Topic

Award Nomination Tips & Resources

Who is this for?

This collection of tips and resources offers information and important links for faculty interested in developing a strong award nomination for themselves or colleagues.

What do I need before I can begin?

Academic divisions may set their own internal processes and provide strategic guidance for award nominations. To discuss a possible nomination, please contact your divisional honours and awards coordinator.

Overview

Honours and awards serve to recognize and reward outstanding and impactful research through monetary prizes, certificates, ceremonies and/or public announcements. They are part of a continuum of research funding that includes grants, fellowships, and salary awards. However, the conventions that dictate the content, style, and submission process of honours and awards documents differ from grant applications. The tips and resources below specifically support the development of a strong honour or award nomination.

Tips & Resources

  1. What are some of the benefits of pursuing research honours & awards?
    • They contribute to career development by providing peer recognition that can lead to further opportunities.
    • They are part of a long-term, stepping-stone trajectory that will ultimately position you to compete for suitable opportunities as your career advances.
    • Many awards provide funds that can be put toward your research.
    • They provide recognition of your achievements to the wider public.
    • In many cases, you will be able to develop honour and award nominations by repurposing existing biosketches, impact statements, and research overviews that you have on hand from previous grant applications.
  2. How do I begin the process of searching for honours & awards opportunities that are a good fit for a colleague or me?
  3. Can I nominate myself for an award?
    • While self-nominations are usually not allowed, it is critical that faculty self-advocate and work with awards coordinators and supportive colleagues to help them identify a nominator and those who can write letters of support that champion their scholarship.
    • Faculty often work with awards staff to develop a strong nomination package. It is not uncommon for faculty to indicate they are interested in pursuing fellowships, honours and awards, just as they would for research funding.
  4. Are there opportunities for early career researchers?
    • Yes. Consider departmental, faculty, or technical society awards; provincial fellowships; and medals from the Royal Society of Canada.
    • Consult with your colleagues, divisional awards coordinator, chair/dean, to learn about awards specific to your discipline or specialty. Discipline-specific associations often offer early-career investigator or emerging scholar awards (although to be eligible, membership in these societies/associations is often required).
  5. How do I write a nomination letter for a colleague’s nomination that is enthusiastic, persuasive, and convinces reviewers to act as advocates for the nominee?
    • Before writing a nomination letter, ask the nominee or the coordinator facilitating the award to send you the nominee’s CV and supplementary material with concrete examples of their research excellence and their impact.
    • A strong, persuasive nomination letter provides the following:
      • Concrete, tangible examples to support the nominee’s candidacy
      • Research metrics appropriate to their discipline (number of citations, h-index, etc.)
      • Key recognitions or major milestones and publications
      • Evidence that the nominee is at the top of their field or, for early-career researchers, is developing programs of research that will put them at the leading-edge of research in their discipline
      • A clear structure that organizes complex content into subheadings
      • Definitions of complex concepts
      • Sufficient context of the nominee’s achievements so reviewers can understand the significance of important findings or impacts that may not be self-evident to those outside the field of study.
  6. What should I consider when I solicit letters of support?
    • Develop a list of colleagues external to the University of Toronto (U of T) who are able to substantively comment on your scholarship, have watched you develop as a researcher, and would be willing to write a compelling letter of support on your behalf.
    • Ensure letter writers are aware of your deadlines and are able to meet them.
    • Seek out senior scholars whose letters will have the most impact on the award committee.
    • It is critical that you provide your letter writers with supplemental material to aid them in their writing. Consider providing a skeleton letter they can build upon to deliver an enthusiastic, robust letter of support that is at least two pages in length and conforms to the nomination requirements. (Some sponsors may wish the letters of support to cover specific topics or have a particular structure and will indicate this on their website.)
  7. What does a strong letter of support include?
    • One paragraph introducing the nomination and the candidate.
    • A brief description of the relationship between nominator/nominee (if required).
    • A summary of the reasons for nomination, utilizing key words from the selection criteria.
    • Relevant qualities and achievements of the nominee (see tip #8 regarding unconscious bias below).
    • Headings that divide discussion topics, e.g., significant findings discussed in publications, conference contributions, public impact of research, and future research directions.
    • Toward the end of the letter, highlights of previous awards and recognitions received.
    • Concludes by reiterating how the nominee is the ideal candidate for the award.
  8. How can I avoid unconscious bias when I write letters of support?
    • Research has consistently shown subtle and often-unconscious differences in letters of support that can disadvantage underrepresented groups in academia. Avoid the following descriptions of the nominee that might inadvertently introduce bias or ‘doubt-raisers’ into your letter.
      • 'Grindstone adjectives' that tend to appear more often in letters written for women and racialized nominees that emphasize effort or personality traits rather than ability
      • Gendered words that can subtly signal who belongs and who doesn’t within an award competition.
    • It is helpful to review examples of unconscious bias in letter writing because, as the name suggests, letter writers can unintentionally cast doubt on candidates whom they are championing.
    • If an award opportunity requires you to explain how equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) were considered in the development of a nomination, the Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation offers a collection of EDI Resources that provides additional best practices and links to resources that are discipline-specific.

Forms & Downloads

VPRI Role

  • Curate the University’s database of national and international honours and awards opportunities
  • Respond to faculty inquiries regarding honours & awards nominations
  • Manage award nominations that require University endorsement
  • Work closely with divisional honours and awards coordinators

VPRI Contact

Staff

Daniel Harney

Manager, University Awards & Honours
Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (OVPRI)
(416) 978-7905

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