Abraham Pais Prize for History of Physics

Selection Committee Criteria and Protocols

Selection Criteria

  • The Prize recognizes outstanding scholarly achievements in the history of physics as reflected primarily in the publication of one or more scholarly books or a series of scholarly articles on any topic or chronological period in the history of physics. These can include significant editions of works of physicists that display outstanding editorial scholarship; other edited books or collections of previously published articles will be considered but given less weight.
  • Further outstanding professional achievements such as teaching, lecturing, editing of journals, organization of conferences, and productions on the Web or in other electronic media may be considered if they have contributed significantly to fostering excellence in the history of physics.
  • Current members of the Forum on the History of Physics Executive Committee and the Prize Selection Committee are not eligible for nomination.
  • The Prize usually is given to a single person but to no more than three individuals.
  • The Prize is granted without restriction. It is open to scholars of all nationalities; membership in a scholarly or professional society is not required.
  • These Selection Criteria are subject to amendment in the future.

Selection Committee Protocols

  • In the event that an Executive Committee member is nominated for the Prize, the Chair of the Selection Committee must first inform that person that he or she has been nominated, giving him or her the opportunity to resign that position. If he or she declines to resign, then the Chair of the Selection Committee must inform the nominator that the nominee is currently ineligible for nomination but can be renominated after his or her term ends as an Executive Committee member.
  • In the event that an Executive Committee member nominates or seconds someone for the Prize and the Selection Committee recommends that person for the Prize, that Executive Committee member must recuse himself or herself from voting on the nominee, and approval shall constitute a favorable vote of two-thirds of the remaining Executive Committee members.
  • The APS Conflict of Interest Guidelines for members of the Selection Committee apply also to members of the Executive Committee.

APS Conflict of Interest Guidelines

The process whereby recipients of APS prizes and awards are selected must both be fair, and also manifestly appear to be fair. Otherwise the value of the prize or award is diminished. It is unacceptable to present a recipient with a prize or award that has been tarnished by questionable selection procedures.

Selection committees must therefore be aware of, and respond to, issues of potential conflicts of interest. These may occur whenever there is a special relationship between a member of the committee and one of those under serious consideration for the prize or award. Such special relationships might include, among others, being at the same institution, being part of the same research group, being in a student-advisor relationship, having collaborated in the recent past on a research project, and the like.

If a member of the committee has such a conflict, he or she must reveal it to the other members, and the committee as a whole must discuss the best way to deal with it. Depending on the situation, actions to be taken might include resignation of one or more members of the committee, withdrawal of a member from parts of the committee?s deliberations and voting, deferral of a particular nomination to the next cycle, or simply complete disclosure of the nature of the conflict, so that other members can take it into account. Each committee is urged to schedule its initial meeting as early as practicable, to allow for the possibility that a serious conflict of interest might call for a change in the committee's composition.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A potential conflict of interest involving the Chair of the selection committee is ipso facto a serious matter, and at the least another committee member should take over as Chair. Depending on the circumstances, further action may be required as well.

When the conflict of interest involves someone who is recommended by that committee for an APS Prize or Award, the committee must include in its report not only the name and citation of the proposed recipient(s), and any other routine matters for the Executive Board to consider, but also a detailed account of the nature of the conflict and how the committee chose to deal with it. In particular, the committee must show that the conflict influenced neither the vote of the committee nor the deliberations leading up to the vote. In deciding whether to approve the recommendation, the Executive Board will consider whether the committee demonstrated sufficient awareness of the conflict, and acted in a manner to ensure not only that the selection process was fair but that it would be perceived as fair by reasonable members of the physics community. If the Board is not satisfied, it can ask the committee for clarification, or it can reject the recommendation and send the matter back to the committee for further action.