I only learned about John Maddox Prize when I heard that the first two winners had been selected. Nature describes the prize this way:
The prize rewards individuals who have promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, with an emphasis on those who have faced difficulty or opposition in doing so.
It’s an unusual prize – something made even more evident by the stories of Shi-min Fang and Simon Wessely, the first to receive the prize. Fang is primarily a science writer, while Wessely carried out scientific research. They share the acrimony and even threats which they have received for publishing their work.
I am sorry that this prize needs to exist. As I wrote earlier, when the attack on Mark Regnerus’ research was all over the news, science moves forward with more studies, not with suppression of ideas and findings. The scientific establishment has problems — difficulties getting funding for replication studies, for publishing results when a study finds no significant results, and more — but the overall direction is positive.
Many in the USA have applauded various political movements aimed at increasing “democracy” in nations around the world. We seem to be unaware that democracy is at risk when scientists can’t report – and then debate – their results.
I wish the winners of the John Maddox Prize well. And I hope to see the day when we don’t need the prize anymore.