Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rewarding Awards

The issue of Awards (prestigious grants, honors etc.) just won't go away. I recently finished my term on one awards committee, but have recently been asked to be on a different one. I said yes because this one involves early career faculty. This type of award can have a major impact on someone's career, and it's important to have a diverse committee.

This phenomenon of getting asked to do something after just finishing a similar activity also seems to occur with reviews. I will just finish one review and send it off, and within minutes or hours, the next request will come in from a different journal. It's as if editors sense a reviewing void and rush to fill it.

But back to awards: I had some early career awards that helped me a lot, and I think it is important for more senior faculty to encourage younger colleagues to apply for those that can be applied for, and nominate younger colleagues for other types of awards. As you get older, awards aren't so critical, but they are still a gauge of how you're perceived in your field, and to some extent a monitor of your visibility.

Of course, the whole awards thing can also be disheartening. For example, as an associate professor, I was nominated for an award that involved a nice bit of unrestricted research funding for a couple of years, but my chair unfortunately asked the 'wrong' person for a letter. I got to see the letter, and found that although the writer thought highly of me and my work, he felt that I had published "too much", and was working "too hard", and that this was "not healthy". He encouraged me to slow down. He thought that I was a "victim" of the modern pressure to publish too much and write endless grant proposals, and that he would be encouraging this if he supported my nomination . So, I didn't get the award and it went to a male colleague who had published a lot and written endless grant proposals.

Other experiences with awards have been more satisfying. A few years ago, I realized that neither my husband nor I had been nominated for fellowship in a particular professional society in which one of our spectacularly unproductive senior colleagues was a fellow. One could reasonably ask why we would want to belong to a *club* that had members like that, and there is no good answer. In any case, there was no reason we weren't fellows of this society, other than it had not occurred to anyone to nominate us. Our colleague clearly wasn't going to rouse himself from his torpor to nominate us, so I pointed out my husband's fellowlessness to another colleague (who had just assumed we were both already fellows) and this colleague got the process started. Being a Fellow (can't someone think of a better name for this?) has no effect whatsoever on one's life, but to me it felt like correcting a slight imbalance in the academic universe.


dehumidifier said...

I enjoy your blog. Congrat, and thanks.Lizyscience

Ms.PhD said...

That story about your being too productive being 'unhealthy' sounds too familiar. A male committee member told me in grad school that I was 'too goal-oriented.' Lord only knows if that's not still something my 'recommenders' write about me.


And Fellow is still better than 'Member.' At least it doesn't sound like a specific bodypart.