As you know, this year I had the privilege of chairing the ASN Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Awards committee. Every year the ASN gives not just one but four awards to outstanding young researchers doing integrative research in any area of ecology, evolution, behavior, or genetics. The award is in memory of Jasper Loftus-Hills, a promising young scientist who died tragically 3 years after receiving his Ph.D. The YIA has a proud history of going to investigators who go on to become leaders in their fields. This year, we’re pleased to add Rachel Germain, Aaron Comeault, Rachael Bay, and Gijsbert Werner to that illustrious list. Congratulations all!
Below the fold, some comments on the award and the process by which the committee (Luke Harmon, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Renee Duckworth, and myself) came to our decision.
We had 77 applicants, more than triple the number of recent years! I don’t know if this is the biggest applicant pool ever for this award, but it might be. As I’ve said, my goal this year as YIA committee chair was to increase the number of applicants, especially from areas underrepresented in recent applicant pools. We succeeded beyond all my expectations, which was fantastic. We maintained the rough gender balance of recent applicant pools (58% women this year), and greatly increased the number of ecologists in the pool.
As always, the applicant pool was outstanding–thank you to everyone who took the time to apply. I know I speak for everyone on the committee when I say it was both a real pleasure, and a little humbling, to learn about all the terrific research being doing by the up-and-coming researchers in this pool. As a committee, we had a lot of difficult decisions to make. In the end, we came to a consensus and these four applicants rose to the top.
The strength and diversity of the winners reflect the strength and diversity of the applicant pool, both in terms of their research areas and demographics. I note that this year the award went to a gender-balanced mix of awardees (two men, two women), though that’s not something the committee set out to achieve. The committee takes diversity and equity seriously. That’s why we try to encourage a large and diverse applicant pool and then put a lot of effort into evaluating each application thoroughly. Gender balance of the awardees bounces around from year to year due to the vagaries of the applicant pool (e.g., it went to four women last year). In aggregate over the past several years, the award has gone to a roughly gender-balanced mix of awardees, having gone mostly to men before that.
If you applied this year and didn’t receive an award, I encourage you to apply again for as long as you remain eligible. I served on the YIA committee for three years, and every year applicants who’d applied previously have been among those who’ve received awards.
In conclusion, it was an honor to serve on the YIA committee. I learned lots of great science, and it was a pleasure to work with my fellow committee members.