The 2016 Golden Goose Awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, September 22 at the Library of Congress. If you can’t make it there in person, the event will be streamed online starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. This year the organizers have been teasing a documentary that will be premiered at the ceremony.
Three sets of researchers are being recognized tomorrow for their work on research projects that led to applications that could not have been predicted from the beginning of those projects. Earlier this year the organizers announced two of these research teams: Edward Knipling and Raymond Bushland for their work on the sex lives of screwworm flies; and the team of Peter Bearman, Barbara Entwisle, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Ronald Rindfuss, and Richard Udry for their work on a longitudinal study of adolescents into adulthood call the Add Health study.
The final group recognized this year are John J. Bartholdi III, Sunil Nakrani, Thomas D. Seeley, Craig A. Tovey, and John Hagood Vande Vate. They worked on a problem in computing and utilized work in biology to find a solution – the ‘honey bee’ algorithm. Over the course of years these researchers determined how to apply lessons from how bees allocate foragers for optimum nectar collection to computer networks. With support from the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, they developed equations to express how these foragers are allocated – without a central authority. From there Nakrani joined the group to try and determine how computer servers can most efficiently address the ever changing nature of Internet traffic.
An important part of this story in the context of the Golden Goose Awards is that the web server application was not the first attempt to find a useful application for the honey bee algorithm. After coming up short in applying the model to ant colonies and transportation networks, Nakrani and Tovey collaborated to demonstrate the applicability of the model to web servers. Besides helping Nakrani earn his Ph.D., this work has been highly cited in a variety of other fields, including the Web hosting services that benefit tremendously from biologically inspired algorithms like theirs.
Nominations are now open for the 2017 Golden Goose Awards. Consult the website for the complete list of requirements, but the top criteria are that the research has led to significant social and/or economic impacts and that research has received federal research funds that contributed to the discovery. As the honey bee algorithm story demonstrates, non-U.S. research funds are not a disqualification. Consideration will be given to nominated work that led to benefits that were unforeseen at the time of the work, seemed ‘odd’ or unusual (which might have prompted criticism at the time of the work), and/or demonstrated some level of serendipity.