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By Mary Raucci, APS Honors Program Manager
The APS Honors program is an important way that the physics community recognizes achievement and excellence. APS is committed to continuous improvement and is now undertaking a review of the program’s policies and procedures. This may impact how APS prizes, awards, and Fellowships are handled in the future.
In addition, as a follow-up to the 2016 APS Prizes and Awards Task Force Report, the APS Board and Council of Representatives have requested that the Committee on Prizes and Awards conduct a review of existing prizes and awards. The scope will include a deeper look at the relevance, possible overlap, financial concerns, and overhead implications for APS honors at all levels.
The purpose of the review was outlined by Nick Bigelow, 2018 chair of the APS Committee on Prizes and Awards. "The Committee will be reviewing 73 active and new prizes and awards, including evaluation of any financial gap in existing endowment funds. We will also try to assess the impact of supporting these APS honors on development and administrative staff," said Bigelow.
With the continuing increase of requests for new prizes and awards, there are growing concerns about donor fatigue, but more importantly about the strain that the increased workload is putting on our volunteers and staff. "To ensure that each honor receives an appropriate and diverse pool of nominees takes a lot of time and effort by our many APS volunteers," said Trish Lettieri, APS Director of Membership. "It also takes a lot of time and energy by the selection committee members to review and choose deserving recipients. We already ask a lot of our members."
Committee members have begun researching other scientific societies to establish benchmarks and will now start a review of the individual honors. A preliminary discussion regarding the scope of the review started with unit leaders at the 2018 APS Leadership Convocation. Input from APS units will continue to be solicited and then the Committee will present a preliminary review of its progress at the 2018 April Council meeting. The goal is to have a final report for the November Council meeting.
The APS Council of Representatives also updated the APS Policies and Procedures in April 2016, stating that "The number of recommended nominees in each year may not exceed one-half percent of the then current membership of the Society, excluding student members." This was a much-needed correction since previous allocations were based on the total APS membership which now includes almost 40% students, who are not eligible for Fellowship. This change was phased in over the past two years, and after the first full implementation with the 2018 Fellows election process, the Fellowship Committee will assess the impact of the reduction in the number of Fellows, and decide if any adjustments to the allocation formula, or other procedures, is needed.
Promoting a diverse and representative community of APS prize and award recipients and Fellows is a top-priority for APS. Under the guidance of the APS Board and Council, APS Honors staff have taken new actions in the current nomination cycle to further assist APS units in canvassing, promoting, and continuously monitoring the diversity of their respective prizes, awards, and Fellows nominations. These actions include distributing to executive committees reports of existing nominations still eligible, requesting they form selection committees early in the year, and asking all committees to review the Guidelines for Promoting Equity and the Unconscious Bias resources provided by the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and the APS Committee on Minorities in Physics. And to better serve our members and volunteers, additional staff in the Membership Department have been reassigned to the Honors Division. Please contact Mary Raucci, APS Honors Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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