Thanks for dying!

Apr 13 2012 Published by under Society for Neuroscience, Staring in Disbelief

The new SfN award, named for the legendary Particia Goldman-Rakic, honors dead people.

That's right, the site emphasizes that it is a posthumous award for scientists who were fabulous, supported women in science, were active in SfN or other academic organizations....all that good stuff.

Plus, dead. Not living. A sort of ex-scientist.
This is nuts.

Honor people while they are still alive. If someone dies tragically early, sure make the award posthumously. But let's put our focus on recognizing people while they can still receive the accolades.

13 responses so far

  • Bashir says:

    I thought I'd misread it. Odd to say the least.

    Allowing an award to be posthumous? OK. Requiring it??

  • Dr Becca says:

    In light of who the award's named for, I could see it being an award specifically for people who died tragically early. But my guess is that finding someone every year who fit all the above criteria and died tragically early would be pretty tough.

    Still, I agree with you--generally speaking, awards should be for alive people.

  • anon says:

    I can understand naming a building or a street or something (an honorary lecture) after a dead person. But giving an award to a dead person doesn't make a bit of fucking sense. I would think that such an honor is represented with a plaque, certificate, or even just as a line on a CV, which would be useful to a living person. They might as well convert them to mormons while they're at it. PG-R deserves better.

  • zb says:

    I agree. But, let's try to think of a reason why this might be rational? perhaps to make sure that the work of people who are dead is not forgotten? I have noticed a tendency for old work to be lost in the annals of time as people concentrate on citing people who might actually review their manuscripts (and cite them). So, potentially, this award could work to remind people about the work of those who are no longer around to advocate for their own work?

    I might be able to see such an argument because I've noticed an annoying tendency of people repeating experiments that seem to have rolled out of people's memory, especially in fields like cognitive science, where techniques have been evolving, but ideas remain, and where interdisciplinary training might mean that even veteran researchers are not up to speed on the history of all of the disciplines their work touches on.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    I can almost guarantee you this award isn't going to be reaching back for people who died in the 60s....

  • Alex says:

    OTOH, this could be exactly the sort of incentive structure that we need to address the problem of deadwood.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Umm..bad Alex. Bad.

  • drugmonkey says:

    ....but you raise a good point.

    Academic societies need a prize for "retired on time and got the fuck out of the way"

  • DJMH says:

    I can't wait to win one of these!!

  • Mordecai says:

    What if this evolved into a "second tier" of awards, though, for established professors to compete for... allowing/encouraging/requiring them to exit the first tier as soon as they can afford to, which then go to people who can use the accolades to become established?

    That is, if you no longer need things to put on your CV, you can start competing for things to put on your tombstone. Wouldn't this address an existing problem?

  • Alex says:

    Academic societies need a prize for "retired on time and got the fuck out of the way"

    This to the eleventy power.

  • Reminds me of the (perhaps apocryphal) response by J. Edward Day, a US Postmaster in the 1960s in response to a suggestion by some politician or celebrity who wanted to be on a stamp: "We cannot put the face of a person on a stamp unless said person is deceased. My suggestion, therefore, is that you drop dead." Although I think these days even the post office honors living people...

  • Pascale says:

    Best part about a post-humous award is that the recipient cannot make a two-hour acceptance speech.

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