And the 2014 Golden Goose Award winners are...

Men whose theories led to FCC spectrum auctions honored

Credit: Golden Goose Awards

You might think upon first hearing of the Golden Goose Awards that they are snarky honors doled out for some sort of notable failures or another. But in fact, these awards given since 2012 are quite the opposite.

The awards highlight "the often unexpected or serendipitous nature of basic scientific research by honoring federally funded researchers whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd or obscure but which has produced important discoveries that have benefitted society in significant ways."

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So, they're a notch or two above the cheeky Ig Nobels that honor improbable research and really a counter to the old Golden Fleece Awards, bestowed by the late Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) to highlight examples of what he considered to be wasteful spending, often federally funded.

The reason I mention the Golden Goose Awards here is that 2014 awardees have had a big impact on the network industry. Past winners have mainly been in other areas of science, such as materials and medicine.

auction design team Golden Goose Awards

2014 Golden Goose Awardees Preston McAfee, Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson

The latest awardees to be announced are Robert Wilson, Paul Milgrom and R. Preston McAfee, whose basic research on game theory and auctions paved the way for the FCC to hold spectrum license auctions beginning in 1994.  87 such auctions have been held, raising $60 billion for the U.S. treasury and sparking creation of new wireless technology. Though some argue now that spectrum licenses have outlived their usefulness and give giant carriers an unfair advantage.

Earlier this year, University of California at San Diego Professor Larry Smarr was also named as a Golden Goose Award winner. His claim to fame: As a physicist studying black hole collisions in the 1980s at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Smarr pushed for a huge boost in federal support for U.S. computing power that led to development of the pre-cursor to Web browsers.  

Award recipients are selected by a panel of scientists and university research leaders, and are supported by a group of scientific and technology organizations, including the IEEE and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Golden Goose Awards will be formally issued at a ceremony on Sept. 18 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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