Recent Honors and Awards in Our Sciences

February 13, 2020

In late January, The National Academy of Sciences announced the recipients of their annual awards honoring outstanding achievement in the physical, biological, and social sciences. Amongst these awardees were several behavioral and cognitive scientists from our member societies and affiliates. These awards will be presented on April 26 during the Academy’s 157th annual meeting.

The Atkinson Prize in Psychological and Cognitive Sciences is presented to honor significant advances in the psychological and cognitive sciences with important implications for formal and systematic theory in these fields. Two prizes of $100,000 are presented biennially. This was awarded to:

  • Richard N. Aslin, Haskins Laboratories and Yale University, member of the Cognitive Science Society (CSS), Psychonomic Society (PS), Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), and the Vision Sciences Society, for groundbreaking contributions to understanding infant learning and development.
  • Susan Elizabeth Carey of Harvard University, member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and SRCD, for revolutionizing the study of the origins of cognition.

The NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing has been presented annually since 1979 to recognize authors whose reviews have synthesized extensive and difficult material, rendering a significant service to science and influencing the course of scientific thought. The field rotates among biological, physical, and social sciences and carries with it a $20,000 prize. This was awarded to:

  • Christina Maslach, of the University of California, Berkeley, member of APA, for advancing our understanding of job burnout and worker wellbeing.

Two Troland Research Awards of $75,000 are given annually to recognize unusual achievement by early-career researchers (preferably 45 years of age or younger) and to further empirical research within the broad spectrum of experimental psychology. This was awarded to:

  • Michael C. Frank, Stanford University, member of CSS, PS, and SRCD, for pioneering studies into children’s early language learning.
  • Nim Tottenham, Columbia University, member of APA and the International Society of Developmental Psychology, for studies into human brain development and the effects of early-life stress.

On February 4, the National Science Foundation announced their selections for their NSF 2026 Idea Machine prize competition. The NSF 2026 Idea Machine encouraged individuals to submit pressing “grand challenges” requiring fundamental research in science, engineering, or STEM education in order to inform NSF’s long-term planning.

Among the winners was “From Thinking to Inventing”, submitted by Matthias Scheutz and Vasanth Sarathy, Tufts University, a cross-disciplinary concept between computer science and psychology to revolutionize artificial intelligence. The entry proposes “a new era of AI research, where machines could learn to model human creativity and thought processes in order to evaluate, improvise and ultimately solve new and complex challenges. It asks what can machines invent and how?”