THE AWARDS PROCESS
NOVEMBER 15 - Before this date, NSS members send award suggestions and support material to the individual award subcommittee chairman. In addition to these nominating letters, the subcommittee chairman also solicits suggestions from his or her own subcommittee. The sub-chairman then sends his or her final list of suggestions to the Awards Committee Chairman. The sub-chairman also sends the list to the NSS office to verify eligibility and to verify no breaks in membership. Remember, all award nominations and supporting materials must be received by the appropriate subcommittee chair by November 15th.
DECEMBER 15 - The Awards Committee Chairman sends a list of the award nominees to all members of the Awards Committee and the Board of Governors for comment and additional background they may have on the nominee.
JANUARY 15 - A packet containing copies of comments and letters about each nominee is circulated to members of the Awards Committee together with a ballot. The Awards Committee does not make a recommendation for the Outstanding Service and Honorary Member Awards. These two awards are selected by the Board of Governors.
FEBRUARY 15 - The Awards Committee Chairman sends a final list of nominees, with the recommended recipient, to the members of the Board of Governors for their information and in preparation for the spring Board of Governors meeting.
SPRING BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING (Usually in March) - The Board of Governors chooses and/or ratifies the awards.
AFTER THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING - The Awards Committee Chairman notifies the members of the Awards Committee who has been chosen to receive an award and instructs the appropriate sub-chairman to notify the recipient of his or her selection. Award recipients are asked to keep his or her selection secret until the convention banquet.
AWARDS COMMITTEE CONFIDENTIALITY - All nominations are kept confidential and candidates are not notified of their nomination. Also, nominators are not told if their nominee was selected or not. Only members of the Board of Governors and Awards Committee know the results of balloting.
HOW ARE THE WINNERS SELECTED?
How the NSS award recipients are selected depends on the award. Below is an explanation of the process:
THE WILLIAM J. STEPHENSON AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING SERVICE AND HONORARY MEMBER AWARD - The Awards Committee does not cast a ballot for these awards. All the committee does is solicit candidates and then forwards the list of candidates, along with the nomination letters and supporting material, to the Board of Governors. The Board selects the recipients in closed session at the spring meeting.
INTERMEDIATE-LEVEL AWARDS - The Bicking Award, Science Award, Victor A. Schmidt Conservation Award, Spelean Arts and Letters Award, and Certificates of Merit are voted on by the members of the Awards Committee. The sub-chairman sends copies of the nominating letters and supporting material to the committee members, along with a ballot. The candidates are ranked from top to bottom, depending on how many nominees there are. For example, if there are five nominations, the committee member will give the nominee they think is best a "1" and the next best a "2" and so forth until the person they think it least qualified of the five a "5." The sub-chairman then takes all the ballots, totals them up and gets the average score. The nominee with the lowest average score will be the recommended recipient. The Awards Committee Chairman will then send the results of the balloting along with the recommended winners to the Board of Governors to be ratified. The Board of Governors is not bound by the recommendation of the committee and can select another person from list, or even select a member who was not even nominated. However, this is rare and seldom done.
FELLOW OF THE SOCIETY - Selecting Fellows is a little more complex than the other awards and has a completely different selection process. The sub-chairman sends copies of the nominating letters and supporting material, along with a ballot, to all members of the Awards Committee. The committee ranks each candidate on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 10 being the highest score. The committee members are also instructed to try to keep the rankings evenly distributed as much as possible. For example, if there are 30 nominations, the committee members should give out an equal number of scores--three "10's", three "9's", three "8's", etc. Once the ballots are in, the sub-chairman will average the scores and rank them from top to bottom. The sub-chairman looks for the largest break in the average scores and makes this break the suggested cutoff. As the scores typically create a bell curve, the cutoff is usually near the half-way point. The Awards Committee Chairman then sends the list, along with the recommended cutoff to the Board of Governors. The board can choose to move the cutoff up or down, but should not add someone to the list that was not nominated. The top 10 percent of candidates not selected (those just below the cutoff) are automatically carried over for consideration the next year.
OTHER AWARDS - The James G. Mitchell Award, Peter M. Hauer Spelean History Award, and NCA Best Paper on a Show Cave Award are selected at the annual NSS convention and are selected from papers and presentations given there. The sub-chairman will sit in on these presentations and make their selection from those presented. The sub-chairman sends the name(s) of the winner(s) to the Awards Committee Chairman and the winners are announced at the convention awards banquet.