This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

When it comes to recognition of scientific achievement...

...AUSTRALIA has the right idea.

Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard awarded the annual Prime Minister's Prizes for Science: recognition, at the highest level of government, not only of the achievements of Australian scientists but of the importance of the subject itself. As Gillard said in her ceremony speech:
This year the urgency of embarking on our clean energy future has brought science to the centre of our national debate, it's very centre, and that's as it should be.

The 2011 winners of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science
Professors Ezio Rizzardo and David Solomon took the top prize for devising techniques for the generation of polymers that we now take for granted, but which were discovered when it was thought chemistry had taught us all it ever could. The Science Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, a prize devoted to young career scientists whose achievements advance, or have the potential to advance, human welfare or benefit society, went to Associate Professor Min Chen. Chen discovered a new form of chlorophyll in the stromatolites of Shark Bay, Western Australia, which has the potential to boost research into improving the efficiency of energy collection in solar cells and crop production. The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year went to Professor Stuart Wyithe, recognized for his work on the physics of the formation of the universe. Brooke Topelberg and Dr Jane Wright were also recognized for their outstanding efforts to teach primary and secondary school children.

Here in the UK there are many and varied prizes for science, but nothing quite like this. As the home of many of the finest scientific establishments, societies and institutions in the world, we regularly recognize scientific endeavour, achievement and communication. But given the importance of science in our lives, in policy and business, it wouldn't go amiss for our own government to exhibit some faith in the scientific community and present some form of formal recognition for those who conduct research here. This, particularly, in a time when government cuts are hitting the scientific community hard. I call for a UK Prime Minister's Prize for Science.

But I wonder - who do you think should win?

Julia Gillard's speech can be read in full here.