How do you support creative work at your institution?
At the Council of Communication Associations (CCA) panel at the International Communication Association conference held in Washington, DC, in May 2019, the discussion among panelists and audience members focused on how different industries manage, affirm, retain, support, and evaluate creative workers in scholarship and practice.
Speakers from the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) presented data and findings on CCA-funded projects on creative scholarship work and assessment in academe. Representatives from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, noted current publishing trends and platforms to exhibit creative work including video and installations. Faculty from Shanghai Jiaotong U and Fudan U discussed Chinese evaluation systems and promotion of creatives.
Starting with BEA, Michael Bruce, Chair of CCA and Past President of BEA, and Heather Birks, Executive Director of BEA, focused on how associations and institutions of higher education can support creative scholars. BEA has the Journal of Media Education (JoME), an association-published journal with different copyright ownership mechanisms. BEA and JoME are working on author ownership and permissions, particularly how to work with materials that are copyrighted externally. As a creative scholar and journalist, Michael gets releases but not consent through Institutional Research Board (IRB) processes but stressed that one needs to know what home institutions and disciplines expect and how these expectations tie into tenure and promotion. Because of ambiguous standards, institutions, BEA, and ASJMC have worked on tenure and promotion guidelines and the creation of a single narrative that would be useful across institutions of higher education.
Toward that goal, Serena Carpenter (Michigan State U) surveyed 91 R1s and doctoral granting schools to write a CCA-funded report on what the documents say about creative scholarship. This report has been presented at AEJMC and BEA conferences. Findings indicated that the most common types (30%) of creative endeavors recognized for p&t were performances, magazine articles and creation, websites, and audio projects. Not as well recognized were software development and multimedia productions (10%). Documentaries was mentioned only 7% of the time. In terms of how one rates the recognition of creative work the practice of peer review was valued. Awards and internal letters acknowledging the quality of creative work also were important. In contract to P&T practices in more traditional academic or publishing endeavors, external reviewer letters were not quite as highly valued for creative work. Overall, creatives were evaluated in terms of national and international reputation, with supporting materials addressing impact and innovative or cutting-edge contributions.
Heather Birks said that BEA strives to insure that creative work is peer reviewed and useful for promotion. For 17 years, BEA has showcased a festival of media arts. There are different competitions for different BEA stakeholders, like faculty, that have low acceptance rates and are vetted with use of standard metrics, for awards and “Best of” competitions. As an organization, BEA is committed to helping creative members and note that many also present papers.
Audience discussion was lively and noted that the primary criterion was that knowledge in whatever form be shared and that translational projects are essential for lessening boundaries for creative work, impact, and professional orientations. Often single authored film production cases with refereed screenings and awards are easy cases for promotion in universities. However, where teamwork is involved or someone is hired for expertise, it is harder to evaluate individual contributions. Where assessment becomes even more complicated is audio production, such as musicians, where authoring/creating is supposed to be invisible. In consulting, where faculty do proprietary work, evaluation is very difficult and confidentiality agreements are needed. Now, institutions are working with criteria for evaluation of creative and engaged scholarship. What counts—budgets, for-profit entertainment, grants, creative products of digital and other formats—are still to be determined.
Second, Jillian O’Hara, from the Routlege, Taylor & Francis Group, presented the publishers’ perspective in her talk, “Creativity in Scholarship and Practice.” She described how creatives can use platforms to promote different kinds of research. She provided exemplars of current practices in different disciplines where authors submit video abstracts of their work, where editors negotiate for open access for special issues, where picture abstracts can be devised if photos are really important parts of the articles, where supplementary video and videolinks on Facebook can be shared, where 3D modeling is needed to display patterns, and where QR codes can be downloaded and scanned for visual impact. She stressed that these publishing aspects are easy to implement but authors do not necessarily know that they can request. Authors and publishers use repositories, figshare, open repository of ideas, photos, and so on.
Finally, Professors Pearl Wang and Lu Xu, Shanghai Jiaotong U and Fudan U, respectively, discussed the Chinese evaluation systems and initiatives for the professoriate as well ways to interpret conversations between industry and the professoriate. Lu Xu has worked with Pearl Wang on city cultural planning and is a visiting scholar at Harvard U. She is a doctoral student in the School of Journalism at Fudan U.
In 2019 there was a new SJTU policy established to encourage scholars to take 2-3 year leaves to start new businesses. This policy echoes the national strategy of vast innovation and entrepreneurship. This strategy and policy is the first time scholars have been encouraged to start businesses based on technology and other areas of expertise. There is a new track of promotion for professors, called professorship of practice, similar to the United States model. The contributions of professors are often evaluated on quantity of papers but now there is a greater look at the quality in Chinese evaluation systems. Creativity is one of the core areas but with scope and value of creative contributions being reevaluated and expanded, assessment systems are undergoing change. Since the “Orange” (color of creativity) program was initiated by the SJTU School in 2018 there is greater openness to studying and implementing how the industry finds and evaluates creativity and prepare students more fully for cultural and creative industries. Pearl Wang presented a video that displayed how SJTU is organizing research, case studies, questionnaires, and other data gathering instruments. The questionnaire development targets leaders or management—how do they develop and evaluate creatives and creativity—and the other group is the creative job holders in cultural and creative industries. Ultimately there is interest in learning how to better design courses and develop students with interest in how to transfer individual creativity into collective creativity. For creative job holders, Pearl Wang says that we ask what kind of training courses do they want to take after being accepted into the organization. SJTU does not have any conclusions because they are still in data collection. We want 2000 samples for the group of creative job holders, for the managers the goal is to collect 500 managers.
There might not be a one-to-one match between creativity in industry and the academic world. For people like Pearl Wang, the hope is that the academic system would change. There are two concerns—pedagogy and promotion. She introduces two pedagogies (2 credit course assigned with real cases from companies). Students deal with the real problem and come up with strategies to be tested by the companies. The entrepreneurs of the companies would work with them. The second issue is that there are two professorship promotions patterns, both being vertical as guided by the Bureau of Education. But a parallel system is horizontal and funding from the local government, companies, and communities—but this practice-oriented route is not evaluated highly in academe. The concern is that the practice-route may be more amenable to creatives but the system does not reward this layer of creativity, meaning that the structures might impact creativity.