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1. Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievement shall be made by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. Awards may be given for devices, methods, formulas, discoveries or inventions of special and outstanding value to the motion picture arts and sciences.
2. Except in extraordinary circumstances, no awards shall be given posthumously. No awards shall be given where all recipients are deceased. No Academy Award of Merit may be given posthumously.
3. The Academy President shall annually appoint outstanding representatives of the motion picture and technical fields to serve on the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. No sitting member of the Academy Science and Technology Council shall be eligible to serve on the committee or its advisory group. The committee will be dissolved upon the completion of its annual term.
4. Awards for scientific and technical achievement may be granted in any of the following three classifications:
ACADEMY AWARD OF MERIT
For those achievements that have an extraordinary influence upon the advancement of the motion picture arts and sciences.
SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING AWARD
For those achievements that exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the motion picture arts and sciences.
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
For those accomplishments that contribute to the progress of the motion picture arts and sciences.
5. The committee shall familiarize itself with all motion picture scientific and technical achievements of the current Awards year. To assist the committee, an official public announcement will be made and requests shall be sent to individuals and organizations engaged in scientific and technical developments for motion pictures, inviting them to submit any information they may have regarding achievements that may have been developed within their own or in any other organizations.
6. A list of all areas of potential achievements under consideration shall be widely publicized to permit anyone with claims of prior or relevant invention, or of achievements similar to those under consideration, to bring them to the attention of the committee.
7. In evaluating the submitted achievements, the committee shall strive to seek out other items similar to those being considered for awards. If such items are discovered, they may be considered on an equal basis.
8. The committee shall then conduct a series of meetings and examinations and shall arrange for such demonstrations as are necessary to evaluate the achievements properly and make recommendations for action by the Academy Board of Governors.
9. The committee may appoint advisory groups for each area of investigation in which there are achievements to be considered. Each advisory group shall have a chair who shall conduct its meetings and discussions.
10. Each advisory group shall consider all achievements in its field. The advisory groups shall evaluate those achievements and forward their conclusions to the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee in the form of a written report prepared by the respective advisory group chairs.
11. All voting by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee shall be done by secret ballot. All decisions as to award recommendations and classifications shall require a two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting.
12. To avoid conflicts of interest, individuals directly involved with any achievement under awards consideration shall not participate on the awards committee or its advisory groups. Further, members of the committee advisory groups having a personal connection with any achievement, shall not be present during deliberation or voting for the achievement. Finally, individuals, who work at the same organization as a potential award recipient but who are not associated with the achievement may participate, but shall not vote on the achievement.
13. The committee shall carefully evaluate all information regarding actual authorship of each item being considered for an award and shall, at its sole discretion, identify the individual(s) and/or organization(s) to be recognized. The committee shall recommend to the Academy Board of Governors the person(s) and/or organization(s) to whom an award shall be made, the type of award and the text thereof.
14. Full claim for originality and development of each achievement must be established to the satisfaction of the committee. If any controversy should arise as to the origin or authorship of an achievement, the committee may request that the Academy Board of Governors postpone action until proper credit is established.15. In recommending awards, the committee will judge to the best of its ability the scientific and technical merits of the achievements, but does not warrant that the person or persons who are named on the award be responsible for the origin o3r development of the entire achievement.
16. It shall be within the discretion of the committee to recommend that no awards be given if there have been no achievements worthy of recognition in their current state of development and/or adoption.
17. It shall be within the discretion of the committee, but only on its own motion, to review any Academy Award conferred for scientific and technical achievement to determine subsequent to the granting of such award whether the classification of such achievement should be elevated by reason of its contribution to the motion picture arts and sciences, and to recommend elevation in classification to the Academy Board of Governors.
18. Such other rules as may be considered necessary for the proper conduct of these awards shall be adopted by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, subject to the approval of the Academy Board of Governors.
Since 1930/31 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has honored artisans and science and technology professionals whose work in related industries has enabled motion picture production to advance in significant ways. Scientific and technical awards recognize original inventions and applications that result in expanded production capabilities, improved workflows, cost reductions and other important benefits.
