Honorific Award Committee terms of reference


In order to ensure transparency and to allow for wider involvement of the Fellowship, Committee membership for all awards will be for three years only, with approximately one third of the members retiring 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 Award Committee as a member for at least one year and their maximum term as Chair will be for two years - so that their membership term does not extend beyond five years. For biennial awards, years of membership are up to three award rounds (six years) for members – with the maximum years for a Chair’s term 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.

Council members may not be members of honorific award committees.

Serving members of the Council of the Australian Academy of Science and members of the Award Committee dealing with the award in question are not eligible to be nominated for Academy awards except in the case of outgoing members of Council who may be nominated in their outgoing year for all awards except the Macfarlane Burnet, the Matthew Flinders and Ruby Payne-Scott Medals.  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. A mid-career honorific award recipient will also not be eligible for nomination for another mid-career award. Fellows of the Academy are ineligible to be nominated.  The Ruby Payne-Scott, Nancy Millis and the Dorothy Hill Medals are for women only.


Award timeframes

Honorific award nominations are due on 1 May each year, with referee report then due the 1st of June. Award Committee deliberations are to be finalised and written recommendations and reports sent to the Secretariat by 5 September. Recommendations will then be submitted to COUNCIL in October for approval.

Conflict of interest

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.

Members may be deemed to have a direct conflict of interest with a candidate 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 been a supervisor of the candidate;

Members may be deemed to have a clear indirect conflict of interest with a candidate if any of the following apply: if they

a. are a nominator or referee for that candidate;

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

  • are negotiating/hold/have held within the past two years a research proposal conjointly with the candidate;
  • have been a collaborator or co-author with the candidate on a research output within the past four years;
  • have been a co-editor with the candidate of a book, journal, compendium, or conference proceedings within the past two years;

c. have been in:  either (1) the same division/department/section of the organisation employing the candidate or (2) the same research centre as the candidate;  and in either: (1) the same research field or (2) a closely related research field as the candidate during the past two years.

Members may be deemed to have a mild indirect conflict of interest with a candidate if any of the following apply: if they

a. have ever had any of the professional research relationships listed in b. above at any time in the past;

b. have been in the same division, department, section or centre as the candidate but are not in the same research field or a related research field as the candidate.

Members with direct conflicts of interest must inform the Secretariat before any Committee deliberations and immediately step down from that Committee.  However, members with clear indirect conflicts 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. Members with mild indirect conflicts with a candidate are able to rank and comment on candidates so long as the conflict is declared to the chair and the Committee and is recorded in the Committees’s report to Council. Committees with chairs that have declared a clear indirect conflict of interest will be requested to copy the relevant Academy Secretary into all committee deliberations. At the Secretaries discretion an independent third party assessor may be brought in to assist such committees at any point of the deliberations.


Chairs should impress upon their committee the confidential nature of all material relating to candidates (including written opinions sought about them) and the need to destroy the documentation once the reports are finalised. Committee members should also be reminded that the deliberations of the Committee remain confidential, even after the selected candidate has been notified by the Academy.

Consideration of candidates

Committee members will ensure that gender and diversity issues are taken into consideration when considering candidates for awards. 

Before Committee members start their nomination assessments, they are requested to have viewed the Australian Academy of Science’s Unconscious Bias Training Video (45 mins) 

At the start of Award Committee Meeting deliberations where practicable award committees are requested to be shown the Royal Societies video on Unconscious Bias video before commencing deliberations (3 mins) 

Please do also note the following Royal Society video on avoiding group think (4 mins)

Each Committee should ensure that they have examined each case appropriately, exercising judgement and limiting the use of some 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. 

Committees are requested to ensure that achievements are judged relative to opportunity. 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).

  • Mentoring, research support and funding available to the candidate.
  • Career interruptions, including those due to employment outside academia, unemployment, part-time employment, childbirth, parental leave, carers’ responsibilities, misadventure, 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?

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

Chairs are expected to contact all their committee members and to lead and manage discussions regarding committee decisions and will copy the Secretariat into all discussions relating to the award and communicate their decisions to the Secretariat by the due-dates. The Secretariat will organise a teleconference 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 email, skype or teleconference.

Award nomination

Copies of 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.

When a candidate is nominated for more than one award and that candidate becomes a front-runner for more than one award, the Chairs of those committees need to confer. A joint meeting of the relevant Award Committees could also be arranged, if needed. 

In general, Award Committees should attempt to achieve a consensus with respect to the winner to be recommended to Council. Where this is not possible, the matter should be resolved by a formal vote. In the event of the number of votes for any two candidates being equal, the Chair would exercise a casting vote. Significantly conflicted committee members (direct conflict) cannot vote on their conflicted candidate. When a vote is used to decide the outcome of the Committee’s deliberations, the actual distribution of the votes should be recorded in the Chair’s report to Council.

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.

Whenever an Early or Mid-Career award committee has two female candidates or a female and male candidate in very close contention, Committees can recommend to Council that two awards are made.  However, where there are two male candidates in close contention for the award, only one can be recommended to Council for an award. Committees are requested to add the highest ranked female 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 that 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 would not apply to candidates for biennial Early and Mid-Career awards and awards with rotating award fields.

Chair's report to council

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.

New members

As part of its recommendations to Council, the Award Committee should advise on replacement members as required. It is the responsibility of the Award Committee to take account of the distribution of members between regions, fields and gender, especially those considered underrepresented. Chairs should provide in their report a recommendation for each vacancy, and provide brief reasons for their recommendations.

The Secretaries Physical and Biological Sciences will review the Committee nominations regarding replacement Chairs and members and make their recommendations for the new Award Committees to the EXCOM meeting in October.

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