It is wonderful news that British professor, John O’Keefe has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the brain’s ‘GPS’ system.
For science. For families coping with neurological disease. And for my institution, University College London (UCL), which now hosts my NIHR post as National Director.
Good on John O’Keefe also for taking the opportunity of his prize to fire off some broadsides at the Government about immigration policy and animal research. That’s called getting your gong and then banging it very, very loudly! If only more recipients did the same.
The Nobel Prize is an accolade bestowed on the deserving by an independent committee.
But, nonetheless, yesterday’s news about O’Keefe caused me to reflect on how good science is at rewarding and recognising those among its number who have pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Or similar. In early summer you may have heard that the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Medals, Fellowships, ribbons and plain old cash prizes are used to applaud and incentivise colleagues. Being outside the ‘club’ can make us cynical about these things. On occasion we have every right to be. But whoever began the practice knew a thing or two about the importance of celebration.
So where’s our Nobel Prize for Public Involvement in Science then?
Well, there’s no point kicking and screaming in a tantrum. First, we ourselves need to do a better job at celebrating and rewarding the work of our own. Awards, rewards, recognition and more, are in short supply across our movement. We do too little to praise our peers. And if we are not going too why should others?
It may be an unpopular view and an odd one for an old (but soft) leftie, that I have never really had an issue with the honours system, Royalty or the suchlike. Yes, they can be distasteful. But in the same way that a supporting wall is in my house, I fear more what might happen if it disappears than what it stands for.
So perhaps we should institute some national awards for public involvement in research. But let’s start today – and without wishing to sound too much like a self-help manual – by funding cause to cebrate our cause and those who champion alongside us. Say:
‘Colleague, can I just say how much I admire what you do to make public involvement happen. It’s inspiring to work alongside you. Thank you for what you do.’
I’d like to use those words by way of introducing this new INVOLVE report of the event they hosted in July bringing together over 100 public involvement leads from across NIHR. But also as a form of recognition for everything that they are doing to champion public involvement.
Yes, that was a roundabout way just to send everyone a link to a report wasn’t it! :))
Have a good day.