Honorific Award Committee terms of reference

The honorific awards were established to recognise outstanding contributions to the advancement of science at the early, mid and career level. Career awards recognise life-long achievement. Receipt of early- and/or mid-career honorific awards may assist to advance the recipients’ careers.

The list of all early-career, mid-career, career and premier honorific awards can be found here.


To ensure transparency and enable wider involvement of the Fellowship in the selection process, committee membership for all awards will be for three years only and approximately one third of the members will retire each year (on 31 December). In the case of newly formed committees, such retirements will begin at the end of the second year.

A Chair will normally have already served on the awards committee as a member for at least one year and where possible, also be a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. The maximum term for a Chair will normally be for two award rounds - so the membership term does not extend beyond five award rounds. For biennial awards, the years of membership are up to three award rounds (six years) for members – with the maximum years for a Chair’s term normally being two award rounds (up to four years). There will be a minimum break of two award rounds before a member can re-join a committee and that committee members may not be nominated for that award for two years after they leave the committee.

Serving members of the Council of the Australian Academy of Science may not be members of honorific award committees, except if specifically required by the award guidelines.

Council members and members of the awards committee (for the award in question) are not eligible to be nominated for Academy awards, except for outgoing members of Council. Outgoing members may be nominated in their outgoing year for awards other than the Premier Career Awards: the Macfarlane Burnet and the Matthew Flinders and Ruby Payne-Scott Medals.


Copies of each candidate’s nomination documents (including the nomination form, brief citation, non-technical description of the work, CV and list of publications) will be sent by the Secretariat to the award committee in June of each year.

No candidate can receive more than one award in the same year. When a candidate is nominated for more than one award, and becomes a front-runner for more than one award, the Chairs of the relevant committees need to confer. A joint meeting of the relevant award committees can also be arranged by the Secretariat, if needed. 

Relevant award committee will receive summary of awardee eligibility details to inform their shortlist decision.


All members are expected to undertake unconscious bias training. Council and The Secretaries will determine the nature of this training each year.

The Academy is committed to promoting diversity of, for example, gender, ethnicity, age, geographical distribution and scientific disciplines, and to the principles of inclusion, equal opportunity, fairness and transparency in its policies and procedures.

Unconscious bias often manifests as prejudice or unsupported judgments. It is considered to be universally present, and often escapes detection because it is not applied consciously. 

The purpose of unconscious bias training is to help Committee members recognize its existence and forms, and the influence it can have on decision-making processes, with a view to mitigating its effects on selection processes.  

Current training is provided though the Academies unconscious bias training video, which Committee members are requested to view prior to stating their nomination assessments (45 minutes).

Members of each award committee are also encouraged to watch the Royal Society video on avoiding group think.

The Secretariat will organise a webconference for the committee to discuss the award nominations. Aside from this Secretariat-organised meeting, chairs will determine how their committee will conduct its deliberations, for example via electronic means.


The first task of the Committee before any assessment or ranking takes place is for committee Chairs to ask for and collect declarations of conflicts of interest from all committee members and forward this information to the Secretariat. When identifying conflicts of interest, committee members should use the following as a guide to direct and indirect conflicts. The Secretariat will provide Chairs with a spreadsheet for members to complete and will keep a record of declarations.

To reduce the risk of conflicts of interest, award committee members are asked to refrain from nominating, or acting as a referee, for new nominees for awards that fall under their committee’s remit. It is appreciated that there may be residual conflicts from existing nominations. These should be dealt with in consultation with the Secretaries.

Members with direct conflicts of interest must declare the nature of that conflict upfront in their conflict-of-interest report sent to the Chair and secretariat and can not score or comment on their conflicted candidate unless answering direct questions posed to them by the committee.

Members with an indirect conflict of interest with a candidate may provide an evaluation but must declare the nature of that conflict upfront in their conflict of interest report sent to the Chair and secretariat. 

Members with indirect conflicts of interest with a candidate are able to rank that candidate but should not speak on behalf of the candidate at any point of the deliberation process except in response to questions posed directly to them by the committee, through the Chair, in relation to the candidate and/or field of research in question.

