Research 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.

Award Committee members are unable to apply for an award or act as a referee for a candidate, for consideration by the committee that they are sitting on. 

Award timeframes

Research award applications are due on 1 June each year.  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.

Committee deliberations

Before Committee members start their application 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 (3 Minute) video on Unconscious bias before commencing deliberation.

Please do also note the following Royal Society video on avoiding group think.

Chairs are expected to lead and manage deliberations and to communicate decisions to the Secretariat by the due-dates copying the Secretariat into all correspondence relating to the award.

The Secretariat will organise a teleconference for the committee to discuss the applications received. Aside from this Secretariat organised meeting, chairs will determine how their committee will conduct its deliberations, for example, via email, skype or teleconference.

Applicants can only receive funding from the same research or travelling research award once in a three calendar year period.

Applicants may apply for more than one award but can only receive one Academy travelling or research award per calendar year.

If an applicant applies for two or more research awards across the Max Day, Thomas Davies and Margaret Middleton awards, the chairs of these committees will be alerted to the fact and will be charged to communicate with each other to ensure that the awardee only receives the one award. Their assessment will be based on their determination of the quality of the other applicants in that round.  If an applicant for two awards is the top ranked candidate for both awards, the chairs will recommend a single award that best benefits the research/career of that candidate. 

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:

  1. have or have had a close personal relationship (including enmity) with the candidate;
  2. 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

  1. are a nominator or referee for that candidate;
  2. 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;
  3. 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 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

  1. have ever had any of the professional research relationships listed in 3. above at any time in the past;
  2. 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. 

Copies of candidate’s applications will be forwarded by the Secretariat to the Chair of the Award Committee for circulation to his/her committee to consider.

The Secretariat will organise a teleconference for the Committee to discuss the award applications. Aside from this Secretariat organised meeting, chairs will determine how their committee will conduct its deliberations, for example, via email, skype or teleconference.

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

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 applications were received, the final decision and why the candidate 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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