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Beryl Lieff Benderly

New Award Will Egg On Federally-Funded Scientists

The late Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisconsin) used to ridicule federally-funded research he considered frivolous by periodically announcing to the media that a certain scientist had won his highly publicized–and controversial–Golden Fleece Award for wasteful government spending. Now, a trio of congressmen (Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, and Robert Dold, R-Illinois) and a gaggle of high-powered organizations are offering awards to apparently quirky federally-funded research projects-but, rather than to denigrate them, this time to celebrate the handsome payoffs they produced in the long run. 

The Golden Goose Award are to be presented to celebrate “the often unexpected and 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 [sic] society in significant ways,” according to a press release that was issued jointly by Cooper’s office and the Association of American Universities on 25 April. “The name of the award is based on the fable about the goose that laid the golden egg,” the release explains. 

Know of researchers who you think fit that description? You can nominate them for the honor. Nomination forms are available by writing to

Proxmire, by the way, did relent on some of his Golden Fleece choices, acknowledging that despite their apparent obscurity and risibility, the projects did produce worthwhile outcomes, as Mitch Smith reports at Inside Higher Ed.