Awards Best Practices


Communicating the qualifications of a candidate to the award committee is the key to a good award nomination. To that end, SPE has gathered information from award committees, chairpersons, nominators, directors, and staff to assemble a list of best practices to assist members, sections, and regions in preparing high-quality international and regional award nominations. This guide will evolve along with the successful strategies provided by nominators and award committee members, the technologies available, and innovations developed by SPE staff and members at the local, regional, and international level. As a global organization, SPE recognizes the diverse cultures represented in the membership, and strives to present equal opportunity for all members to participate successfully in the SPE International Awards Program.

1) Message from the SPE International Award Committee Chairs

SPE gives no special consideration to geographic diversity of recipients. Committees judge candidates on merit alone. Any skewness is considered an effect of the nomination volumes and quality from the different regions. Nominators should drive the content of the nomination using evidence of the achievements of the candidate.

The nomination requires more than “He or she is a fine engineer, always one step ahead of the game.” Concrete evidence will enable the nomination committee to assess the candidate on his or her merits, and reward accordingly. Hence, extra attention is required to provide best practices guidelines to all members on how to prepare a high quality nomination.

2) Section Best Practices

  • The section plays a vital role in both regional and international awards nominations. Each section must communicate the importance of the SPE awards program to the members through its meetings, technical events, and newsletter. Ideally, the section motivates members to submit candidates and assists its members in producing effective nominations.
  • Any member may nominate a colleague. Section participation in the process is encouraged and sections can assist members in preparing nominations.
  • Self-nominations are not accepted.
  • Sections are encouraged to create nominating committees to identify candidates, research award criteria and candidate accomplishments, line up letters of support, and compose and submit the nomination.
  • Sections may also appoint another dedicated board member to help develop strong nominations from the section for all international and regional awards. 
  • The Past Chair can act as the Awards Chair. They have a lot of experience with and knowledge of the section membership. The entire board may nominate candidates and the Awards Chair develops the nominations. Sections should remind members that their colleagues might be the SPE leaders who excel technically or professionally, even though they work with them every day and probably do not think a lot about their achievements. If they do not nominate their colleagues, none will.
  • Sections can appoint one point of contact. For example, have all the nominations collected and submitted by the section chair or past chair.
  • Publish articles in the company newspaper, section newsletter, and section’s website to encourage others to submit applications in the future.
  • Share recipient names at a sections dinner meeting to reflect the importance of those awards and to recognize the winners.
  • Update the section’s database every year with the recipient names and keep the record to motive others to participate in the future.
  • Keep a record of previous year’s nominations who were not selected and update them every year to maintain a candidate pool representing the section?

3) Regional Best Practices

  • Regional and technical directors are in a prime position to encourage the nomination of well-qualified international and regional award candidates. They should endeavor to select and submit regional recipients with robust and complete nomination packets for the international awards.
  • Regional directors and technical directors should be assertive in encouraging their sections or technical interest groups to submit quality nominations.
  • They can appoint regional or advisory committee workgroups to identify candidates and put together effective nominations.
  • They can encourage the review and editing of nominations for accuracy, completeness, and the effective communication of candidate qualifications.
  • Before sending the regional recipients to international competition, Regional Directors can review the nominations to ensure it meets the same level of quality as a direct international nomination. If it does not, direct the nominator to rework the nomination to meet those standards before submitting it.
  • Regional Directors may choose not to move a regional recipient into international consideration if they feel the candidate nomination does not rise to the level of international recognition.

