ELECTION POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
The election of a scientist to the Fellowship of the Academy is a lengthy and rigorous process designed to ensure that the elections are thorough and fair. Twenty new Fellows are elected each year with up to two additional Fellows by Special Election every three years. The Academy's Council also has the discretion to elect up to two Corresponding Members each year from among distinguished scientists overseas who have a strong connection with Australia. There are currently more than 400 Fellows in the Academy. The number of Corresponding Members may never exceed 10% of the number of Fellows, and is currently below 7%.
The election process begins with the proposal of a candidate by at least four Fellows of the Academy: the proposal being submitted by 31 July each year. The election round finishes in mid March of the following year when the final ballot goes to the Fellowship. During the seven months in between there is an exhaustive process of collating documentation, gathering referees reports and investigation by Sectional Committees and Council.
What are the qualifications for election?
Fellows are elected from among the best scientific researchers in Australia. The Academy's policies and procedures are developed to ensure that the new Fellows elected each year have made extremely significant and often seminal contributions to scientific knowledge in their fields of research. As the number elected each year is only 20, there is intense competition and it may take a number of years before a candidate is successful. Candidates are judged primarily on the evidence of their published scientific work, and by peer review of scientists, both overseas and in Australia, who are eminent in the candidate’s field of expertise.
The strict limitation imposed on the number of new Fellows elected each year is one of the instruments that assist in ensuring the scientific standing of Fellows. From 1954 to 1958, five new Fellows were elected. In 1958 this was increased to six, in 1970 to nine, in 1992 to twelve, in 2000 to sixteen and to twenty in 2012.
The proposal of a candidate is assessed by one of thirteen committees of Fellows called Sectional Committees. After thorough scrutiny of the candidates’ documents, the Committees meet in Canberra in February: each Committee then drawing up a short-list of recommended candidates for Council’s consideration. Council selects, from the shortlisted candidates, a list of twenty to propose to the Fellowship in mid March for election.
The Sectional Committees are arranged so that the Academy encompasses the many specialised fields of science within broad areas.
The Academy's elected Secretaries for biological and physical sciences are responsible for allocating candidates to Sectional Committees.
What do Sectional Committees do?
After nominations for Ordinary Election close, on 31 July each year, the Chair of each Sectional Committee writes to distinguished scientists, overseas and in Australia, who are qualified to judge the candidate's contributions. The referees may be suggested by the candidate's proposer, or by the Sectional Committee concerned.
Referees are invited to comment on a candidate's work, assessing its importance in the progress of that field of science, and to rank the candidate's work in comparison with other leading researchers in that field throughout the world. In most fields of research the comparison group against which a candidate is judged is a global one.
The assessments of referees and comments by Fellows are collected and copied to each member of a Sectional Committee before its meeting in February. The Academy's Council meets immediately after the Sectional Committee meetings in February to hear oral reports from the Sectional Committees Chairs.
Corresponding Members and Special Election Committee
The Corresponding Members and Special Election (CMSE) Committee is a Standing Committee that comprises six members, all of whom are Fellows. The CMSE Committee assesses nominations from the Fellowship for Corresponding Members (an eminent scientist in respect of scientific discoveries and attainments not normally resident in Australia) and Special Election Fellows (a person who has rendered conspicuous service to the cause of science or whose election would be or signal benefit to the Academy and the advancement of science). The CMSE meets and reports to the Council of the Academy in the same way as the Sectional Committees.
At its subsequent meeting in March, Council considers written reports from the Sectional Committees and the CMSE Committee, and the reports and documentation of each of the recommended candidates. Council votes by secret ballot to select, from the short-list provided by the Sectional Committees, the names to be recommended to the Fellowship for election as new Fellows. Council appoints the Corresponding Member without going to the Fellowship.
Among its many responsibilities, Council has the task of overseeing the conduct of the elections which is governed by the Bye-Laws of the Academy. For instance, the Bye-Laws state that Council '…shall have regard to, amongst other things, the desirability of maintaining a just distribution of the membership of the Academy over the various branches of natural science'. This is a difficult though important task as candidates from different Sectional Committees may not be equally strong, and some candidates whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries, or has been performed in isolation from Australian colleagues, may need special consideration.
The Fellows ballot
Before the Academy's Annual General Meeting each year, the list of candidates proposed by Council is subject to a postal vote of all Fellows. A majority of two thirds of those voting is required to secure a candidate's election.
After the election
As soon as possible after election, and usually at the Academy’s science festival ‘Science at the Shine Dome’ in May, a new Fellow is required to sign an undertaking to promote, declare and disseminate scientific knowledge, and to serve the Academy. Fellows play an active part on the many committees through which the Academy carries out its objects and purposes. The objective of the Academy can be broadly stated as the promotion and fostering of science, the scientific community and science education, both in Australia and world-wide.
Fellows wishing to submit candidates for Ordinary Election or for Corresponding Member should contact the Fellowship Coordinator for forms and guidelines:
Phone: 02 6201 9406
Fax: 02 6201 9494