The Golden Goose Awards
September 30, 2013 9:45 PM   Subscribe

The Golden Goose Awards celebrate "the human and economic benefits of federally funded research by highlighting examples of seemingly obscure studies that have led to major breakthroughs and resulted in significant societal impact." The 2012 awardees.
posted by escabeche (33 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, the contrast ratio on those pages is terrible. Whose idea was it to use slightly-dark gray letters on a slightly-light gray background?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:55 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the text definitely should be in green fluorescent protein.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:51 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really like the idea behind this, and maybe it's just that I'm depressed and angry at the state of things that appears to have made this necessary, but...

If there are people out there who really don't realize (or don't appreciate) just how much humanitarian and economic benefit has come out of things like NSF-funded science, I would like to propose a study examining whether those people can actually distinguish between their asses and holes in the ground.
posted by bjrubble at 11:14 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a great idea!
posted by gingerest at 11:14 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The cohorts who claimed 'Ayn Rand' was their favorite philosopher were catastrophically unable to distinguish between ass and hole in ground (P<1e-313)."
posted by benzenedream at 12:17 AM on October 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile in a nearby jurisdiction.
posted by islander at 12:21 AM on October 1, 2013


This sounds great and fits in well with Professor Mazzucato's theory of THE ENTREPRENEURIAL STATE.

Her point is that the state is actually a far bigger driver of innovation than most people give it credit for - particularly those influenced by the more extreme conservative/libertarian ideologies that see the state as always being bad and as always being worse than the private sector.

It's a really interesting book, and I recommend it strongly. It sets stuff like this in a broader context that is important and fascinating.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:22 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


For some inane reason the awards are on two pages with a single entry on the second page, I almost missed that one.

On one hand I wish there was a way to completely quantify the economic impact of federal research dollars, especially for discoveries like these that have so many applications for science and industry, because it would be cool. On the other I know it would probably end up being used to rank scientists and research areas in a bad way, oh well.
posted by edeezy at 12:48 AM on October 1, 2013


I'm glad I'm not the only one, or the first one to hate the design of that. I had to bump the magnification way up to be able to read it at all, and then the entries turned out to be obscure truncated hints at what they are about, instead of clear synopses. Good idea; execution failure.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:44 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice twist on the original.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:02 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would like to propose a study examining whether those people can actually distinguish between their asses and holes in the ground.

I think that the American taxpayer's half billion dollar investment into the now bankrupt Solyndra quite well proves the "hole in the ground" theory of government funded research: Too much fertilizer and too few flowers.
posted by three blind mice at 2:03 AM on October 1, 2013


It's a good thing someone is working to illustrate the reality every time a politician acts like we can learn nothing from the sex lives of lab rats.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:16 AM on October 1, 2013


The '2012 Awardees' link actually has the 2013 ones too. I presume it has been updated, but for a moment I thought the same people had been awarded twice.

Good stuff: I'm not finding the presentation a big problem, FWIW.
posted by Segundus at 2:25 AM on October 1, 2013


If there are people out there who really don't realize (or don't appreciate) just how much humanitarian and economic benefit has come out of things like NSF-funded science,

Not just people: governments, funding bodies, industries, aka people with very real influence over deciding where science funding dollars get spent. I don't know about in the USA but definitely in other parts of the world (including New Zealand, where I'm originally from). Having to justify commercial or clinical output is not an uncommon or weird thing to do when writing funding grants these days.
posted by shelleycat at 2:47 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


and then the entries turned out to be obscure truncated hints at what they are about, instead of clear synopses.

Yeah, a single sentence outlining the main finding would have been a better thing to have there rather than the start of a longer, more general paragraph. What was there didn't make me want to click through for any of them and I've heard of at least a couple of these already.
posted by shelleycat at 2:51 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I work with one of the organizations associated with these. One day, my father said to me, while frustrated by some recent political nonsense, someone should recognize people who did research that wasn't recognized initially and sounded obscure but has had a major impact on society. I'm on it, Dad.
posted by kat518 at 3:31 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that the American taxpayer's half billion dollar investment into the now bankrupt Solyndra quite well proves the "hole in the ground" theory of government funded research: Too much fertilizer and too few flowers.

Maybe reading the article might possibly grant you a small sliver of insight beyond right-wing talk-radio talking points.
posted by Steakfrites at 3:59 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think that the American taxpayer's half billion dollar investment into the now bankrupt Solyndra quite well proves the "hole in the ground" theory of government funded research: Too much fertilizer and too few flowers.

Yeah, we really should use that system that's 100% successful.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:01 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks, you can choose between taking a cue from the posted article and recognizing and commenting on the actual valuable contributions of these scientists and engineers, or choosing just to turn this into "all about the one guy who made a snarky comment." Up to you.]
posted by taz at 5:16 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


the thing is that science policy has already killed the golden goose. NSF grants have become very focused on outcomes and tilted towards applied projects so that we have the worst of both worlds.

