Good to know when applying for a Prize/Award

Importance of scientific awards

Scientific awards/prizes are of major importance for you as a scientist to move forward in your research career. They not only proclaim the importance of your work beyond your group of peers, they moreover help you garner a significant amount of visibility and impact, boost your confidence and support you in expanding your professional network, in particular in early-stages of your career. Furthermore, they significantly improve your basis for future applications for additional (third party) funding. Finally, yet importantly, competing for awards creates opportunities to receive valuable feedback about your work and how you are perceived within your scientific community and by those who support and evaluate your application.

Improve career opportunities

Awards are not the only performance indicators; you need also to connect yourself in your respective scientific community, to contribute at conferences with a poster or a talk and to apply for third-party funding. If you are successful in one of these fields your chances increase to be successful also in the other fields.

Considerations and steps for identifying prizes/awards suitable for you

1. Start your award/prize efforts by applying for small (novice) prizes, e.g. best poster/best presentation awards at conferences, or awards for outstanding dissertations. At later stages of your career, you may apply for awards given for outstanding work during the last 3-5 years, e.g. young investigator awards.

  • Look for award/prize announcements on homepages of scientific societies, associations, foundations and journals in your field of research
  • Analyze publicly available CVs of experienced/well known scientists in your research field and check which prizes they were awarded when they were at your career stage
  • Career breaks due to e.g. parental leave are recognized by some prize/award committees as reasons to prolong certain time frames (e.g. time since dissertation) and should be brought to attention in your application if possible
  • Get in touch with your mentor and local colleagues
  • Talk to experienced colleagues at workshops, conferences etc.

2. When you’ve found a prize/award you are interested in:

  • Were the previous prizewinners in the same career stage as you?
  • Consider your competitiveness compared to previous prizewinners (e.g. visibility, N° of publications, quality of the journals you published in (journal impact factor), participation at conferences, social engagement, etc.)
  • When in doubt, discuss whether the prize is suited for you with your mentor and ask for support

Recommendations for the application process

  • Keep the deadline for the application in view
  • Read the criteria for application carefully (do you meet all requirements? – when in doubt clarify with your mentor or an experienced colleague)
  • Ensure that you can provide all documents necessary; in case you are not sure what exactly to provide, do not hesitate to contact the person named on the respective prize announcement (e.g. homepage)
  • Keep your CV and a list of your publications always up to date
  • If a referee(s) for a support letter(s) is/are required, deliberate with your mentor and/or a trustworthy colleague whom to ask and who shall ask the respective person(s) whether he/she/they are willing to support your application. Seek for strong supporters (e.g. member(s) of the awarding entity, renowned scientists)

Preparation of application documents

Ask your mentor and/or at least one trustworthy experienced colleague to proof read your application and to give advice.

1. Scientific texts (e.g. abstract, description of achievements)

  • Strictly follow the rules given for the application
  • KISS: Keep your Information Simple and Straight forward: describe your research achievement in a way that also non-experts can understand it. Laudationes of former prizewinners often show the level of detail at which you should explain your own work (often to be found on the prize webpages)

2. CV and Publication list

  • Format your CV and publication list according to rules given for the application
  • If the length of the CV is limited, ensure that you include information important/supportive to be awarded (publication record, first mentorship experiences, previous prizes/awards, third party funding, membership in certain associations, talks at conferences, social engagement, etc.)

3. Cover letter

  • Strictly follow the rules given for the application
  • Keep the letter as short as possible. Take care to mention motivation and description of your work related to the intention of the prize. What is key to be awarded with this prize? Look for buzz words and laudationes of former prizewinners (often to be found on the prize webpages)
  • Be proud of your achievements; do not hide your light under a bushel.

4. Support letter(s)

  • Offer your supporters (those who have agreed…) information for their support letter(s). If they signal that they would like to be supported, provide them building blocks in form of a sketch of a support letter. In case, more than one letter is needed write significantly differing versions for all referees.
  • The letter should encompass:
    • A short introduction how the referee has got to know you
    • An appraisal of your achievement(s) with regard to the requirements for the prize (e.g. scientific aspects, mentorship aspects, translational aspects, societal aspects)
    • Additional information related to your competitiveness (e.g. further scientific achievements, engagement in the science community, statements on your qualities made by third parties)
    • Optional Remarks on your CV regarding your competitiveness (e.g. remarkable career steps, special features, memberships, etc.)