Report to the APS Executive Board and Council by the Task Force on APS Prizes and Awards, February 1998

Committee Members:
Mildred Dresselhaus, MIT (Chair)
Ronald Davidson, Princeton University
Katharine Gebbie, NIST
Wick Haxton, University of Washington
Rolf Landauer, IBM, Watson Research Lab
John Rowell, John Rowell Inc.
Frank Sciulli, Columbia University
Barrie Ripin, APS Senior Staff
Ken Cole, APS Task Force Administrator

The primary tasks assigned to the APS Task Force on APS Prizes and Awards were:

  1. Consider the full range, breadth and number of APS prizes and awards to see if they are appropriate and if all sectors of the physics community are covered in an equitable manner.
  2. Provide advice to the APS Executive Board on whether to accept funding for additional prizes and awards, if they were offered.
  3. Consider whether some of the criteria for existing prizes and awards should be broadened to encourage more nominations, and if so, how could this best be accomplished.

Additional topics considered by the Task Force were:

  1. Should the Executive Board and Council delegate to individual units the oversight of some of the more specialized awards, for instance, the thesis awards?
  2. Should the APS set a minimum monetary amount for the major APS prizes and offer them only in alternative years if there is insufficient endowment for them?
  3. Should the APS change the current policy on multiple recipients for prizes and awards?
  4. Should a given individual receive more than one award or prize, and if so, under which circumstances?
  5. Should there be a policy regarding travel and expenses for prizes or awards that have no specific provisions for such expenses?
  6. Should the APS divisions be permitted to use excess revenues from divisional meetings to increase funding of prizes and awards of special interest to the unit?
  7. Should the APS charge overhead for administration of the prize and awards program?
  8. Should a standing Prize and Awards Overview Committee be established?
  9. Should corporate names of companies who sponsor or have endowed prizes be included in the name of the prize or award?

Meetings:

The Task Force has held 4 conference calls to date. The first was held on November 10, 1997 where it was voted to recommend to the APS Executive Board that the proposed Francis M. Pipkin Award be approved. Background information on the APS Prize and Awards Program was then provided to the Task Force by the APS Staff. During the second telephone conference call which was held on December 19, 1997, the Task Force discussed the various items of the initial charge as well as additional topics not in the initial charge. A third call was held on February 2 to complete the discussion of the topics. A fourth call was held on February 18 to finalize the draft report based on the discussions of the second and third calls. The report was delivered to the APS Executive Board on February 21, 1998.

I. Primary Charge and Recommendations:

1. Consider the full range, breadth and number of APS prizes and awards to see if they are appropriate and if all sectors of the physics community are covered in an equitable manner.

Recommendation:
APS prizes and awards are held in high regard by the scientific community. Proposals to establish new prizes and awards have been handled equitably across the range of technical disciplines. Unit leadership should be appraised of how their specific prizes and awards fit within the overall program. The concept of a "mega" APS prize with a significant stipend was discussed, but such a prize was determined to not be essential at this time.

2. Provide advice to the APS Executive Board on whether to accept funding for additional prizes and awards, if they were offered.

Recommendation:
Each new proposal for prizes and awards should be accepted only after a careful study concludes that it will benefit the overall prize and award portfolio, and that it will not excessively overlap existing prizes and awards. The following questions should be addressed when considering new proposals:

  • Is it in a major field of interest?
  • Does the topical area of the proposed prize or award complement the areas already covered by existing prizes and awards?
  • Does it extend the distribution of APS prizes and awards into areas beyond technical disciplines to reflect the full range and depth of APS interests such as age, gender, team effort, education, scientific history, international cooperation, the environment, and applications of physics?
  • Does the proposal include provisions for travel and expenses for recipients to attend the meeting at which the prize talk is given and the prize or award is presented?
  • Does it provide for a general review after a specific period of time (e.g., 15 years) to determine the continued relevance of the subject area and the award?

3. Consider whether some of the criteria for existing prizes and awards should be broadened to encourage more nominations, and if so, how could this best be accomplished.

Recommendation:

  1. Equal access to all prizes and awards should be encouraged. Future APS prizes and awards should not be limited to certain nationalities or geographical areas. Membership in the APS should not be a requirement for candidacy. The APS should require units with an interest area associated with a prize or award to review the suitability of the prize and award description, with the goal of eliminating any unnecessary restrictions. In cases where the prize or award is limited in breadth by prior agreements with sponsors, the appropriate unit(s) and the APS staff should undertake discussion with the sponsors to reduce or eliminate those restrictions. This review should be accomplished in a written report to the APS within a two-year period after the acceptance of this Task Force report.
  2. After making its recommendations for recipients of an APS prize, each selection committee should have one more item of business; to discuss pre-eminent candidates for possible future nomination, including foreign, minority and women candidates. The committee is encouraged to include on its list any candidate previously nominated and strongly deserving of a prize, whose nomination has expired or is about to expire. The outgoing chair of the committee should then contact the home institutions of the candidates, and perhaps other concerned parties, to encourage possible nominations for the next prize cycle.

Additional Topics Considered By The Task Force:

1. Should the Executive Board and Council delegate to individual units the oversight of some of the more specialized awards, for instance, the thesis awards.

Recommendation:
Oversight of thesis awards should be given to individual APS units to determine the recipient for their respective award. Units are encouraged to look at the present DAMOP Thesis Award model as one possible scenario for selecting their award recipient. The APS Executive Officer, or his/her delegate, should certify that the selection process was conducted according to policies and procedures established by the unit as approved by the APS.

2. Should the APS set a minimum monetary amount for the major APS prizes and offer them only in alternative years if there is insufficient endowment for them?

Recommendation:
Major prizes, currently providing a stipend of $5,000 or $7,500, should be raised to $10,000 within the next 5 years. Alternatives to raising the amount of the prize could be to a.) offer the prize every other year as a $10,000 prize or, b.) allow the prize to become an award, for which lower stipends are given. Units closely associated with APS prizes and awards should provide a written report, detailing their intentions and strategic plan for addressing this issue within 2 years from the acceptance of this Task Force report. Full implementation of those plans should be expected within 5 years from the acceptance of this report.

3. Should the APS change the current policy on multiple recipients for prizes and awards?

Recommendation:
The current guideline of designating a single recipient when appropriate is encouraged. In cases where prizes and awards are made to multiple recipients, selection committees must submit sufficient justification to the APS Executive Board. Selection committees should be sensitive to recognizing only the prime contributors to large team collaborative works, especially those involving more than one institution. Only those who have made unique, original and indispensable contributions should be named as prize or award recipients.

4. Should an individual receive more than one prize or award, and if so, under what circumstances?

Recommendation:
One individual should not receive more than one major APS prize for the same work. However, recognition for work that received an APS award should not make a candidate ineligible for subsequent recognition for a major APS prize if it is demonstrated that the work has been extended in a major way. Selection committees, with the assistance of the APS staff, should identify individuals who have received prior APS recognition. In cases where the candidate has already received any APS award, the selection committee should provide justification for their selection in light of the previous award.

5. Should there be a policy regarding travel and expenses for prize and awards that have no specific provisions for such expenses?

Recommendation:
Funds associated with each prize and award should be available to pay for the travel expenses of the current recipients to attend the meeting at which the prize or award will be presented. Awards that do not specifically include a policy of paying for travel and expenses should henceforth do so, unless other arrangements are specifically stipulated. Units may choose to pay recipient travel and expenses directly rather than charging the prize or award fund.

6. Should the APS units be permitted to use excess revenues from divisional meetings to increase funding of prizes and awards of special interest to the unit?

Recommendation:
APS units should be able to allocate revenues from meetings for award travel expenses or to supplement prize and award funds.

7. Should the APS charge overhead for administration of the prize and awards program?

Recommendation:
The APS should continue its practice of not charging overhead for administration of the prize and awards program.

8. Should a standing Prize and Awards Overview Committee be established?

Recommendation:
A standing oversight committee is not necessary for the Prize and Awards program. It is recommended that a task force be appointed every 4 or 5 years to review policy issues regarding prizes and awards to insure current policies are functioning as intended, and to recommend new policies or changes where necessary.

9. Should corporate names of companies who sponsor or endow prizes be included in the name of a prize or award?

Recommendation:
The present policy of not including corporate names as part of the official name of the prize and award should be continued. Prizes and awards should be named for a person or a subject matter, but should not include a corporate name.