Election to the Academy

The Academy elects up to 20 new Fellows by ‘Ordinary Election’ (and up to four additional Fellows by ‘Special Election’) each year through a rigorous process conducted over many months. 

The Council may also elect up to two Corresponding Members each year from among distinguished scientists overseas.

As at March 2019, there were 555 Fellows (including 32 Corresponding Members) in the Academy.

Timeline: 2020 election round

Date Activity
By 19 July 2019 Fellows of the Academy to commence and save new nominations for their candidates into the online nomination system.
By 31 August 2019 All new nominations (and updates to existing nominations) must be completed and submitted via the online nomination system. Candidates allocated to Sectional Committees.
September 2019 Committees shortlist candidates to progress for further consideration and additional independent referee reports are requested for those candidates.
Early February 2020 The Sectional Committees meet to evaluate the candidates to recommend up to three candidates each to the Council.
Early March 2020 Council considers all the recommended candidates and votes to determine the candidates for the Fellows’ ballot.
Early March 2020 Fellows’ election ballot - two-thirds of the voting Fellows must agree to each candidate’s election.
End of March 2020 Ballot count by Returning Officer and new Fellows declared elected (all Fellows advised under embargo).
End of May 2020 New Fellows publicly announced and formally inducted into the Academy during the ‘Science at the Shine Dome’ week.

Eligibility for Ordinary and Special Election

Candidates for Ordinary and Special Election must be Australian citizens or permanent residents in Australia, and have an employment arrangement in Australia on a regular basis for at least half of the year. For recent arrivals to Australia, candidates should be a resident for two years (by the date of the election meeting in early February) and contributing to Australian science.

Criteria for Ordinary Election

The Academy is committed to celebrating and supporting diversity within the Fellowship. Achievement will be judged relative to opportunity, taking into account any breaks in, or late commencement of, career. Gender balance and diversity issues within the Fellowship will be taken into account (including age; ethnicity; State and region of residence; emerging disciplines; and interdisciplinary science). 

The primary selection criterion is scientific excellence, based on the indicators of merit below. 

EITHER a single ground-breaking contribution to science, OR a cohesive body of smaller contributions with clear impact, as indicated by but not limited to:

  • ground-breaking publications, citation of those publications, ‘textbook’ science, patents, improved policy or practice, or other indicators relative to the standards for each discipline
  • high national and international profile, including invitations to speak, grants and Fellowships, journal editorships, honours, awards and prizes, and supportive letters of reference from eminent referees. 

Other important criteria relevant for election include leadership, mentorship and demonstrated commitment to the promotion and dissemination of scientific knowledge in Australia, and potential to advance the work of the Academy in science education, advocacy or policy.

Nomination process

Fellows nominate candidates via the Academy’s nomination system. Information required includes:

  • short citation
  • support from at least four Fellows
  • extended citation against the selection criteria
  • full curriculum vitae
  • list of most significant publications
  • full publication list
  • referees willing to support the nomination.

A nomination is valid for five consecutive election rounds/years or until the candidate is elected. Proposers MUST update the nominations for their continuing candidates every year for the life of the nomination. After the nomination has expired, and following a pause of two election rounds (two years), a new nomination for that candidate may be submitted.

Sectional Committees

The disciplines assigned to the various Sectional Committees are determined by Council. There is also a Sectional Committee to consider the Corresponding Member and Special Election candidates.

