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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Tenure Survey and Report

The Modern Language Association (MLA) recently completed and released
the results of a survey of current standards and emerging trends in publication requirements for tenure and promotion in English and Foreign Language departments in the U.S.. The MLA is a learned society and is also similar to the SBL in size and composition.  The survey showed disconcerting results related to the overall chances of Ph.D. candidates obtaining tenured positions (35%) and related to the importance of various types of publication for tenure. The survey documents increased pressure for candidates to publish scholarly monographs and refereed journal articles as a part of the tenure qualification process, with decreased (or no) importance given to other publication work such as editing. The survey results also show almost no merit given to electronic publications.

While the survey examined departments of English and foreign languages, surveys by other organizations in the humanities show similar results.  The discipline of biblical studies ought to be concerned with two aspects of these surveys.  First, how many of our Ph.D. candidates and recipients are successful in the tenure process?  If our results are even close to those of the MLA, then we need to make changes.  Second, will the scholarly monograph continue to be one of the "tenure standards" for biblical studies?  While the SBL is committed to publishing important scholarly monographs, many academic publishers no longer print such works due to the poor economics associated with these small market volumes. With regard to both of these areas of concern, the MLA provides a series of recommendations for strengthening the tenure process and accounting for the current state of the publishing industry and technology.

Matthew Collins, Society of Biblical Literature

Citation: Matthew Collins, " Tenure Survey and Report," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Jan 2007]. Online:


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