In order to increase the diversity of the pool of nominees, we particularly encourage nominations by first-time nominators. Below are some guidelines to help you write an effective nomination letter, even if you have never done this before. In the past, the most effective nomination letters are the ones that :
- Place a nominee’s work in context. What is the significance and impact of the nominee’s contributions? Bear in mind that committee members may not be familiar with the subfield of the nominee.
- Provide evidence of recognition by the community. There is no set formula for this, but some possibilities include citation statistics, mention of other prizes and awards, and descriptions of press coverage. The committee, however, recognizes that biases may be present in these metrics.
- Emphasize a nominee’s leadership in their research community or astronomy as a whole, or in the case of the Plaskett Medal, the nominee’s potential for leadership. How do their contributions extend beyond their publications? Are there examples of international leadership?
- (For post-PhD research awards,) describe how the nominee has been able to amplify their research impact via mentoring and collaboration. Has the nominee been able to impact the field in a multiplicative way by producing trainees who have made seminal contributions of their own? Naturally, it is easier to expound on this theme for senior researchers than early career researchers, and this is taken into account by the committee.
- Provide information about extenuating circumstances. Examples include medical or parental leaves or anything else that the nominator feels is important for the committee to be aware of. This year, an additional (short) letter along this theme may be submitted for any of the awards.
Nominators are welcome to submit their own free-form letter. However, they are also welcome to organize their letters using the above points. The committee evaluates nomination packages holistically; therefore, the above bullet points are simply suggestions, and should not be viewed as evaluation criteria that must be addressed. Indeed, it is possible to put together a successful nomination letter that is based on a small number of compelling arguments rather than broad coverage of all the above considerations.
The committee does not take the number of letter signatories into consideration, and indeed, there are many examples of successful nominations that were written by solo authors. However, joint letters can be effective if co-authors are able to highlight different aspects of a nominee’s achievements.