Committees with Chairs that have declared any direct or indirect conflicts of interest are requested to copy the relevant Side-Secretary into all committee deliberations.

At the relevant Side-Secretary’s discretion an independent third-party assessor may be brought in to assist such committees at any point of the deliberations. They would join as either an additional member of the committee with full voting rights and normal tenure, or as a non-voting observer for one year.

A direct conflict of interest of a committee member with a candidate can occur for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, if they:

a. have or have had a close personal relationship (including enmity) with the candidate;

b. have a professional research relationship with the candidate including:

i) are negotiating/hold/have held within the past two years a research proposal conjointly with the candidate. (In proposals with a very large number of investigators, such as large centres or infrastructure grants, this may not be a direct conflict unless there is close collaboration);

ii) have been a collaborator or co-author with the candidate on a research output within the past four years. (Co-authorship on papers with a very large number of authors may not be a direct conflict, unless there is close collaboration).

iii) have ever been an academic supervisor of the candidate i.e. when the candidate was a research student or post-doc;

iv) have been an employment supervisor/direct line manager of the candidate within the past five years;

c. . have been in the same division/department/section of the organisation employing the candidate or the same research centre as the candidate and in the same research field or a closely related research field as the candidate (including e.g., in an honorary capacity) within the past two years.

d. If they are a nominator or referee for the candidate.

Committee members may be deemed to have an indirect conflict of interest with a candidate if any of the following apply:

a. they have had any of the professional research relationships listed in ‘b’ (i), (ii), (iv) above at any time in the past 10 years;

b. they have been in the same division, department, section or centre as the candidate (including e.g., in an honorary capacity) at any time in the past 5 years;

c. they have been a co-editor with the candidate of a book, journal, compendium, or conference proceedings involving close collaboration within the past two years. 

Perceived conflicts of interest are important to the reputation of the Academy and in some jurisdictions have the same standing as actual conflicts of interest. As such, the number of exceptions to these guidelines approved by the Side-Secretaries will be minimised.


All material relating to candidates is strictly confidential and must not be shared with anyone. Following the deliberations, all electronic material must be deleted from personal devices and printed material and notes securely destroyed or returned to the Awards office. The deliberations remain confidential, even after the awarding of candidates.


If a proposed candidate is already the recipient of an Academy early-career honorific award, they will not be eligible for nomination for another early-career award or a mid-career honorific award. In accordance with the objectives of the honorific awards, a mid-career honorific award recipient will also not be eligible for nomination for another mid-career award and fellows of the Academy are ineligible to be nominated for early of mid-career honorific awards. Premier awardees can be awarded a second premier award but not in the same award year.

Where a candidate has been put forward for an award but is clearly better suited or equally eligible for other awards in that round, the Secretaries have the discretion to consider having the nomination moved or jointly considered for the other award (with prior approval of the nominator).

Each committee should ensure that they have examined each case appropriately, exercising judgement and limiting the use of metrics (e.g. H-indexes, number of international presentations) or other constructs that can discriminate against those who have had fewer years full-time in research because they are younger, have had family responsibilities or have had to be re-accredited after arrival in Australia. Metrics should only be used in a qualitative way and not as a decisive criterion in recommending a candidate for an award. Any use of metrics should take into account the size and the practices in different fields.

Committees are requested to ensure that candidate achievements are judged relative to opportunity. The approach aims to give more weight to the overall quality and impact of achievements rather than the quantity, rate or breadth of particular achievements, which in many instances is directly related to time and resources available rather than talent, merit or excellence. An assessment of a candidate’s opportunity to demonstrate scientific excellence will take into account the factors below, based on the Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) guidelines of the Australian Research Council (ARC).

  • research training; employment in research positions, either within the research sector or outside academia, including the research component and/or full-time-equivalence of positions; research and development activities; industry engagement; research environment, including supervision, mentoring and leadership; professional development; research management experience, and access to research and support facilities.
  • Career interruptions- including those due to employment outside academia; unemployment, part-time employment; childbirth; parental leave; carers’ responsibilities; misadventure; limited or no access to facilities and resources—such as through workplace interruptions; disaster management and recovery; misadventure; medical conditions; disability; caring and parental responsibilities, community obligations, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural practices and protocols or illness.

