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News Feature: Narrative CVs

May 30, 2023, #41

In a Leiden Madtrics blog post called “Narrative CVs: A New Challenge and Research Agenda" a group of authors led by Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner consider “a recent wave of initiatives to introduce so-called narrative CV formats by research funding bodies and universities across Europe”¹. The goal is to correct for “an overemphasis on publication- and funding-centric quality criteria”¹ since the traditional CV format reduces “complex comparative assessments in peer review to simple quantitative tallying…”¹ The authors organised a workshop to understand the effectiveness of Narrative CVs. There appears to be no simple standard for what constitutes a Narrative CV, and the workshop considered possible risks from using Narrative CVs because people would share more “personal details such as sexual orientation, age, ethnic origin or simply particular life choices”¹. Crafting a Narrative CV could allow for “focusing also on desirable but usually somewhat undervalued aspects like actively practising Open Science, communication and engagement with society, teaching, or exerting leadership in innovative ways.”¹ One of the advantages could be that “[t]he narrative CV in principle allows for showcasing diverse trajectories through academic research, for example in the sense of creating room to document experience working in other fields, professions, or experimenting with novel methods.”¹ A problem is “the time required to craft and evaluate narratives, which will often be significant.”¹ The authors note that there is a risk that candidates try to optimise their Narrative for particular kinds of funding, and that consultants could be involved in the polishing process. Reinventing the CV will not be easy, and may require compromise: “Rather than creating a sharp distinction between narrative and non-narrative, most organizations adopting such formats aim for a hybrid document that combines more traditional list-based information with narrative elements.”¹ Narrative CVs represent an ongoing concern about fair evaluation in the academic world. Nonetheless most candidates for jobs or for grants already expect to frame their credentials and strengths in order to convince readers. Perhaps Narrative CVs just give applicants another way to present their case.


1: Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner et al., ‘Narrative CVs: A New Challenge and Research Agenda’, 15 March 2023,


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