What are the Golden Goose Awards?

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The Golden Goose Award is a United States award established in 2012 that officially recognizes scientists whose federally funded basic research has led to innovations or inventions which have a significant impact on humanity or society. The results have been significant health and economic benefits. The award has bi-partisan support in Congress and is sponsored by a number of notable organizations and legislators.

The burgeoning research has often had odd-sounding names. Since the 1970s such titles were the subject of ridicule by the late Senator William Proxmire and his monthly Golden Fleece Awards. For example, with his first Golden Fleece Award in March 1975, Senator Proxmire directly ridiculed a National Science Foundation study on why people fall in love.

Another study entitled “Acoustic Trauma in the Guinea Pig Cochlea” has resulted in a treatment for hearing loss in infants. Other research funded by U.S. federal agencies have led to widely used technologies such as laser technology, the internet, fiber optics, the Global Positioning System, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer touch screens and lithium-ion batteries. Recipients receive the award in a ceremony during the fall each year on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

In the face of pressure to cut wasteful spending in the U.S. federal budget, along with the need to underscore the significance of basic research, and as a counter to Proxmire’s awards, this award was created. Awardees include Nobel Prize winners. The purpose of the awards is to “demonstrate the human and economic benefits of federally funded research by highlighting examples of seemingly obscure or unusual studies that have led to major breakthroughs and have had a significant impact on society”.The purpose of the award has also been described as follows:

“Such innovation has been critically important to economic growth in the United States, and will be even more so as global scientific research becomes increasingly competitive”.

“Ever since the days of the Golden Fleece Awards, spearheaded by the late Senator William Proxmire, some policymakers have delighted in turning quirky or unusual research titles into a punch line”.

“The United States may now risk falling behind in scientific discoveries as other countries increase their science funding. We need to get serious about science”.


Year Award Title Project Awardees
2012 Coralline Ceramics Bone Grafts from Coral Jon Weber, Eugene White, Rodney White, Della Roy
Green Fluorescent Protein Medical Advances from Jellyfish Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien
The Maser The Maser Charles Townes
2013 Diabetes Medication Diabetes Medication Developed from Gila Monster Venom John Eng
Thermus aquaticus Thermus aquaticus Thomas D. Brock, Hudson Freeze
Market Design Market Design Alvin E. Roth, David Gale, Lloyd Shapley
2014 Black Holes and Supercomputing Black Holes and Supercomputing Larry Smarr
Auction Design Auction Design Preston McAfee, Paul Milgrom, Robert Wilson
Rat and Infant Message Rat Massage Research Helps Premature Babies Thrive Tiffany Field, Gary Evoniuk, Cynthia Kuhn, Saul Schanberg
2015 Trick or Treat: The Marshmallow Test The Marshmallow Test Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, Philip Peake
Out of Sight: Neuroplasticitiy and Vision Ocular Dominance Columns Torsten Wiesel, David Hubel
Of Maps and Men Hypsographic Demography Joel E. Cohen, Christopher Small
2016 A Tale of Two Studies: The Adolescent Health Story The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health Peter Bearman, Barbara Entwisle, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Ronald Rindfuss, Richard Udry
The Sex Life of the Screw Worm Fly The Sex Life of the Screw Worm Fly Edward F. Knipling, Raymond C. Bushland