Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Golden Goose Award and my chat with Congressman Jim Cooper

"We all want our kids to do well in school. We don't want America to lag behind, so often parents are the ones who are making fun of science and scientists. It should be one of the most honorable professions. It's discovering truth." - Congressman Jim Cooper
Image by Ismael Roldan
As I sat myself into an exit row seat for the flight from Nashville, I looked at the incoming passengers and saw a familiar face sit across the aisle. It took me a few minutes, but I realized it was Congressman Jim Cooper. Since 2003, Congressman Cooper has represented Tennessee's 5th congressional district (Nashville) in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Democratic Party and the Blue Dog Coalition. Service runs though this man's DNA. He is the son of former governor Prentice Cooper and interestingly, he served as a professor at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.

Cooper has recently gotten public and media attention for proposing rational ideas for an irrational congress:
  • No budget, no pay for congress (video)
  • Bipartisan meetings on a regular basis (video)
  • The Golden Goose Award (more on this below)
He is a gentle warrior that is trying to do good in a broken system that for example, as he said to me today "we cant even pass a highway bill". As we landed, I thanked him for his service and introduced myself. I expressed the broken system of science in America, which he was deeply aware of.

After we talked a bit, Cooper brought up the Golden Goose Award - a brainchild of his and a direct mockery of the idea of the Golden Fleece Award, which was used by the late Senator William Proxmire to target so-called wasteful spending of federally funded research. Years in the making for him, the goal of the Golden Goose Award is to flip the Fleece Award on its head to highlight tax-payer funded research to the public and the good that comes of it. What a simple, yet amazing idea! About ten research projects/people will be awarded (which equates to being named, no monetary value of course) in September. He has bipartisan support, which is a triumph in and of itself in Congress. The organizations supporting the award include: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Breakthrough Institute, Progressive Policy Institute, The Science Coalition and the Task Force on American Innovation. Im not sure if the deadline has passed, but you can check by requesting a nomination form by emailing info@goldengooseaward.org.

This idea came from Cooper because he was “offended that politicians were making fun of science for their own gain.” It is perhaps the single most refreshing idea on science that I've heard coming from Congress in the last decade. Hat tip to Cooper. You can follow him on Twitter at @repjimcooper or an e-newsletter.

Finally, a shot out to Twitter - I only knew Jim Cooper's face so well because I follow him on Twitter. Meeting Jim Cooper today and sharing the information about the Golden Goose Award would not have happened without Twitter.  It can change a lot in your world for the better. And thanks to those tweeters who got me hooked. You know who you are.

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