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 recuse themselves or step down from the committee 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:
Judging a nomination of a close friend may also create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Of course, no committee can seriously consider awarding a prize to one of its own members.
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 the 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 AMS Secretary. If after these discussions there does appear to be a conflict, the member should offer to recuse himself or herself, or to step down from the selection committee.If the possible conflict arises with the chair of the committee, then the AMS Secretary should consult with the AMS President and reach a consensus decision.
The AMS thanks the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for giving the AMS permission to adapt its policy.
Direct questions about these Guidelines to the AMS Secretary.