Eight researchers whose work led to improved health outcomes for premature infants, the telecommunications revolution, and the development of modern web browsers were honored 18 September at the third annual Golden Goose Award ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Since its inception in 2012, the Golden Goose Award has illustrated the benefits of federally funded basic scientific research, by highlighting examples of studies that seemed unusual at the time but ultimately led to major breakthroughs that have had a significant impact on society.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) was inspired to create the Golden Goose Award to counter the misconception that odd-sounding research is inherently without value. The prize was developed partly in response to the Golden Fleece Award, created in 1975 by the late Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) to draw attention to what he considered wasteful federal spending.
"We don't know the next big scientific discovery," Cooper said, "but we must continue to invest in the basic research that gave today's awardees their momentous, and unexpected, breakthroughs."
The Golden Goose Award was launched by a coalition of organizations, including AAAS, that believe federally funded basic scientific research is essential for American innovation, as well as economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security.
"The unforeseen benefits of basic research have been tremendous, a point well demonstrated by the work of this year's Golden Goose awardees," said Alan I. Leshner, AAAS chief executive officer and executive publisher of the journal Science.
A panel of respected scientists and university research leaders selected the award recipients, whose work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the former U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
The 2014 recipients of the Golden Goose Award are:
Saul Schanberg (deceased), Tiffany Martini Field, Cynthia Kuhn, and Gary Evoniuk for research conducted at Duke University and the University of Miami with funding from NIH and the National Institute of Mental Health, showing that massage leads to improved health outcomes in premature infants.
Robert Wilson , Paul Milgrom, and R. Preston McAfee for research on game theory and auctions conducted at Stanford University, Northwestern University, and the University of Texas with support from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the Office of Naval Research, and NSF. Their work encouraged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to first auction wireless spectrum licenses in 1994, which enabled the telecommunications boom.
Larry Smarr for NSF-funded research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on the dynamics of black holes, which led him to advocate for a national supercomputing center in an academic environment and precipitated significant advancements in computer science. Later, as director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Smarr assembled a team of software developers who created Mosaic, the world's first widely used graphical web browser and predecessor of modern web browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox.