Broadening the award portfolio

The ASCB Awards Task Force has completed its assessment of the ASCB award portfolio (see previous blog) and provided the results of this assessment and recommendations to the ASCB Council. For those who want the short story, it is this: After several modifications, Council accepted the recommendations, some of which were geared toward achieving greater equity in the awards process, some of which were geared toward achieving more diversity in ASCB membership eligible for awards, and some of which were geared toward achieving greater clarity, equity, and uniformity in the award descriptions and award selection process.

For those who want all of the details, the Task Force Report and Recommendations can be found here. For those who want some of the details, here they are: The Task Force found that the tendency to present different awards on different days of the ASCB annual meeting results in inequities arising from the fact that some award presentations attract larger crowds than others, with presentations for the oldest awards—the E.B. Wilson Medal and the Keith Porter Lecture—typically garnering much larger audiences than any other award presentation. To achieve equity in the awards acknowledgment, henceforth, all awards will be presented in the same session at ASCB.

The Task Force found that the ASCB awards portfolio is biased toward late-stage career investigators and toward research-based awards. Accordingly, new awards that are open to early and mid-career stages and/or acknowledge contributions to other core missions of ASCB—education, mentoring, and promotion of a diverse scientific workforce—are being developed. Keep your eyes and ears open for the announcement of these awards this year and next!

The Task Force also found that the ASCB Fellows Program is biased toward research achievement. To broaden the pool of applicants eligible for the Fellows Program, the award description now makes it clear that members who have contributed to other core ASCB missions (see above) are also eligible for the Fellows Program.

The Task Force found that there is considerable variability in how award winners are selected and that there is no consistent instruction on best practices. Accordingly, a new Awards Coordination Committee, with representation from all stakeholders, will be formed. This committee will have the task of developing rubrics and other materials for all of the various committees responsible for giving out awards to ensure that award decisions are made in a consistent and equitable manner.

Our hope is that these and other changes will ensure that the ASCB awards and award winners represent the breadth of the ASCB membership. However, there is one ingredient essential for success that has to come from the membership itself: as many nominees for each award as possible. So ask yourself, “Do the contributions of my colleague make them an appropriate nominee for any of these awards?” If the answer is yes, nominate that person! Also, ask yourself, “Do my contributions make me an appropriate nominee for any of these awards?” If the answer is yes, nominate yourself!




About the Author:

Bill Bement ( is a long-time ASCB member who, with the members of his lab, studies cortical pattern formation in cell division and cell repair. He is the Hans Ris Professor of Cell Biology and Integrative Biology and the director of the Center for Quantitative Cell Imaging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.