Election process

The Academy elects up to twenty new Fellows by ‘Ordinary’ election each year through a rigorous process conducted over many months. The Academy also elects up to one additional Fellow by Special Election each year (except in milestone anniversary years when up to three may be elected). The Council may also elect up to two Corresponding Members each year from among distinguished scientists overseas. There are currently more than 490 Fellows in the Academy.

Information on this page applies to the Ordinary election process.


Date Activity
31-Jul Nominations due
August Candidates allocated to Sectional Committees
From September Referee reports requested
1st week in February The 14 Sectional Committees meet and each committee ranks up to three candidates to recommend to Council.
1st week in March Council Election Meeting—Council considers all recommended candidates and votes to determine 20 candidates for the Fellows ballot
Early March Fellows election ballot sent to all Fellows with candidates listed in alphabetical order (2/3 of voting Fellows must agree to each candidate’s election)
End of March Ballot count by Returning Officer and new Fellows declared elected (all Fellows advised under Embargo)
End of May New Fellows publically announced (and formally inducted into Academy) during ‘Science at the Shine Dome’ week and AGM


The Bye-Laws, Chapter II, Section 1, require that Fellows be “eminent by reason of their scientific attainments and their researches in natural science”. Such eminence will usually be manifest through the influence of the work of the Fellow. In applied science, grounds for election should be taken to mean one or more discoveries or inventions that have been successfully applied, rather than having a promise of application.

In addition, candidates must be resident in Australia. The candidate must be a legal resident, or have an employment arrangement in Australia on a regular basis for at least half of the year. For the case of recent arrivals to Australia, the convention is for the candidate to be a resident for two years and contributing to Australian science.

Selection criteria

The primary selection criterion is scientific excellence, taking into account the following indicators of merit:

  1. Significant contribution to science;
  2. Sustained contributions;
  3. National and international research profile;
  4. Contributions to science and to the broader community, including mentoring and research training.

Candidates should demonstrate a commitment to the promotion and dissemination of scientific knowledge consistent with the goals of the Academy in science education, advocacy and policy development.

Suitability of candidates should be supported by letters of reference from reputable referees, including Academicians, who should comment on the wider impact of the candidate’s work on his/her scientific discipline.

The significance of the candidate’s contributions to science may be judged from indicators that may include ground-breaking discoveries, prominent publications, citation of those publications, ‘textbook’ science, patents, improved policy or practice, or other indicators, relative to the standards for each discipline.

National and international profile should take into account invitations to speak, contributions to the discipline, conference organization, administrative and leadership roles, awards and fellowships, journal editorships, and so on.

Achievement should be judged relative to opportunity, taking into account any breaks in, or late commencement of, career.

Sectional Committees

The disciplines assigned to the various Sectional Committees are determined by Council from time to time. In accordance with this determination, 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

Inter-disciplinary candidates that require consideration by two Sectional Committees within A-Side (Physical Sciences) or B-Side (Biological Sciences) will be 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 two or more Sectional Committees will be allocated to the Inter-disciplinary Sectional Committee. These Candidates will be considered based on their multidisciplinary impact and contributions to the field.

Referee reports

Candidates should have at least eight referees: three candidate-nominated referees, three proposer-nominated independent referees and two additional independent referees proposed by the relevant Sectional Committee Chair. At least four of the referees will be eminent scientists overseas who are, where possible, preferably members of their country’s equivalent Academy. Referees suggested from Australia should normally be Fellows of the Academy.

The Secretariat will write on behalf of the relevant Secretary and Sectional Committee Chair to the six suggested referees from September.

Sectional Committee meetings

Sectional Committees meet in the first week of February each year to evaluate, shortlist and recommend candidates for Ordinary and Special Election to the Fellowship. The Academy’s Standing Orders Chapter I, Section 3 (g) limit committee membership to a maximum of four consecutive years, and a three-year term should be the norm. Chairs should, in general, serve for two years.

The primary purpose of the meetings is for each Sectional Committee to agree on three candidates, if both genders are represented, otherwise two candidates, to be recommended to Council for election, ranked in order of merit.

Each Sectional Committee meeting will be attended by a Member of Council whose expertise is outside the relevant discipline, and who has not proposed, seconded or written a reference for any candidate being considered by that Committee.

The Council Member attending is available to assist the Sectional Committee in regards to any policy and/or electoral procedure advice and will also ensure that gender balance and diversity issues (age, geography, emerging disciplines and interdisciplinary candidates) are properly addressed.

The Sectional Committee Chairs (or Deputy Chairs when appropriate) will meet with Council and other Sectional Committee Chairs immediately after the Sectional Committee meetings to present a brief report on each of their recommended candidates. The Chair will send the Committee’s written report to Council by 17 February.


Council plays a vital part in electing Fellows—a part which can be played only by a small group prepared to sift carefully through the evidence placed before it by the Chairs of the Sectional Committees and the original documentation. Only in this way can a proper balance of membership be preserved, justice be done to scientists of high calibre working in unpopular or little known fields, and gender balance and diversity issues be considered.

At its meeting in March, Council will consider all candidate documentation and the Chairs’ written reports and determine which candidates will be recommended by Council for election by the Fellowship. Council is guided by the rankings provided by the Sectional Committees, but is not obliged to recommend the highest-ranked candidate(s).

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

Discipline Nominating Groups (DNGs)

Retiring Sectional Committee Chairs and Members may be invited to join the Discipline Nominating Group for their discipline from time to time. The DNGs will identify possible new candidates, and appropriate proposers, for Fellowship nomination, as well as possible Award candidates (and nominators) associated with their disciplines, taking into account gender balance and diversity (geographical location, emerging discipline, age and interdisciplinary candidates).

Nomination documents

Fellows wishing to nominate a candidate for Ordinary or Special Election (or as a Corresponding Member) must do so on the relevant Certificate by 31 July. Nomination Certificates are available on the Fellows’ only page on the website.

If you have any questions, please contact the Fellowship and Awards Manager, Karen Holt, by phone on (02) 6201 9406 or by email to fellowship@science.org.au.

© 2017 Australian Academy of Science