Monday, September 9, 2013

The power of awards in science (@AmerChemSociety #ACSIndy #ACSAward)

Awards of any kind certainly reward the recipient directly and indirectly. The direct part is obvious in so far as there is some kind of remunerative component. The indirect part is perhaps equally obvious in that it helps the individual to advance their career and sets them to be in a better position for the next award. The Nobel Prize presents a kind of absurd example. It is an extreme in remuneration. It is perhaps an end in so far as there are few prizes in science that exceed it in prestige. It's also an extreme example of the power (and sometimes failure) of awards to impact society well beyond the individual awardee. Namely, awards provide a focus on the scientific work advanced by said individual, and thereby accelerate its adoption and dissemination broadly. For example, the recent Physics Nobel Prize recognizing graphene has clearly accelerated the interest in commercializing the technology as can be seen through the dramatic rise in graphene patents in the last year. It's interesting here that the acceleration of the impact of the work may or may not include a literal boost of the scientific effort of the awardee herself or himself. As such, awards given to individuals, no matter what stage in their careers, can also have very positive impact on advancing and disseminating the science or broader activities for which they are selected.

I am thus very grateful for the recognition that the ACS Award—sponsored by the Dreyfus Foundationfor Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences (EDSCCS) has just provided. But I am most excited by the fact that it provides visibility to our efforts mentoring students broadly, and in particular on our OXIDE ( activity. As I've posted before, mentoring works, and we should practice it often! Through our OXIDE program, we are working with chemistry departments to change the culture to be more open to everyone. The truth is that such inclusive excellence helps everyone, and makes our chemistry programs better. But the community needs help (from, for example, social scientists) to move in this direction. I'm excited by the fact that the visibility of the award will help us reach more faculty. Such awareness should also highlight our role as a resource for adapting their programs and policies. How else could we leverage the award for EDSCCS to advance diversity in the chemical science? I've got some ideas, but your suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

I'm very grateful to the financial support of the National Science Foundation for the individual research grants that have funded my research projects for both its intellectual and broader impacts (most recently #CHE 1112067). Equally important, I'm grateful to the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry; the Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry Division at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) in the Department of Energy (DOE) for support of our OXIDE work (#CHE-1048939).


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