Capitol Hill Event Honors Silly Science with Lasting Impact

September 20, 2018

The 2018 Golden Goose Award ceremony took place on September 13th at the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill. The Golden Goose Award honors federally-funded research that may have at first seemed “silly”, frivolous, or obscure, but have led to breakthroughs with lasting and broad impact.

The event began with an introduction from Rush Holt, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a founding organization of the awards. Holt reminded the audience that it is not just the research that is important, but also the stories around it that can influence how policymakers think about science and inspire the public to support science to benefit society.

The Golden Goose Award has always had strong bipartisan support, primarily through the “Congressional Gaggle.” These Members of Congress include Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Bill Foster (D-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) as well as Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

Among the five awardees were former FABBS Board member Mahzarin Banaji, Anthony Greenwald, and current FABBS Board member Brian Nosek. These scientists received an award for their work on implicit bias. Banaji and Greenwald designed the Implicit Association Test, at first testing study participants’ abilities to associate flowers and insects with pleasant and unpleasant words on a computer. The findings showed that it took much longer for participants to follow the directions to associate insects with pleasant words and flowers with unpleasant words than the reverse pairing. They took this research even further, to uncover implicit biases dealing with race, leading to strong reactions from both participants and the scientific community at large. Drawing from this research, Nosek created a web-based tool in 1998, which has since collected about 30 million data points. This work has led to discovering associations and applications in a wide range of areas, including a test that can be used to predict suicide risk.

More information on the awardees, a recording of the ceremony, and the accompanying short documentary film, may be found on the Golden Goose Award website.  FABBS provided support for the documentary.