Second Annual Golden Goose Awards Honor ‘Obscure’ Research That Led to Breakthroughs

By Barry Toiv

Six researchers, including two Nobel Prize winners, were recently honored during the Second Annual Golden Goose Award ceremony, celebrating researchers whose seemingly odd or obscure federally funded research turned out to have a significant impact on society. The awardees were honored on Capitol Hill, where they received their awards from a bipartisan group of members of Congress. The scientists are:
  • David Gale (deceased), Lloyd Shapley, and Alvin Roth, whose work, decades apart, grew from theoretical mathematical algorithms about marriage stability and moneyless markets to school choice programs for urban school systems, the program that matches new medical school graduates with their first hospital residencies, and the national kidney exchange that matches compatible patients and donors from around the country. Shapley and Roth were awarded Nobel Prizes in 2012. Gale, having died, was not eligible for a Nobel.

  • John Eng, a medical researcher and practicing physician whose study of the poisonous venom produced by the Gila monster led to a drug that protects millions of diabetics from such complications as blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage; and

  • Thomas Brock and Hudson Freeze, whose discovery of a heat resistant microorganism at Yellowstone National Park, helped make possible the biotechnology industry and the genomics revolution.The Golden Goose Award demonstrates the human and economic benefits of federally funded research. Such breakthroughs  may include development of life- saving medicines and treatments; game-changing social and behavioral insights; and major technological advances related to national security, energy, the environment, communications and public health.

    U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) developed the idea of the Golden Goose Award. It was created and jointly launched by a coalition of organizations that believe federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to our economic growth, health, global competitiveness and national security. The award recipients were selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.

    "It's easy to mock researchers," Rep. Cooper said, "but we couldn't live without their brilliant breakthroughs."

Barry Toiv is vice president for public affairs at the Association of American Universities.

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