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I never get nominated for any award. I was wondering how people get nominated for society awards.

I am a full professor, and I have an h-index of 45. I have more than 11,000 citations, so there isn't any problem with my academic performance.

Most importantly, I created a computer model which has been used by dozens of scientists across the world, which resulted in at least 200 publications in leading journals in my field (without me included). I maintain that model and people explicitly ask me to get it which I gladly do. I am one of the best computer modelers in my field, objectively, creating models that rival ones created by large teams of people in national labs, for example.

Yet, I get no nominations for any awards ever in my life. Note that in my field, self-nomination is not allowed. And I feel that it would be inappropriate for me to actually ask someone to nominate me. I think it is not ethical and a form of cheating.

Yet, I see many people get awards for far smaller contribution to the field. Some multiple number of times. The only explanation I have is that they just explicitly ask other scientists to nominate them. Which is very wrong, in my opinion.

I just feel very demotivated by this lack of respect by my fellow colleagues with who, in general, I have good relationship. I am just a bit puzzled by all this. Is it actually common for people to ask for nomination?

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    This seems like a very culture- and field- dependent question, could you add those? Apr 4 at 19:06
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    with due respect: it would seem there’s a disconnect between how you perceive your research and how it is perceived by others. Apr 4 at 22:33
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    The fact that your research is being cited so much shows that you're respected and your contributions are valued. Awards are pretty much a popularity contest, I'd pay them little heed. Apr 5 at 10:54
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    I see this as a general problem with overlapping sets: your contributions: those who use and appreciate your contributions; those who nominate or award. Unless the intersection of these sets is big enough, even large contributions will not help. The same issue arises with honorary degrees.
    – Anton
    Apr 5 at 13:22
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    " I am one of the best computer modelers in my field, objectively, creating models that rival ones created by large teams" Large teams comes with large institutionals overhead, so they have non-negligible time allocated to promotion& scientific/public outreach, either in form of press-release or in organizing conferences or in pushing candidates for prizes. Having been in the scientific commitee with the duty of organizing a conference, I have seen that sometimes the prize recipent decision is made there.
    – EarlGrey
    Apr 5 at 13:29

5 Answers 5

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I've been involved in two such awards. In both, the candidate had, to my knowledge, no prior knowledge of the nomination. In both situations, the nomination was made by a person more widely known than the candidate. In both situations, the decision was made by a committee of the association with competing candidates. One, the successful one, had several nominations, in addition to the primary one. The primary nominator in that case lobbied some of us to add support, which we gladly did. And we secondary contributors were able to speak to different aspects of the candidates suitability.

Unlike Hogwarts, magic doesn't happen. Either some number of your colleagues get together on their own in a "cabal" to push you forward or you have to nudge someone yourself, probably a major collaborator. In both cases above, the nominator and nominee had been collaborators in the past.

You are unlikely to be spontaneously thought of for a major award unless you have led some aspect of your field in some way. Lots of papers probably isn't enough in most cases. You need to be visible in pushing forward on some front that is seen by many as important. That could be research or service to the organization or possibly a number of other things.

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    Good answer. I did a couple of nominations over the years. As chair of my department’s personnel committee, which was also charged with trying to get awards for deserving faculty, I sent an e-mail to the entire faculty, asking if anyone wanted to be nominated for an award. One faculty member responded positively, so I worked with that faculty member, got strong outside letters, including one from a person who subsequently won a Nobel prize, and my colleague won an award. It helps enormously to be known to the folks at the top of one’s profession. Service to profession can help enormously. (+1)
    – Ed V
    Apr 4 at 19:43
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    @EdV You should post that as answer too. Apr 4 at 20:23
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    @AzorAhai-him- Well, I only did a couple and the answer by Buffy pretty much covers it. In my experience, most faculty would love to be recognized with an award, but most are uncomfortable putting themselves forward, even if they are doing seriously good research, bringing in grants, publishing in excellent journals, etc. They know a certain degree of self-promotion is necessary for professional success and advancement, but are quite reticent about the awards issue. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion, but folks here do a terrific job of covering all the bases.
    – Ed V
    Apr 4 at 20:56
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    @EdV I think your comment is distinct in having a departmental committee whose job it was to "get awards for deserving faculty" and having someone in your dept self-nominate to that cmte. Apr 4 at 21:09
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    @AzorAhai-him- True. The reason our departmental personnel committee (DPC) was charged with the awards matter was simply because the DPC already had all the annual faculty reports, updated CVs, etc. So no confidentiality issue. But the only time I know of, where a faculty member actually asked the DPC to be considered for an award, was when I sent out the e-mail to the faculty. Maybe it changed years later, when I finally got a break from serving on the DPC.
    – Ed V
    Apr 4 at 21:18
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Awards are a popularity contest within the group of people who give out awards. If you want one, choose a few deserving contributors in your field and try to get them prizes. As you interact with various awards committees, remember your only goal is to get your colleagues the recognition they deserve. If, and only if the awards committee asks for your CV to understand how valuable your nomination is, you can share that. Your professional conduct, charismatic disposition and tireless advocacy is what impresses the various award committees. It'll also position those you advocated for to reflect on your contributions.