Taking the above considerations into account, the key question should ALWAYS be: has the candidate made significant research contributions worthy of the Award?

Committee members are asked to assign scores for each candidate out of a total of 100, based on a scoring matrix provided by the Academy that allocates a score of up to 100% to scientific achievement. Other factors such as mentorship and international profile can be used as a tie breaker, but not as primary scoring criteria. This is subject to any additional specific criteria of an award.

Recognising that it is not necessary to assign 100 to any particular candidate, and that total scores of 70 and above indicate an assessor’s support for shortlisting and/or awarding the candidate.

When members score shortlisted nominations, they are asked to keep to a scoring range of 70-100, noting that a score of 100 means that the candidate is outstanding in every way. This is in contrast to a 70, which might mean that the candidate is very strong, but the case is not as compelling as some others under consideration.

In general, Award Committees should attempt to achieve a consensus with respect to the candidate to be recommended to Council. Where this is not possible, the matter should be resolved by a formal vote and recorded in the committee’s report to Council. If the number of votes for any two candidates are equal, the Chair should exercise a casting vote, except for when a chairs vote will have an impact on the awarding of a candidate they are conflicted with. In such a case, The Secretaries will be notified to adjudicate.

Committees can recommend that there be no award made in a round if there is a consensus that there is not a sufficiently strong candidate.

Committees can recommend that the award be jointly awarded to more than one candidate and are encouraged to consider doing this if the top two candidates are very close and the second is a diversity candidate. However, where there are two non-diversity candidates in close contention for the award, only one can be recommended to Council. Committees are requested to add the highest ranked diversity nominee to their shortlist whenever their original shortlist did not include one.

Award committees are also asked to identify potentially awardable “runner up” candidates in their shortlist who would normally not be eligible at the time of the next round due to exceeding the post PhD criteria, and to consider these for one round extensions. This procedure does not apply to candidates for biennial Early and Mid-Career awards and awards with rotating award fields.

Committees will also be requested to provide (when possible) a shortlist of up to three high quality unsuccessful candidates who will be invited to update their documentation for consideration (if eligible) for up to two subsequent awarding rounds.

Committees will be requested to also provide the names of the runner up for each award in case there were concerns by Council about the appropriateness of the recommended winner. 



The Secretariat will provide a report template for Chairs to complete. Chairs will provide the Awards Officer with a brief summary (one page) of the deliberations of the committee, how many nominations were received, the shortlist of up to four candidates (including the awardee), the final decision and why the candidate(s) is being proposed to Council for the award, by 5 September. The report should also include the completed register of conflicts of interest (and how conflicts were dealt with) and any recommended changes to the award or to the selection process.


As part of its recommendations to Council, the award committee should advise on optimum disciplinary makeup of the committee for replacement committee members. on replacement members as required.

The Secretaries Physical and Biological Sciences will review the interest received from individual Fellows to sit on award committees and the committee recommendations regarding disciplinary makeup. They will select new members and Chairs as guided by the following selection principles, presenting these to Council annually out of session, for record and oversight:

  • Annually the Fellowship will be consulted on their availability for award and sectional committees.
  • The member expertise across each awards committee will endeavour to cover the fields of the candidates relevant to that committee
  • When nominations close, new members will be added to any awards committee if the Secretaries consider that expertise is lacking or that conflicts would inhibit the committee in ranking particular candidates
  • The membership of each awards committee, within the conditions of that award and where possible, will reflect appropriate geographical spread, gender and ethnic diversity as guided by, and in accordance with, the principles provided by the Equity and Diversity Reference Group (EDRG)
  • The Secretaries will also consider members outside of the award discipline for award committees, corresponding members of the Academy and Fellows of the Royal Society Te Aparangi.
  • The Secretaries will aim to have a minimum of 5 members appointed on each award committee.
  • The EDRG representative on Council will be tasked to record and feedback to the Secretaries any equity and diversity matters observed in relation to the awards and where shown in the annual award committee reports presented to Council.
  • When appropriate, early- and mid-career researchers and previous recipients of an award will be considered for award committee membership. Fellows of other National Academies and non-Fellows with particular expertise with also be considered.

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