Philanthropists who fund seven-figure cash awards to honor groundbreaking scientists would do more to advance science by plowing their money into the research itself, a physicist and cosmologist writes in The New Yorker.
Lawrence Krauss, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, says awards like the $1 million Kavli Prize and, particularly, the $3 million Breakthough Prize, focus too narrowly on subfields of physics and other disciplines, lack stated criteria for choosing winners, and mistake recognition, money, and glamour as motivators for scientific inquiry.
Mr. Krauss writes that he knows many of the winners of such prizes, and "I couldn’t be happier that their financial situations have improved." But he adds, "My advice to would-be billionaire prize-makers is simple: Set up independent foundations from which good young people and the institutions they are part of can receive support. This will allow more scientists to pursue careers that might otherwise be cut short due to the current, and unfortunate, lack of public funding."