The Crafoord Prize is a Nobel-like award that goes to up to three biologists (with an “emphasis on ecology”), once every three years. It goes to people in other disciplines in other years. In practice, the biology award usually goes to an evolutionary biologist rather than an ecologist; more on that below. Anyway, the Crafoord Prize is one of the most prestigious and lucrative awards in biology; it’s worth over $700,000 USD at current exchange rates.
The next Crafoord Prize will go to a biologist; nominations are due Jan. 15. I got a letter inviting me to submit a nomination (a “perk” of being a blogger, presumably), but anyone is allowed to do so. Who would you nominate?
I’ve thought about it a bit and have a few candidates in mind. But I think it’ll be a more interesting conversation to talk about the thought process, rather than just listing names. Here’s my thought process; please share yours!
- I’d like my nominee to have a non-zero chance of being selected, insofar as outsiders can judge that.
- Looking at the list of past winners, the prize invariably goes to a very famous, very senior person, for work done many years earlier. Here’s the full list of past biology winners, 1984-2015: Dan Janzen; the Odums; Paul Ehrlich & E. O. Wilson; W. D. Hamilton & Seymour Benzer; Bob May; Ernst Mayr, G. C. Williams & John Maynard Smith; Carl Woese; Bob Trivers; Ilkka Hanski; Dick Lewontin & Tomoko Ohta.
- Personally, I’d rather the award go to someone who’s still an active researcher doing important work. I’m fine with lifetime achievement awards in general (in the unlikely event anyone wants to give me one in 30 years, I won’t say no!). But when the award comes with a cash prize this big, I’d prefer it to go to someone who’ll spend it on great science. Ideally, the sort of science that would be difficult or impossible to fund with a conventional grant. Kind of like a MacArthur “genius grant”.
- But given the past history of the awardees, there’s no way it’s going to go to a mid-career or early career person.* So my search image is “famous senior person still doing leading-edge work”. Someone who’s a plausible candidate on “lifetime achievement” grounds, but who also is still achieving significant scientific advances.
- The biology award has only ever gone to one woman, Tomoko Ohta. It’d be nice to diversify it.
- As an ecologist, I think it’d be nice if a prize that’s supposed to emphasize “ecology” went to an ecologist instead of the evolutionary biologists it usually goes to.
- I thought of one candidate I really like, but that candidate doesn’t meet all of my criteria. So I want to think about it further and hear from others. Hence this post.
But that’s just one person’s thought process. What do you think? Looking forward to your comments, as always.
*You may feel the prize should go to an early- or mid-career person, on the grounds that such a person likely would have more need for the money or make better use of it. Or that it should go to a team rather than an individual, given the increasingly-collaborative nature of science these days. Or that it shouldn’t exist at all, that in a better world that money would go to support grad students, or to a worthy charity, or whatever. My own view is that (i) the prize exists, (ii) there’s no way to make it not exist or go to very different sorts of people than it’s historically gone to. So the thing to do is either not nominate anyone (if you feel like you have better ways to spend the time required to write a nomination letter), or else nominate an outstanding still-active senior researcher. But your mileage may vary.