This method is not foolproof, but ... an award is just a notch on your belt. Put the ones you win on one side and the ones you advocated for on the other. Recognition is as much an accident of charisma, contacts and timing as it is based on your hard work.

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    Good point. The OP complains he has never received an award. The question could be put to the OP: how often have you nominated someone else for an award?
    – GEdgar
    Apr 5 at 16:43
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    @GEdgar High-output individuals feel pressure to keep performing and often choose to prioritize different things. Priorities change. Just because a person has never before doesn't mean they won't ever in the future.
    – user121330
    Apr 5 at 17:20
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Awards are a mark of a social recognition, and they have everything to do with visibility and networking. An absolutely stellar result does not an award make, not on its own. Working behind closed doors in your ivory tower would only bring in recognition and respect from people in a somewhat narrow field, and these are not the same people who influence award-related decisions.

How often do you engage in chest-beating compared to those less accomplished colleagues getting nominated? The research administration has some awards to distribute, was it you or someone else who had their ear the most recently talking about the greatness of their results? How much funding did you get for the school? How many students have you successfully graduated? The most decorated people have this feedback loop fueled at all times; for them, awards help getting more funding and other resources for the research and so they often talk about how great their research is and how deserving of all accolades it is. Not that this is a bad thing per se, and not all awards are like that. But the majority is.

One needs not be self-nominated to kick things off, but someone with enough motivation to get them an award should speak out directly. The most "honest", down-to-earth awards seem (to me, at least) to be given out by scientific societies such as AMS or IEEE, and you may be well on track to get one of these. But these honorary, often lifetime achievement awards usually come pretty late in one's career. "Smaller" ones often come in a "science fair"-like format, and people seem to start collecting these from the "best ... at a conference".

The last point about conferences is actually rather important, it replicates a lot of the dynamic tied to the institutional award-giving.

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I agree with Buffy, however, I'd suggest that finding a major collaborator to nominate you might not be enough. Instead of soliciting a single nomination, you should work with a person willing to coordinate the gathering of a nomination package. Ideally, that person would be soliciting nomination letters and submissions designed to boost your chances from a number of colleagues that could all support your nomination in slightly different ways. They'd contact the list of potential nominators, suggest what part of your portfolio they're most in a position to support, ping them to make sure those that said they'd submit a letter actually submit it, ...

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    I suggest adding that most departments should have a process that will result in this sort of support; the OP should talk to their Head/Chair. Apr 6 at 5:38
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With respect, I appreciate that your question is meaningful, but the way you have framed it is really quite bizarre (or maybe even narcissistic). I am puzzled that someone with your experience in research is asking this question.

One goes into research because they enjoy it, are passionate about it and want to contribute, not because one expects or is searching for prizes. There have been many mathematicians (Harish-Chandra, for example) who won almost no awards although they did work of foundational importance.

Just openly stating puzzlement (and even offence) that you have not received any shiny awards for your work is really quite a bizarre and surprising statement.

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    -1 This doesn't answer the question...
    – user541686
    Apr 7 at 8:10
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    You always compare yourself with your peers. If you achieve more, you compare yourself to others which achieve on the same level. If they receive prizes, it is naturally to ask yourself, why you are left out.
    – usr1234567
    Apr 7 at 8:14

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