The Effect Of Prizes

The anonymous author who argued against the current regime of science prizes (The Scientist, October 17, page 9) makes an interesting case against it, but it is seriously incomplete and thus unscientific. There is no discussion of possible benefits from such a prize system, and nothing in it to show that the costs discussed are so horrendous that no conceivable benefits could outweigh them. The very observation that “science isn’t going to eliminate major prizes” itself sugge

Michael Shapiro
Dec 25, 1988

The anonymous author who argued against the current regime of science prizes (The Scientist, October 17, page 9) makes an interesting case against it, but it is seriously incomplete and thus unscientific. There is no discussion of possible benefits from such a prize system, and nothing in it to show that the costs discussed are so horrendous that no conceivable benefits could outweigh them. The very observation that “science isn’t going to eliminate major prizes” itself suggests an obvious line of inquiry, prizes would have limited survival value if they served no useful social purposes.

Consider the following possibilities: (a) The incentives from a given regime of prizes may encourage people to enter science and produce more scientific work product after entry. The total quantity and quality of scientific work may thus be greater than under a different system. (Is the work to be regarded as inferior because...

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