Award Committee Best Practices

Best Practice Guidelines for Award and Fellowship Committees
Joint from the Geochemical Society & European Association of Geochemistry
August 2015

Informal Committee Pre-Deliberations

1. Chairs should remind all committee members of the confidential nature of deliberations (discussions must be and should remain afterwards, always strictly confidential), of conflict of interest guidelines (see * below), and of the criteria for the recognition/prize under deliberation. Having the most deserving and most diverse group of award winners is important for many reasons. Awardees symbolize the highest achievement in our field. They inspire all of us, and especially those at an early career stage, to do our best science. They become among the most visible spokespersons and leadership models for our profession.

2. Chairs should remind the committee members to think broadly, as no single metric provides a complete picture of the full breadth and dimensions of accomplishment. For instance, a reminder should be given that single metrics such as h factors have many drawbacks, not the least that they are not translatable between disciplines – even between sub-disciplines of geochemistry. At no time should rankings or listing of the nominees other than alphabetical be distributed

3. In some recognitions, such as but not exclusively the Fellows Selection, and the Goldschmidt or Urey Award, in addition to outstanding scientific achievements, other aspects of leadership and impact may be important factors to consider – such as service to the scientific community or additional broad forms of leadership and contribution. Excellence remains the preeminent criteria and committee members should be reminded to think "outside the box" in their evaluation of excellence – i.e. recognizing that there is a diversity of excellence outside one's own particular sub-discipline, outside of one's own scientific or national perspective, outside one's own archetype of scientific leadership, and outside of one's own circle of contacts, colleagues and those from the same academic or institutional subset.

4. Chairs may, particularly if the field of nominations is large, engage the committee in a pre-vote by email but must emphasize that such a vote is not final or binding but simply a means of establishing a shortlist (this is rarely appropriate or necessary if the numbers of nominations are few). In the case of the Fellows Selection or other large pools of nominees this pre-vote can however have be a helpful way of focusing the subsequent discussions and deliberations.

5. That said, best practice dictates:

a. Going with a longer rather than shorter shortlist wherever possible
b. In no circumstances using the pre-vote as the final outcome. The next step of formal committee deliberations is essential and expected by both EAG and GS
c. While cumulative results of the pre-vote may be circulated, the details should not be distributed nor should the record of who voted for what be made available beyond the chair's records.
d. At all times, both in informal pre-deliberations and the formal deliberations process, even when circulating results of the pre-vote, best practice demands names always be kept in alphabetical order.

Formal Committee Deliberations

1. While use of email for the business of the Committee is of course encouraged there must be at least one confidential verbal discussion held – either via telecom, skype, google hangout or other appropriate technology. Both the EAG and GS business offices are available to help with arranging, setting up and should need be, covering the costs of this verbal discussion.

2. Where all nominees will be discussed (preferable if the number is small) the Chair will introduce each nominee in alphabetical order and regardless of pre-vote ranking and invite committee members to comment or discuss.

3. If a long shortlist has been arrived at by pre-vote (such as in the case of Fellows Selection), the Chair will nonetheless invite any committee to speak to additional names they feel should be elevated to the shortlist and these names can be added for the group discussion.

4. In alphabetical order, each name will then be introduced by the Chair for discussion.

5. Obvious pitfalls must be avoided – i.e. discussion including (even inadvertent) ageism, sexism, focusing on personalities rather than achievements, stereotypes of any kind etc.

6. While our community is small and hence there will inevitably be people we know, have worked with, published with etc GS and EAG do NOT request the members recuse themselves on all such cases.
*Conflict of Interest arises only if a member feels they truly cannot comment objectively on a candidate. In that case they are expected to declare a conflict and refrain from discussion. GS and EAG do not ask them to leave the room or call however.

7. Chairs should actively encourage all members to speak openly and ensure no single voice or group of voices dominates discussion.

8. Communication between the EAG and GS prize committees is encouraged. The two groups operate independently but as someone might be nominated for similar awards in the same year within both GS and EAG some coordination is highly desirable.

9. The society officers and executives for both EAG and GS are available for consultation and clarification at any point in the committee's deliberations should questions arise. The societies encourage Chairs to reach out for support and assistance should the need arise.

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