Any device, method, formula, discovery or invention of special and outstanding value to the art and science of motion pictures can be considered for recognition. An invention repurposed from another industry cannot qualify for an award unless a vast proportion of its development was specific to motion pictures. The submission and evaluation processes have undergone careful refinement over the decades and are reviewed annually alongside the Awards rules. (Suggestions or comments on the processes are always welcome.)
Each year the Academy president appoints a committee chair who invites and organizes approximately 45 experts across several fields. This Scientific and Technical Awards Committee represents cinematography (production and technical), digital imaging, electronics and research, film and laboratory processes, lighting and equipment, mechanical or optical effects and engineering, production, projection, exhibition techniques, and sound.
In an annual canvass, individuals and companies known to be involved with filmmaking tools and techniques are contacted with requests for information about new devices or methods that are being used in motion picture production. Submissions must be made electronically at the Academy’s website before the prescribed deadline.
The submissions are numbered and forwarded to each of the committee members. The committee then convenes a meeting at which the research-and-debate effort on each submission begins.
The Selection Process
At its initial meeting, the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee discusses the merits of each submission. First and foremost, is the submission eligible? Does it meet the criteria outlined in the rules? Is the item new to the industry, or an improvement over an existing one? How widely is it being used?
If all the eligibility criteria are met, the applicant may be invited to make an informative Keynote or PowerPoint presentation to the committee. If similar items are already available in the motion picture industry (but have not been submitted), their manufacturers also may be invited to participate. If an item cannot be properly presented in such a setting, a surrogate may be assigned to conduct an on-site or other evaluation. In other cases, subcommittees may be created to do more in-depth research. At the conclusion of their investigations, all surrogates and subcommittees present their findings to the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee.
Only substantially qualified submissions are carried forward beyond the initial meeting. If the committee decides that an item’s impact on the industry is not yet clear, the submission may be tabled for evaluation at a later date. If an initially rejected item subsequently sees significant improvement or advancement, it may be resubmitted in a future Awards year.
Written evaluations are compiled and distributed to all members of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee and the Academy’s Board of Governors. The date for the second meeting is set.
At the second meeting, submissions still under consideration are discussed again with a particular focus on award-worthiness. The committee then conducts a series of ballots, item by item, to decide (1) whether an award should be recommended, and (2) at what level of recognition. The committee’s recommendations are sent to the Academy’s Board of Governors for final award approval.
Awards for scientific and technical achievement are given at three levels. No more than five award recipients may be recognized for any single submission.
- A Technical Achievement Award recognizes an achievement that contributes to the progress of the motion picture arts and sciences. Certificates are printed with a description of the achievement and the name of each individual significantly involved its development.
- A Scientific and Engineering Award recognizes an achievement that has exhibited a high level of engineering and is important to the progress of the motion picture arts and sciences. Bronze plaques with a representation of the Oscar statuette are engraved with a description of the achievement and the name of each contributor.
- An Academy Award of Merit – an Oscar statuette – recognizes an achievement that has had extraordinary influence upon the advancement of the motion picture arts and sciences. This award is generally reserved for achievements that have changed the course of filmmaking since their introduction. Gold plates are engraved with a description of the achievement and the name of each contributor, and are affixed to the base of each statuette.
Gordon E. Sawyer, the former head of the sound department at Samuel Goldwyn Studios and a member of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee from 1936 to 1977, asserted that the records represented a history of the development of motion pictures. After his death, a special award was established in his name to recognize an individual whose technological contributions have brought credit to the motion picture industry. Recommendations for this award are made through the Special Awards Review Subcommittee.
Records of past awards, arranged both chronologically and by category, are available at www.oscars.org/sci-tech/ceremonies.
Scientific and Technical Awards are presented at an annual formal dinner ceremony. It is a stand-alone event – separate from the televised Oscars – by design of the committee and concurrence of the Academy Board of Governors.
The event is recorded, and portions are edited and included on Oscars.org.