A-Side (Physical Sciences)

  • SC1—Mathematical Sciences
  • SC2—Physics and Astronomy
  • SC3—Chemistry
  • SC4—Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • SC5—Applied Physical and Engineering Sciences
  • SC11—Information, Communication and Quantum Information Sciences

B-Side (Biological Sciences)

  • SC6—Plant Sciences
  • SC7—Physiology, Neuroscience, Animal Behaviour and Experimental Psychology
  • SC8—Molecular and Cell Biology
  • SC9—Agriculture, Veterinary Science and Applied Biology
  • SC10—Ecology, Environmental Sciences and Evolutionary Biology
  • SC12—Medicine and Public Health
  • SC13—Immunology and Microbiology

SC14 – Interdisciplinary (A side and B side)

CMSE - Corresponding Member and Special Election Committee (CMSE)

Allocation of candidates to Sectional Committees

Candidates are allocated to Sectional Committees by the Secretaries—that is, Secretary A (Physical Sciences) and Secretary B (Biological Sciences)—taking into account the advice of the proposer and in consultation with Sectional Committee chairs when they consider it necessary. Almost all candidates are allocated for consideration by a single committee.

Inter-disciplinary candidates, however, that require consideration by two Sectional Committees within A-Side (Physical Sciences) or B-Side (Biological Sciences) are allocated to two Sectional Committees for consideration, with one Sectional Committee initially identified as the ‘primary’ committee.

Inter-disciplinary candidates that cross A-Side and B-Side, and candidates requiring consideration by more than two Sectional Committees (with A-side and B-side) are allocated to the Interdisciplinary Sectional Committee.


At its meeting in March, Council considers all the short-listed candidates recommended by the Sectional Committees and determines the final list of candidates to propose to the Fellowship for election.

Council is guided by the principle that in any year there should be a balance between the Physical and Biological sciences.

Referee reports

Proposers for candidates for Ordinary Election should select up to six eminent referees, at least four of whom are based overseas. Three referees must be independent and not associated with the candidate and none of the referees are to have a direct conflict of interest with the candidate. Reports from referees who are too closely associated with the candidate will not be considered.

All referees should preferably (but not necessarily) be Fellows of a National Academy (or their country’s equivalent). Referees suggested from Australia should normally be Fellows of the Academy, however, exceptions to this may be approved by the Secretaries. Please email the Fellowship Manager at fellowship@science.org.au (prior to entering a non-FAA Australian based referee into the nomination system) for approval and to check that the proposed non-FAA referee is not a candidate. The proposer, seconder and supporters to the nomination must also not be used as referees.

Special Election Fellows

Each year the Council may deem it desirable that the Academy elect to Fellowship up to four persons, whose election would expand the diversity of the Fellowship and be of signal benefit to the Academy and to the advancement of science. Specially elected Fellows will have: 

  • rendered conspicuous service to the cause of science, OR
  • demonstrated outstanding innovation or entrepreneurial spirit through the translation of the results of scientific research that have led to global impact.

It is expected that candidates for Special Election have a high national and/or international profile and potential to advance the work of the Academy in science education, advocacy or policy. They may also have a strong record of science achievement, usually early in their career.

Corresponding Members

Candidates for election as Corresponding Members must be persons of eminence in the special field/s of their endeavours. The primary criterion for Corresponding Membership is scientific excellence at the highest level.

It is expected that candidates for Corresponding Membership would unquestionably be elected to the Fellowship by Ordinary Election if they were resident and active in Australia. It is also expected that candidates have a high international profile and are Fellows/members of academies or bodies in their country of residence, equivalent in standing to the Academy.

The strength of the connection of the candidate with Australian science shall be viewed as important in the evaluation process. This connection should be more extensive than conducting a collaborative research project or sharing supervision of one or two research students, and may be broader than research activity. Corresponding Members are expected to be able to advance the work of the Academy in science education, advocacy, policy or international engagement.

Please refer to the ‘Information to Complete an Online Fellowship Nomination—2019 Election Round’ for further details. Please be aware this document will be updated for the 2020 election round and should be used as a general guide only.

Questions regarding the nomination process (including the eligibility of a candidate or suitability of a referee) may be directed to the Fellowship Manager, Karen Holt, by email to fellowship@science.org.au. Enquiries will be referred to the relevant A-side or B-side Secretary, where necessary.

© 2019 Australian Academy of Science