practice. Archaeologists use innovative technology in their field projects, in their collection and management of archaeological data, in their research and analysis, and in the publication and dissemination of their results (often recognized under the umbrella of digital archaeology). Because archaeologists are found in myriad academic departments where the nature of their research may need to be elucidated for colleagues trained in other disciplines, the AIA created its Considerations Regarding the Tenure and Promotion of Classical Archaeologists Employed in Colleges and Universities. This white paper serves as an addendum to this document, providing guidance for hiring and tenure and promotion committees evaluating digital scholarship and publication by archaeologists.

Digital archaeology is remarkably broad in scope. And while its practice does not require special consideration, one should not assume or expect increased speed or efficiencies from research done digitally. Rather, the evaluation of digital scholarship – the analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of data and results via digital and/or innovative forms of publication – requires attention via approaches not necessarily common to traditional review procedures.

Digital Publications

Digital articles and monographs, provided they are subject to rigorous peer review, should be given equal weight to traditional print publications. The AIA has already made its position clear in its tenure and promotion guidelines:

7. Publication in Digital Formats. The results of archaeological research projects are traditionally published in the form of large monographs that contain a substantial amount of primary data and a large number of images. It is increasingly the case that this model for publication is not economically viable. As a result, much archaeological research is now disseminated to the scholarly community and the broader public in an economical and timely fashion in digital formats. A growing number of online peer-reviewed journals now offer appropriate venues for publication.

Whether a peer-reviewed digital journal or monograph is open access or is accessed through a proprietary service, the digital product should be considered to be of the same value as a paper publication since it must undergo a rigorous vetting process just as its print counterpart. The difference between print and digital publication is only the medium of dissemination. To that end, scholarship should be judged first and foremost on the quality of the work itself and the quality of the publisher or journal (keeping in mind that as new high-quality publication venues emerge, long-standing traditional presses are often ill-equipped to publish innovative digital scholarship). Most importantly, such scholarship should be evaluated in its intended, digital, medium. 

Digital Dissemination of Information

The publication of archaeological research has developed rapidly since the adoption of digital technologies and the pace of change will, it seems, only accelerate in the future. We thus anticipate new forms of dissemination and publication. Traditional publication of original data often takes the form of print catalogs and plates of images and illustrations, which are time-consuming to produce and expensive; these publications are increasingly being replaced or augmented by online repositories. These modes of dissemination (e.g., peer-reviewed and curated databases, simulation models, VR projects that tests hypotheses about space, dynamic websites, or another alternative models not yet realized) are significant and bona fide forms of publication that should be valued due to the extensive work involved in their creation and their scholarly value as publications of primary data. These forms of dissemination should also be considered in their original media.

Vetting and Peer Review

For digital and traditional publications, peer review remains fundamental. Traditional forms of double blind peer review, however, may not be appropriate for evaluating all forms of digital scholarship. The creation of a VR project, a GIS mapping project, or 3D archive may not in its entirety be suitable for a peer-reviewed journal or monograph publication (whether digital or print). Nevertheless, alternate forms of peer review may still lie behind the production of digital scholarship. For example, grants from external funding bodies (government or foundation) involve a rigorous review process by recognized academic experts. This is an alternative and acceptable form of peer review. Likewise, the presentation of a digital research project or new technology or method at a conference, where the submission process involves review could be deemed an alternative form of peer review. Online publication of original data increasingly requires adherence to good practices in metadata, interoperability, and access, which also provide an opportunity for peer review. 

Considerations for Departments

Departments may wish to consider the following:

  • The need to articulate clearly the value that they place on digital scholarship in their hiring, tenure, and promotion.
  • The need to communicate how digital publications and other forms of digital scholarship (databases, online content, etc.) are evaluated for hiring, tenure, and promotion. Where possible, digital scholarship should be evaluated in its original medium (i.e., websites should be viewed as websites, not screenshots).
  • The need to solicit outside expertise to assess certain digital projects if technical expertise within the department is lacking.
  • The need to have a policy and strategy for the evaluation of collaborative work. Since digital archaeology is inherently multidisciplinary and collaborative (and often not possible to do otherwise), departments should articulate clear policies on how various roles in this work are assessed.

Considerations for Candidates

  • Before accepting a position, candidates whose research involves digital products should ask for clear guidance on how the department and institution will support and evaluate digital scholarship. 
  • In negotiating job offers and in tenure and promotion applications, explain why and how digital technology has enabled you to do innovative and original work. Document and articulate clearly your role in the project (workload percentage and intellectual contribution is often requested), and the nature of its review.
  • Finally, be sure digital products are evaluated in their intended state.

Authored by the AIA Digital Technology Committee (2018). 

Approved by the AIA Governing Board on October 13, 2018.

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