Award

Let’s make ASBMB awardees look more like BMB scientists

Shane Austin Lea Vacca Michel
By Shane Austin and Lea Vacca Michel
April 23, 2024

It’s nomination season at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Nominations are being accepted until April 30 for the society’s 2025 annual awards recognizing members for their contributions to their fields, education and diversity.

And that got us thinking about awards.

As scientists, many of us don’t get a lot of recognition. We’re more accustomed to failure and rejection, from incorrect hypotheses to unsuccessful experiments to journal article rejections. We often embrace failure, knowing it’s part of the scientific and learning process.

But we always hope that one day our hard work will lead to success. And awards are an important way to acknowledge groundbreaking contributions to science. Awards recognize the scientists who have dedicated themselves to making discoveries and innovating ways to improve our lives. Awards shine a light on scientific breakthroughs and help inspire the next generation of science trainees.

There’s a downside, however. Individuals with minoritized identities were, for many years, left out of the running for awards and recognition. Women and members of historically underrepresented groups remain overlooked in some areas. And we are all accountable.

If you’ve ever nominated someone for an award, you probably thought first about your colleagues and collaborators, your mentors and mentees. All of us gravitate toward the people in our networks. While this is a wonderful way to recognize deserving people, it often leaves others out, especially when our networks are homogeneous or nondiverse.

Research has shown external recognition contributes to a person’s ability to earn tenure and promotion, and achieve other notable milestones, including receiving more awards. Therefore, we must use inclusive and equitable practices when nominating and evaluating individuals for awards.

The last thing we want to do is add something else to your plate. But, in the broad scheme of things, nominating a colleague could have a significantly positive impact on their career trajectory, so isn’t it worth it? The answer is yes. Consider nominating a scientist you know for an ASBMB award. And think about going outside your usual network to identify someone worthy of recognition.

You don’t need to do this alone. Ask a colleague to help you formulate a nomination letter and prepare documents. This will make it easier to get that nomination in by the April 30 deadline —and likely improve its quality.

Let’s celebrate the amazing advances in biochemistry and molecular biology and the diverse scientists who work in this field by nominating our deserving colleagues for ASBMB awards.

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Shane Austin
Shane Austin

Shane Austin is a lecturer in biochemistry at the University of the West Indies and a member of the ASBMB Maximizing Access Committee.
 

Lea Vacca Michel

Lea Michel is a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and chair of the ASBMB Maximizing Access Committee. She received the 2021 ASBMB Early-Career Leadership Award.

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