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Cooper Award: Conflict of Interest Disclosure

Conflict of Interest Disclosure:
I, John (Jack) Williams, am here writing to publicly disclose a potential conflict of interest (COI) during the judging of the 2010 Cooper Award and the steps I took to minimize this COI. The COI: I am the PhD advisor of Jacquelyn Gill and a co-author of Gill et al. (2009), and am also currently the chair of ESA's Cooper Awards Sub-Committee.

The procedure for nominating, judging, and selecting Cooper Awardees is as follows: 1) nominations are made by the ESA membership and Cooper Award Committee members, 2) committee members independently read and rank all nomimated papers, 3) the Chair collates rankings and based on these rankings polls the committee for an award recommendation, 4) the Chair passes the award recommendation to the ESA Awards Commmittee, and 5) the ESA Governing Board votes whether to approve recommended papers.

I played no part in the nomination of Gill et al. (2009) for the Cooper Award -- the nominator (Paul Fine, UC-Berkeley) has not met me and was unaware that I am a co-author when he nominated it.

During the judging by the Cooper Awards Sub-Committee, I took the following steps to minimize my COI:
1) I disclosed my co-authorship to the sub-committee, to the ESA Awards Committee, and to the ESA Governing Board,
2) I recused myself from ranking Gill et al. (2009),
3) I used an online survey tool to (Survey Monkey) to allow anonymous rankings by committee members, and
4) I made the judging process transparent to all committee members and to Deborah Goldberg (Chair of ESA Awards Committee) by providing all with a copy of the (anonymous) Survey Monkey rankings from individual committee members, the aggregate Survey Monkey rankings, and my analysis of the rankings. All committee members thus had an opportunity to review my analysis and confirm its accuracy.

Eight papers were nominated. The committee's preference for Gill et al. (2009) was evidenced as follows: the paper received all 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place votes, and scored at the top of the committee rankings using two different metrics: the highest average ranking and the most number of 1st- and 2nd-place votes. After circulating the ranking results, I polled the committee by email, and all supported the awarding of the 2010 Cooper Award to Gill et al. (2009).

All of the above information was provided to the ESA Awards Committee and ESA Governing Board, and taken into consideration when the ESA Governing Board formally chose awardees for the 2010 annual meeting.


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