Selection Committee

A selection committee is a group of individuals who are responsible for selecting the winner or winners of an award. Typically, the members of a selection committee are chemical professionals who have been appointed by a delegated authority to determine the recipient of an award. In general, a selection committee is intended to provide objective judgment on the basis of stated criteria. However, studies have shown that unconscious, unintentional assumptions may influence judgment — this is known as implicit bias. To minimize the impact of implicit bias, the following guidelines are recommended for use by selection committees.

1. Diversity in committee members and chairs.

Having diversity in a selection committee helps to mitigate implicit bias by providing access to a broader set of networks from which nominations and suggestions can be made. Selection committees should strive for diversity in technical areas, gender, work sector, and (where possible) ethnic background.

2. Establishing a committee charter that sets clear terms of reference for the selection process.

Creating a committee charter that clarifies the purpose of a selection committee and how it will make its decisions is an important step in minimizing implicit bias. In addition to clarifying the terms of reference, committee charters should include an expectation that all members will be familiar with and agree upon a common set of evaluation criteria. This will help to ensure that all members are evaluating candidates against a consistent standard, and that no one member is making an unfair advantage or disadvantage for a candidate.

3. Preparing for Selection Committee Interviews

Selection committee interviews can be more intimidating than a typical interview, especially if there are several members on the panel. This can lead to a feeling of unease that can distract from the potential strengths or weaknesses of a candidate and hinder the decision-making process. To counteract this, applicants should prepare by thinking through their responses to the selection committee’s questions and practicing their delivery. They should also consider the seating arrangement for the interview, and try to avoid a “hotseat” style of arrangement that might make the candidates feel uncomfortable.

4. Providing an opportunity to report conflicts of interest.

The existence of a conflict of interest should be reported by the chair of a selection committee to the delegated authority (Major Awards or Activity Group Prizes). If the chair feels that the conflict is severe, the chair can recommend to the delegated authority that the committee member should be replaced. In cases where the conflict is not severe, it will be left to the delegated authority to determine whether the committee member should be asked to abstain from discussion of the nominee.

SIAM is committed to fairness in the selection of its award recipients. In instances where it is unclear whether a conflict of interest exists, committee members should consult the spirit and purpose of these guidelines, along with the specific requirements of each award. In all cases, the chair and individual committee members should exercise their best judgment and report any situation that appears to be a conflict of interest to the delegated authority.