IMS Council recently adopted these guidelines for awards committee members.


Ensuring fairness and diversity: Guidelines for IMS Awards Committees

The term ‘award’ is taken to include all IMS Awards and Honors (including but not limited to: IMS Fellowship, invitations to deliver Special Lectures, and IMS Travel Awards).


Significance of Awards

The IMS gives awards to recognize individuals who have excelled in a number of ways. Award winners are regarded as role models and leaders, so it is important that the award selection process recognize the achievements of a diverse group that reflects the breadth of membership of the IMS and of the profession. Diversity in award recognition gives visible evidence of the IMS’s commitment to equity. While selection committees strive for fairness in selecting awards based on established criteria, studies have shown that unconscious, unintentional assumptions can sometimes influence judgment, a phenomenon known as implicit bias.

The following guidelines may help awards committees improve the fairness and inclusivity of the awards process.


Composing committees and cultivating nominees

a) Appoint diverse selection committees and committee chairs. Individual Presidents should be aware of the current composition of each award committee when they are making their appointments and should attempt to take diversity into account. Diverse committees provide access to a wider set of networks from which to cultivate nominations. Committee members and chairs from underrepresented groups may cushion against unintentional stereotyping. Do not expect committee members from underrepresented groups to advocate for diversity, it is everyone’s responsibility to do so.

b) Generate a large and diverse pool of nominees. Awards are selected based on established criteria, so this step is crucial to ensuring that the pool of nominees contains as many eligible candidates as possible. Increasing awareness of the award among all members of the IMS has the side benefit of increasing interest in the award and making the selection process more transparent and inclusive.

c) Publicize the award among underrepresented groups. When possible, encourage such groups to identify potential nominees.

d) Each award committee should periodically review and discuss practices for building a pool of nominees. Examine lists of nominees, short lists of nominees, and winners of awards for historical patterns, with an eye towards gender or other underrepresented groups.

e) Each award committee should periodically review the description and guidelines for the award. Particular attention should be paid to the language used to describe the award. For example, are the words used associated more often with males than females? Are there restrictions that could disproportionately affect certain groups? For example, do age limits affect women who take time off to raise a family? For suggested changes, make recommendations to the IMS leadership.


Selecting winners:

a) Discuss the process and criteria that will be used to evaluate nominees before reviewing nominations. Develop a rubric that matches published criteria for the award before reviewing any dossiers. Research has shown that implicit bias can enter via unintentional criteria shifting after nominees are discussed.

b) Consider including those whose qualifications are strong but whose work may be less widely known. If prestige is considered important, it should be included in the prioritized list of criteria. If a letter of recommendation from an eminent scholar or leader will be given more consideration than a letter from a less well-known member of the society, nominators should be informed of this via the published criteria.

c) Make a personal list of top nominees before hearing the recommendations of any other members. This avoids the undue influence of one member and ensures that the list of viable nominees is as large as possible before the discussion begins.

d) Create short lists via inclusive rather than exclusive methods. For instance, select candidates that are outstanding, rather than finding reasons to eliminate candidates from consideration.

e) Ensure that every committee member’s voice is heard. Do not let any committee members remain silent.

f) Take adequate time to make a decision. Research has shown that implicit bias is mitigated when committees have time for thoughtful reflection and discussion, instead of making snap judgments.

g) Avoid conflict of interest. The following is a common conflict of interest statement for all IMS awards:

(i) No member of the Award Committee shall be eligible to receive the award during his or her term of service.

(ii) In the case of the Committee on Fellows, members of the Committee should not prepare individual nominations; however, they should actively recruit nominations for individuals they feel would be competitive for the award. Support letters should not come from members of the committee.

(iii) Members of the Award Committee who find that they have a potential conflict of interest with respect to a particular nominee, perhaps due to an existing or former professional or personal relationship, should exercise their best judgment. If in doubt, they should consult the Committee Chair, who should, in turn, consult the IMS President in cases where the committee itself is uncertain how to proceed.