4) How to write a good nomination

  • Start the nomination early. Composing a good nomination takes time and effort. Begin your research before the call for nominations begins in September so you are not rushed at the last minute.
  • The deadline for international nominations is always 15 February. Regional deadline is 1 March.
  • Before nominating a candidate for a particular award, research the award criteria to ensure that your candidate is a good match. The award criteria are available online and in the Section Officers Resource Center.
  • You cannot submit a nomination for yourself.
  • Ask these questions and determine if the candidate meets each one:
    • Is there an age requirement?
    • Is there a membership requirement?
    • Is there a service requirement?
    • Is the scope of the candidate’s work regional or international?
    • Do the candidate’s accomplishments meet the award criteria?
  • Outline your potential candidate’s qualifications, comparing them side by side to the award criteria. Once you outline the nomination, you will find it easier to compose your argument.
  • Compose a summarizing statement outlining why your candidate should receive the award. This is required for both regional and international awards.
    • This statement must focus on award criteria and candidate qualifications as outlined in the previous step. This single sentence should summarize your candidate’s qualifications and how they apply to the award criteria in a logical and concise statement. This is like a citation.
  • Compose several paragraphs providing significant information regarding the professional and industrial achievements noted in the summary statement. This is required for both regional and international awards
    • This justification must contain sufficient detail tenable the committee to pass judgment on the candidate's worthiness.
    • List the award criteria and provide specific examples of candidate’s applicable work
    • Explain how candidate’s work has influenced the industry.
    • Describe results, improvements and measure of impact of the candidate’s work
    • Give details regarding the originality of the candidate’s work.
  • The rest of the international nomination form is optional, but it is recommended to supply any additional information the help the judges in their evaluation.
  • Provide education and job history to provide the award committee with candidate’s background
  • Fill out the nomination form as completely as possible. Make sure every requirement (Item 1 and 2) is included. Make sure the presentation is attractive and is easy on the eyes. Check spelling and grammar. Ensure that the content adequately communicates the qualifications of the candidate.
  • Collect letters of recommendations from professional colleagues familiar with the candidate’s body of work. 
    • Ask well known, highly regarded people such as past award winners, a past SPE president or past board member, well known industry experts, etc., 
    • Make sure the endorser knows the candidate’s work. 
    • Start early – it can take some time and work to identify these people and get them to write endorsements.
  • Ensure that each letter of endorsement is composed independently and addresses unique aspects of the candidate’s work. Avoid reciprocating endorsements, e.g. you endorse me and I’ll endorse you.
  • Ask the candidate to suggest references for letters of recommendation.
  • If they are willing, you can allow the candidate to review the final nomination and give feedback. This may lead to improvement in examples and additional supporting details.
  • Get another person to review the nomination for both content and the quality of the writing before submitting.
  • The entire submitted nomination will consist of the nomination form completed in sufficient detail for the committee to pass judgment on the candidate's worthiness. The candidate’s CV/resume, if provided, and letters of recommendation.

5) How to compose a good letter of recommendation

  • Letters should include a brief introduction and discuss the relationship between writer and candidate.
  • The letter writers must address specific examples of the candidate’s work that meets the award criteria.
  • “Because he/she is a great engineer” must be followed up by concrete evidence of why.
  • Letters copied from other sources may not do justice to the nomination. Do not encourage multiple identical endorsements from colleagues.

6) Glossary

This list of definitions is provided to help global members understand the terms used in the SPE International Awards Program.

a) Award Committee – Group of volunteer SPE members with interest and expertise in the area they are judging tasked with reviewing all nomination packets in the candidate pool to select an award recipient to recommend to the approving group. The SPE Board of Directors approves international awards. The Regional Director approves regional awards. International Award committee members are appointed by the SPE President-elect to serve 3-year terms, and are approved by SPE Board of Directors. They are familiar with the award discipline and globally diverse. Regional Directors appoint regional award committees who are regionally and technically diverse. They serve a 1-year term.

b) Candidate – A person who is nominated by a colleague for an award. A person who is hoping to achieve an honor or award. Same as nominee

c) Candidate Pool – Group of all candidates eligible for an award.

d) Confidential – Not available to the general membership. Restricted because of sensitive and/or personal information. Access to SPE award nomination materials is limited to the nominator, award committees, SPE Board of Directors, and staff.

e) Contest – Friendly competition between candidates for an award.

f) Criteria – award standards a candidate must meet and on which judgment or decision of the award committee is based

g) Election – The formal approval by the Board of Directors of the person selected for an award (i.e. the recipient or winner) by an award committee.

h) Endorsement – Approving testimony. A colleague’s letter of recommendation that confirms or vouches for the candidate’s qualification for the award.

i) International Awards – Awards that acknowledge significant member accomplishments of an international scope.

j) Member in Good Standing – Paid SPE Member.

k) Nominate – To propose or formally submit a person as a candidate for an award.

l) Nomination – The documents proposing a person as a candidate for election for an award

m) Nomination Packet – A completed nomination form, CV/resume, and letters of recommendation

n) Nominator – A person who nominates a candidate for an award.

o) Nominee – A person named as the potential recipient of an award. Same as candidate

p) Professional Member – SPE member who is not a student member.

q) Qualified – possessing the qualities or accomplishments necessary to be a candidate for an award.

r) Recipient – The person selected by the award committee and approved by the Board of Directors to receive the award. The winner of the award.

s) Regional Awards – Awards that acknowledge significant member accomplishments of a local or regional scope. Because winners of Regional Awards move into consideration for the International equivalent in the following year, the quality of the documentation for regional nominations should meet the same high standards.

t) Sanctioned Countries – Individuals who “ordinarily resident in” sanctioned countries, as defined by the US Government, are not eligible to participate in SPE Award Programs.

u) Selection – The choosing of a person to recommend for an award by the award committee. The name of the selected person is presented to the Board of Directors for approval.

v) Student Member – a pre-professional student chapter member currently enrolled as a university student pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in petroleum engineering or a related field. With the exception of the Ferguson Medal, student members are not eligible for SPE awards.

w) Winner – The person selected by the award committee and approved by the board to receive the award. Same as recipient.

x) Young Professional – SPE member age 35 and under.