By Dr. Hope Gerde
National awards are an important component of a strong research portfolio. Receiving a national award provides prestigious recognition for your program of research and contributes to evaluation metrics such as the Web of Science, which may be valuable for reappointment, tenure, and promotion at your university. University-level awards contribute meaningfully to your CV as well; winning a university-level award may strengthen your nomination for a national award. Of course, no one is just going to give you an award, so take action to award yourself.
Some researchers may think, “If I do great work, someone will notice and award that work.” While a few researchers may be spontaneously bestowed an award, the best course of action is to take ownership over award nominations. Much like the intentionality and ingenuity you invest into your award-deserving program of research, what is likely to result in an award is taking the initiative to self-nominate, that is, 1) identify awards for which you are eligible and align with your research, and 2) actively identify and invite nomination/support letter writers.
Do not undervalue the self-nomination! No one knows your research better than you do, so why would you not make an excellent nominator of your work? You know why your work is valuable. You know who your work impacts. This is your career, so self-nominate away!
Now that you have decided to apply for an award, you must identify awards for which you and your work are eligible. Universities, professional organizations (e.g., SRCD, AERA), community agencies and foundations often provide a range of awards for researchers and educators. Their websites will provide detailed application Awards applications can be intensive with multiple components to complete, so it is important to ensure you meet the eligibility. The term “early career” varies widely and may include doctoral students, junior faculty, or those who have had a PhD for certain number of years. At times, it can include individuals who have worked at a particular institution for fewer than a given number of years no matter their rank. Check eligibility criteria carefully. Find awards that fits your content, methodology, approaches to working with communities or participants, etc. Your research is impressive; do not change it to align with an award! In the nomination letter, nominees must clarify how the work is in excellent alignment with the award. Just as you would in a grant proposal, don’t make them guess.
Now that you have selected the award for which you will apply, you will need a nomination letter.
Criteria for nominators may exist. For example, nominations may need to be from a board member of a particular professional organization or a previous winner of the award. Again, it is important to confirm this eligibility. Senior, recognized, researchers in your field, or researchers with a history of serving a specific professional organization or publishing in the awarding journal are excellent choices, particularly if they know your work well. Select letter writers who know you and your work. Provide letter writers with your CV and a brief synopsis of the specific parts of your work you would like them to include in their letter. Be sure to thank them to recognize the time they invested in your letter. A handwritten thank you card is often unexpected but a nice touch!
Use the resources available at your university or institution to support your award nomination packages. As awards become a more visible metric of superior scholarship, some departments or universities have invested resources in establishing awards committees or offices. Connecting with these folks can provide access to awards, eligibility criteria, letter writers, strategies for inviting letter writers, and more.
Persistence is the key to nearly all success in the academic career, including awards, so keep revising and resubmitting until you win or are no longer eligible. Apply to as many awards as possible but balance the time commitment; awards packages can be intensive and extensive to prepare. Invite a colleague to review your awards package prior to submission to enhance the quality.
We wish everyone well as they apply for awards and nominate their peers or mentees.