I think that the American taxpayer's half billion dollar investment into the now bankrupt Solyndra quite well proves the "hole in the ground" theory of government funded research: Too much fertilizer and too few flowers.

what's ironic is the solyndra is an example of how neo-liberals like Obama and Clinton pushed federal research money to be more "business" like to, supposedly, appeal to people like you. Solyndra was supposed to be an example of how a private company would pursue research goals more efficiently and effectively than federal grants to coddled academic researchers...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:27 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


NSF grants have become very focused on outcomes and tilted towards applied projects

Well, not over here in pure math, but our grants are so small that it's possible nobody's noticed we're still getting funded.
posted by escabeche at 5:32 AM on October 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well what do you expect, escabeche, when all you need is paper and a garbage bin.

...or was it just paper, I can never remember who's supposed to be the butt of the joke.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:59 AM on October 1, 2013


There's a graphic making the rounds of Fox News idiot Shep Smith interviewing someone from NASA. He actually said something like "so do we benefit from all this science mumbo jumbo?" and the NASA scientist said "well, this interview is occurring VIA SATELLITE."
posted by nevercalm at 7:09 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck yeah Thermus aquaticus. You can basically thank those guys for modern molecular biology.
posted by maryr at 7:43 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Them and cray-cray Kary Mullis.)
posted by maryr at 7:44 AM on October 1, 2013


The thing that a lot of people don't understand about research (especially politicians) is that funding research is a lot like how VCs talk about funding startups. Most research fails, in that you hit dead ends, have small impact, or get dominated by other approaches.

However, it's the ones that succeed (like the Golden Goose awards), they succeed beyond anyone's wildest dreams, and more than make up for the rest of the "losses" by orders of magnitude. (And I'm putting losses in quotes, as it's not really a loss, since the community has still gained in knowledge).

That's why it's important to keep the funding going. For a pittance of money, we can sustain the research community, continue the dialog and free flow of ideas, keep training new researchers, and increase the opportunities and potential for these kinds of breakthrough findings.
posted by jasonhong at 8:18 AM on October 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"There's a graphic making the rounds of Fox News idiot Shep Smith interviewing someone from NASA. He actually said something like "so do we benefit from all this science mumbo jumbo?" and the NASA scientist said "well, this interview is occurring VIA SATELLITE.""

It is beautiful

-by Adam Steltzner through I Fucking Love Science
posted by Blasdelb at 8:36 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Transcript:

SHEPARD with loud angry face:
NASA's Adam Steltzner Joins us now. Adam, what practical application could all of this space crap possibly have?
ADAM STELTZNER, NASA LEAD MECHANICAL ENGINEER:
Hello Shepard. I'm happy to be talking to you live right now via satellite.
SHEPARD now with quiet angrier face.

NASA control room cheering
posted by Blasdelb at 8:51 AM on October 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maryr, I hold fast to the irrational belief that if that self-important jerk hadn't come up with the idea of thermal cycling to amplify transcription reactions, someone else would have seen and exploited that potential in the discovery of the heat-stable polymerase.
posted by gingerest at 7:44 PM on October 3, 2013


Is the implication that this research would never occur without government funding? How do you prove that?

Is there any discussion of other projects that were not chosen to receive federal funding, and the successes of those? When some government agent or group chose who the winners and losers were, is there any way to follow up on how much benefit we could have gotten from that opportunity cost?

I also don't understand why government funding successful research is on topic but Solyndra is snarky "right-wing talking points".
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 2:13 PM on October 18, 2013


So these are projects funded mostly by the NIH and NSF, which were not in any meaningful sense picked by 'government agents' or 'government groups', but instead by the peers of the people proposing them. Federally funded projects are most generally picked by volunteers who serve on committees that evaluate proposals for research that fits various kinds of funded priorities or larger more general pots of money depending on the kind of grant being applied for. Having experienced funding processes abroad, as many complex flaws as our systems might have, we really are incredibly lucky to have each of the most efficient and professionally run scientific academies in the world.

Really, the people in the world who would be best qualified to judge the value of the research projects that were turned down on behalf of the Federal Government are exactly the people who turned them down. You can be sure though that, as funding for science continues to fail to keep up with inflation and even get cut, that value is immense.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:13 PM on October 18, 2013


Thanks. I guess I'm trying to understand how to get more funding to "good" peer reviewed science vs "bad" funding that's politically sent as corporate aid. The system seems set up for the latter.
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 8:11 AM on October 19, 2013


How does the system seem set up for the latter? I have to imagine far more money gets funneled in through Congressional pork projects than anything in peer review (but I don't have numbers)
posted by maryr at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2013


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