ESEB and the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB) award an annual prize for the best graduate paper published in the journal in that calendar year. The award is named after Stephen Stearns, who played a major role in establishing both JEB and ESEB (article).
The Stearns Graduate Student Prize is aimed at recognising outstanding graduate (Masters or PhD) research. While previously awarded to a single winner, from 2022 onwards the JEB editorial board selects three joint awardees. This change recognises the fact that research excellence comes in many facets, ranging from the innovative nature of the questions addressed, over the technical challenges in performing the research to the scientific and societal impact of the results.
The award includes an invitation to attend the ESEB Congress (travel expenses and registration fee covered), where awardees will present their work in a dedicated Stearns Prize symposium.
The Stearns Prize recognises the outstanding contribution of graduate students to research published in JEB. Graduate students are eligible for the prize if they led both the research described in the article and the writing of the manuscript itself (and supervisors will be asked to confirm this before awards are made). Reflecting their role, we would then also usually expect the student to be the lead (first) author. We expect papers to be submitted within two years of completing the project.
During the process of submitting a manuscript to JEB, the corresponding author will be asked “Was this study led by a graduate student?”. If the corresponding author answers “Yes” and identifies the student among the authors, the manuscript is automatically considered for the Stearns Prize in the year of its publication. Self-nomination is also encouraged, where the graduate student leading the study is also the submitting and corresponding author.
For each calendar year, all papers published in JEB that were nominated at the point of submission as above are automatically longlisted for the Stearns Prize. Editors will be asked to nominate papers they handled for shortlisting based on the following criteria:
- paper addresses an innovative research question or approaches the question in an innovative way
- contains technically challenging work
- displays a particularly robust approach to answering the research question
Shortlisted papers are then ranked using the same criteria as above by a panel of editorial board members who did NOT handle the papers, to minimise bias towards a particular field. The top 3 papers will be awarded the Stearns Prize for that calendar year. The full shortlist will be made available online for prize year 2022 onwards.