Forum Fellowship Nominations

Richard Wiener, Barbara A. Jones, Allen Lee Sessoms, and Beverly Hartline

Each year the APS elects a select group of members to Fellowship, a distinct honor signifying high recognition by one's professional peers. Only 1/2% of the entire APS membership may receive this honor in any given year.The criterion for election is exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise; e.g., outstanding physics research, important applications of physics, leadership in or service to physics, or significant contributions to physics education.

As part of the election process, each unit of the APS has a number of fellowship slots available for nomination annually. Over the past several years, FPS has fallen far short of its allotment.

The FPS Fellowship Committee wishes to strongly encourage fellowship nominations of truly deserving FPS members, especially women and members of underrepresented minorities. It is essential that nominations for fellows that come through FPS must emphasize contributions at the interface of physics and society, not just contributions to physics or to society or to institutions.

The FPS Fellowship Committee does receive a number of excellent nominations for fellowships each year. The committee is always impressed by the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of those who take the time to make these suggestions. Unfortunately, the committee has been less impressed by the quality of the letters of support for some of those nominations.

In a number of instances, support letters seem to lack enthusiasm, and in some cases, they lack personal knowledge of those they are intended to support. Further, they sometimes lack insight into why the person nominated merits elevation to the status of fellow through FPS. The number of nominations that FPS can put forward is therefore extremely limited. It is incumbent on those who agree to write a letter of support to take the time, and to provide the personal insights, necessary to make the strongest possible case.

A significant, and surprising, problem has been that some people who agree to write support letters either don't do them or don't submit them on time, leaving the nominations incomplete or too late to forward to the APS Council. When the Fellowship committee does not receive promised support letters, it undermines the integrity of the nomination process.

Once the FPS nominating committee puts forward the nominations they must pass muster with the APS Council, which ultimately makes the award on behalf of the entire society. In the recent past, the committee has chosen not to forward nominations to the Council because even though the candidate was meritorious and had an outstanding recommendation from the nominator, the package of support letters did not pass muster.

After this year’s nomination process, the committee decided to communicate the following message to members of FPS, “We urge everyone who agrees to write a support letter to write it in the spirit of those who make the initial nominations.We feel it necessary to emphasize that whenever you accept the responsibility of providing a letter in support of a fellowship nomination, you spend the time and energy to do one that does the nominee and her contributions at the interface of physics and society full justice.”

These contributions have not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the view of APS.