Guidelines on Conflict of Interest for SIAM Prize Selection Committees

It is difficult to draft legal rules regarding conflict of interest for prize committees. Individuals nominated for prizes are often so well known among the community that selection committee members may consider themselves colleagues. Nevertheless, a selection committee should avoid favoritism or the appearance of favoritism. And so some general guidelines on avoiding conflicts of interest are appropriate.

Selection Committee chairs and individual members need to consider the spirit of these guidelines, and members should step down if they feel their participation might create an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Conflicts of interest (or the appearance of such conflicts) would most likely arise if:

  1. the body of work (paper, significant piece of research, or the like) considered in the prize nomination was done by someone while a student or postdoc of the committee member;
  2. the person nominated was a recent former student or postdoc of the committee member; or
  3. the research being judged is in any way a collaborative effort between the committee member and the nominee.
Judging a nomination of a close friend may also create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

It is less clear what to do in cases where the nominee is a colleague --- a co-worker in the same department, for example. In such cases, the member of the selection committee and the chair should consider the circumstances and how they will appear to community.

If the member of the prize selection committee feels there may be a conflict, he or she should consult with either the chair of the selection committee and/or the SIAM Vice President at Large. If after these discussions there does appear to be a conflict, the member should offer to step down from the selection committee. If the possible conflict arises with the chair of the committee, then the Vice President at Large should consult with the SIAM President and reach a consensus decision.

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