Nominate your hero, your mentor, or your colleague for that well-deserved award

Do you sometimes wonder how the people that get prizes are chosen? Can you think of someone who had a big influence on you that should get a prize? Identify the prizes given by your scientific societies and nominate the best for them! Many awards are based on nominations followed by voting. Without a nomination, there will be no award. So take the time to nominate your heroes. They could be people close to you who have written you countless letters of recommendation. They could be people you hardly know, but whose outstanding papers and innovative ideas have changed your career and have helped you discover.

You may think that these prizes serve no particular purpose, or that they only inflate already large egos. I have been surprised at the modesty at the very top, finding the largest egos lower down. Anyway, I think prizes are important. The main reason is that it is often the case that people in our field are competing with people from other fields for positions of various sorts. How do people far from our field recognize excellence? One way is by seeing that a candidate has won a prize. So I think we should have lots of prizes and nominate vigorously for them so the whole field prospers.

It is a sad truth that for many awards there are very few nominations. How can we reward the very best if no one even takes the time to nominate them? It is true that nominations take a bit of work. You are likely to have to write a nominating letter. You may even have to gather several such letters. You will have to think hard about the person’s career and summarize some of the excitement in a few paragraphs. You may feel so in awe of the person that you don’t want to do it. But if you don’t, then who will? Once you get going, it is fun to nominate.

Make nominating others for awards, memberships, or fellowships a normal part of the service side of your career. It will make you feel good. It will give you insight into the ebb and swell of an outstanding career, something you might learn from. I nominate five to ten people a year for something or another. Mostly, you don’t tell them you are nominating them. Sometimes nothing comes of the nomination, but other times they snag the award and it is delightful.

Awards is an area where women and under-represented minorities and under-represented fields and creatures are often ignored. Think about how you can address this with some of your nominations.

I know you are busy, but it is time to start nominating. As past president, I am in charge of the Career Awards for the Animal Behavior Society. They also have a Facebook page. Send me some nominations, please! You yourself should participate in the Allee Symposium if you are a grad student or very recent Ph.D. If you are an undergrad, check out the Genesis and Turner awards for posters presented at the meeting. (Come to the Boulder, Colorado 2013 meeting!) There are also research grants and the like, better explained on the website.

One thing that is frustrating about nominating people for society-based awards, is that the nominees should not have previously received the award. All too often, these things are really hard to figure out. Email the web master, or society secretary. When I was on the Council for the Society for the Study of Evolution, I succeeded in getting them to put the winners of the Dobzhansky Award on the web, so all could see how many decades passed before they finally awarded it to a woman again. But I digress.

Here are the details for Animal Behavior Society Career awards. There are five of them. They are: Distinguished Animal Behaviorist, Exemplar award, Quest award, Exceptional Service award and the Outstanding New Investigator award. Nominations come to me ( before 30 November. Ideally you will concatenate all the pieces in a single document, not send a blizzard of separate things. You will name the file with the last name of the recipient, followed by the award, for example, DarwinCharlesQuest.pdf.

The Outstanding New Investigator award recognizes great work by someone within a few years of receiving their PhD. Since 2000 this award has gone, most recent first, to Alison Bell, Maud Ferrari, Dustin Rubenstein, Molly Cummings, Eileen Hebets, Kevin McGraw, Maydianne Andrade, Jeff Podos, and Greg Grether. Nominate a young star! This should be easy!

The Quest award recognizes an outstanding seminal contribution in animal behavior. I don’t really get how this one is different from some of the other more senior awards. So just use this for someone you think is amazing and has contributed important work to our field. I’ll give all the people I have that have gotten this one since 1991 since there is no particular age target for it. Most recent is first. Mary Jane West Eberhard, Hugh Drummond, Andrew Sih, Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, Hubert Scwabl, Al Kamil, Carl Gerhardt, Gerald Wilkinson, David Westneat, Christine Boake, Patricia Gowaty, John Wingfield, Marlene Zuk, and Kim Sullivan. Make this year’s nominations be amazing!

The Exemplar award recognizes a major long-term contribution in animal behavior. Since 1994, in reverse order, these are the recipients: Jack Bradbury, Sandy Vehrencamp, Charles Brown, Donald Owings, John Wingfield, John Byers, Mike Beecher, Steve Emlen, Ellen Ketterson, John Endler, Marc Beckoff, Donald Dewsbury, John Alcock, Jeanne Altmann, Doug Mock, and Judy Stamps. Who would you add to this great list?

The Distinguished Animal Behaviorist recognizes an outstanding career in animal behavior. You can see there is a lot of overlap among these prizes. I suppose this one is for more senior people who have nearly a whole career behind them. In reverse order, here are the recipients since 1991: Jeanne Altmann, Stephen Emlen, Chris Evans, Lee Drickamer, Jeram Brown, Richard Dawkins, Judy Stamps, Robert Trivers, Richard D. Alexander, George Parker, Edward O. Wilson, Nicholas Colias, Jack Hailman, Lester Aronson, Glen Woolfenden, Lincoln Brower, John Maynard Smith, Peter Marler, W. D. Hamilton.

The Exceptional Service Award is the final prize I have the pleasure of awarding. In reverse order, these are the people who have received it since 1996: Shan Duncan, James Ha, Jeff Galef, Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, Michael Beecher, Donald Dewsbury, Meredith West, Jane Brockmann, Lee Drickamer, Martin Schein, George Waring, and Ira Perelle.

So, do it today! Please send me the nominations. In the one document, I would like your nomination letter, indicating what award you are nominating for, a few supporting letters, and the person’s CV. You may hesitate to bother others also for letters, but it lets them see what a good citizen you are. Try to send the candidate’s CV and web address when you ask. Please hurry. These letters and nominations are best when they are short and pithy. These records speak for themselves. They simply need you to point to an amazing idea or fundamental contribution or three.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Helping others, Managing an academic career, Scientific meetings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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