An op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post gave notice that the first annual Golden Goose Awards will be presented this week. The ceremony is scheduled for Thursday evening in Washington. Eligibility criteria are as follows:
- Nominees must have received a federally funded research grant within the past 60 years that contributed to an important discovery or breakthrough (Grant agencies include, but are not limited to, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Energy.);
- Nominees’ research must already have led to demonstrable, significant human and economic benefits (the Golden Goose Award is not intended to honor current research that might lead to breakthroughs in the future);
- Research teams are eligible to receive a nomination for their work;
- Individuals may be nominated for their work posthumously, but only if an individual or organizational representative is available to accept the award at an event;
Per ScienceInsider, three groups of researchers will be recognized on Thursday. As the Golden Goose website is currently silent on their identities, go ahead and click through if you’re really dying to know. The awards are sponsored by several groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Breakthrough Institute, the Progressive Policy Institute, The Science Coalition, the Task Force on American Innovation, and United for Medical Research.
As the op-ed and related press have noted, the award is meant as a counterpoint to the sound-bite criticism of individual research projects. While still going on today, the archetype is the Golden Fleece awards given out by Senator William Proxmire (Democrat from Wisconsin) in the 1970s and 1980s. Hopefully there will be additional publicity of these awards (and perhaps other nominees) in between annual awards ceremonies. If Senator Proxmire could manage to give out monthly awards, science proponents should be able to match that frequency or better.
While I’m still of the opinion that this should be the Golden Egg Award, I think this is a good idea. The complexity of finding, developing, and disseminating scientific knowledge requires a number of ways to communicate that complexity. Regrettably, the tropes of the linear model can be found throughout the material on the Golden Goose Awards. (Perhaps Roger Pielke, Jr.’s new paper on basic research as political symbol can help explain why?) Baby steps, I suppose.
So, after Thursday’s ceremony, I think the next steps of the effort focus on two main goals. First, develop means of keeping this messaging current between awards, and not just in response to the next time someone complains after reading just the abstract of a grant application. Second, make certain to maintain the bipartisan spirit in which the project was announced. Only seeing Representative Cooper’s (Democrat, Tennessee) name in this week’s press gives me a bit of pause on this point. Both sides of the aisle need to be involved if this is going to be both lasting and effective. Otherwise the risk of tarring scientific research as only for one party increases, and benefits nobody.