Rep. Jim Cooper, Broad Coalition Hatch “Golden Goose” Award

Bipartisan Members of Congress Join Innovation-Focused Organizations to Honor Seemingly Obscure Scientific Research Leading to Major Breakthroughs

By Barry Toiv and Katie Hill

U.S. Representatives Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), and Robert J. Dold (R-Ill.) recently joined several business, university, scientific and public policy organizations at a Capitol Hill press conference to announce the creation of the Golden Goose Award. The new award will highlight the often unexpected or serendipitous nature of basic scientific research by honoring federally funded researchers whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd or obscure, but has produced important discoveries benefitting society in significant ways. Other members of Congress supporting the Golden Goose Award include Representatives Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).

“We’ve all seen reports that ridicule odd-sounding research projects as examples of government waste,” said Rep. Cooper, who had the original idea for the award. “The Golden Goose Award does the opposite. It recognizes that a valuable federally funded research project may sound funny, but its purpose is no laughing matter. I hope more of my colleagues will join us in supporting, not killing, the goose that lays the golden egg.”

The name of the award is based on the fable about the goose that laid the golden egg. Its sponsors view America’s federally funded research enterprise as an extremely valuable goose whose golden eggs are the innovations and discoveries born from basic research that transform lives and fuel the economy. It also references the “Golden Fleece Award,” bestowed by the late Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.), on examples of what he considered to be wasteful spending. Sen. Proxmire often targeted federally funded research with his award.

“Federal support for basic scientific research creates jobs, fosters innovation, and improves the American people’s quality of life,” said Rep. Dent. “As the Golden Goose Award will demonstrate, research supported by the federal government has led to remarkable breakthroughs and valuable scientific developments that affect our lives on a daily basis. As winners of the Golden Goose are determined by the Selection Committee, I look forward to learning more about the incredible achievements made possible by federal investment in research.”

Added Rep. Dold, “The need for productive scientific research is something that we can all agree on. Providing the tools necessary to support innovative research is an important investment for the health of our country and the world. Science plays an important role in our economy, as many jobs in this field go unfilled. We must continue to invest in this field and similar fields so that more people have the resources they need to find a job.”

Building from Rep. Cooper’s original idea to highlight seemingly obscure research that has led to major breakthroughs and significant societal impact, a coalition of scientific, business, university and public policy groups have organized to launch the Golden Goose Award. These groups share the belief that federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to the nation’s economic growth and global competitiveness. They include: the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Breakthrough Institute, the Progressive Policy Institute, The Science Coalition, and the Task Force on American Innovation.

“Research is the seed corn of technology development, innovation, and economic growth. Indeed as much as half of U.S. economic growth since World War II has been the result of advances in science and technology,” said Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS. “Yet there is an urgent need to inform policymakers and the public about the nature of basic scientific research and about the relationship between that research and the economy – we can’t grow our economy if we don’t fund the scientific research that supports it. This is why the message behind the Golden Goose Award is so important.”

The first Golden Goose Awards are expected to be announced in September 2012. Awardees will be selected by a panel of outside experts.

Barry Toiv and Katie Hill represent the American Association of Universities and Rep. Jim Cooper’s office, respectively.

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