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An international society is accepting nominations for an yearly award for young principal investigators in our scientific research field, and I would like to nominate my supervisor.

I have to write a nomination letter about him.

The rules about this letter state:

"Your personal assessment of nominee's contributions to our scientific research field deserving of this distinguished award, including major scientific contributions, up to ten references to publications, and other contributions to the field that demonstrate this nominee is deserving of this award"

I never wrote such letters so I don't know how to start... I think I should start by talking about the deliverables (scientific softwares and papers) he released in his career, and their impact in our field. Is this correct?

Then should I acknowledge about his career achievements as well?

Should I call attention to the quantity and quality of his publications (e.g. "He published many papers on Nature journal, etc")? Should I mention the other awards and honours he got in his career?

What do the scientific award organizers want to read in my letter?

I want him to win!

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  • If you are not sure how the person meets the criteria, then you should not nominate them. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 6 '15 at 4:22
  • I am sure he meets the criteria, I just don't know how to report this in the letter in the best convincing way – larry Nov 6 '15 at 14:26
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I am guessing you are writing this because you want to nominate him and you have had interactions with no one else that is writing for him or nominating him.

Typically such letters for discipline-wide awards are written by senior members of the academic community, unless explicitly stated in the call for applications that very junior researchers are supposed to do the nominations. Very likely what will happen is someone will see that you are his student and consequently write off your application for your advisor as a conflict of interest. If you are nominating your advisor for an award based on their research level and you are a graduate student, chances are it is not going to hold the weight that other letters will have and they will pass over your nomination.

This being said, if your letter is in a bigger file of people writing in support of your advisor, then it will carry some weight. If you are applying with a group of people that are nominating your advisor, it has a shot. If you are doing this, I would focus on the other contributions aspect of the call.

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  • Thanks for replying, but I disagree. The award committee will judge him, not me. The award is about the nominees, not about the nominators. – larry Nov 6 '15 at 14:28
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    @larry: That could be a reasonable approach, but it is absolutely not what happens in practice. I've served on committees for awards of this sort in mathematics. I've never seen a nomination from a current student, and I believe it would have almost no chance of success (unless it was just a supporting letter accompanying a nomination by someone more senior). The nominator has to lay out a convincing case, supported by his/her perspective and experience. The committee will be extremely skeptical that a student has enough perspective and experience. – Anonymous Mathematician Nov 6 '15 at 16:58
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    It's not about judging the nominator, exactly, but rather judging the nominator's expertise and judgment, so the committee can decide to what extent they should defer to it. It's common for the nominator to have far more expertise in a specific area than anyone on the committee has, but what to make of this requires a judgment call on the part of the committee. – Anonymous Mathematician Nov 6 '15 at 17:00

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