Guidelines for Promoting Equity in Awarding APS Prizes, Awards & Fellowships

Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, APS
Committee on Minorities, APS

This document is intended to serve as a guide to improve the effectiveness of award, prize and fellowship committees in finding the most qualified person from a diverse, representative pool of candidates.

Award/Prize criteria: Ensure that the criteria against which the candidate will be judged are specific and if possible, quantifiable in some way. Clearly list the required application materials, criteria, and how the criteria should be addressed in the application package.

Committees: Compose a diverse committee. The chair must display effective leadership in communicating the values of diversity to the rest of the committee, and should raise the question of pool diversity with committee members as they work to recruit applicants.

Applicant Pools: The chair should communicate diversity priorities and remind the committee of award or selection criteria. Committee members should solicit applications from qualified people who might traditionally be overlooked. The chair can solicit input from the Committee on Minorities or the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics.

Judging: A judging matrix listing the candidates and all criteria should be disseminated to committee members. Grading against a rubric will help prevent snap judgments, stereotypes, and some other traps that are common errors in the selection process.* It is not advisable for individuals to rank candidates without a rubric, because this can cause unintentional biases based upon gut feelings rather than objective criteria. The leadership of the chair in keeping the process objective and criteria-­‐based is critical. When people have been eliminated as unqualified, ensure that it is because they do not meet the criteria. There are always some intangible or less-­‐quantifiable traits of candidates that should be captured and discussed by the committee, since these can sometimes be the difference between two otherwise similarly qualified candidates. If the chair assembles rankings based on scores of individual committee members, often a lower tier of candidates emerges that can be eliminated.

Final Decision: The committee and chair should feel that they have conducted an impartial judging process of a great pool of highly-­qualified applicants. The upper tier of candidates can be carefully examined again against the judging rubric to determine a clear winner or winners. The chair should review/update or prepare a short document outlining the process that was used by the committee [see Chair’s Report Template]. This document should be reviewed by the unit leadership and given to the next chair. Unit Chairs should monitor the success of committees in increasing the representation of underrepresented minorities and women and look for paths to improve selection processes, including appointing a diversity officer for the unit who is tasked with heightening awareness of diversity issues to the executive and subcommittees.

*More information about possible bias and ways to prevent it is detailed in “Rising Above Cognitive Errors: Improving Searches, Evaluations and Decision-Making” by JoAnn Moody, 2010 available at