Science success should be celebrated like sporting success

November 29, 2010

If someone had won hundreds of thousands of dollars for sporting achievement a few days ago they’d now be household names. But how many know who Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, Dr Robin Dykstra,  Dr Mark Hunter, Dr Andrew Coy and Dr Craig Eccles are?

The first three are from Victoria University, the other two are from Magritek and together they won the Prime Minister’s Science prize worth $500,000.

Scientists who have turned world-leading research into a multi-million dollar technology company have won the top award at the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, New Zealand’s most prestigious and valuable science awards.

Prime Minister John Key today announced the prizes, which have total prize money of $1 million, at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Clubrooms in Auckland.

The top award, the Prime Minister’s Science Prize, went to the Magnetic Resonance Innovation team of Victoria University of Wellington and spin-off company Magritek.

Magnetic resonance uses radio waves and magnetic fields to find out information about molecules.  Discoveries by the team are widely used in medicine and science, and have applications in agriculture and industry.

Magritek are selling products based on magnetic resonance around the world, with the company rapidly growing and generating millions in export revenues.

Others recognised with an award were:

  • Bailey Lovett, 17, of James Hargest College in Invercargill who won the Prime Minister’s 2010 Future Scientist Prize and received $50,000 towards her university studies.
  •  Steve Martin, Howick College, won the Prime Minister’s 2010 Science Teacher Prize. He received $50,000 and his school received  $100,000.
  • Dr Donna Rose Addis, University of Auckland won the Prime Minister’s 2010 MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist and received $200,000, with $150,000 to be used for research.
  •  Dr Cornel de Ronde, GNS Science won the Prime Minister’s 2010Science Media Communications Prize. He received $100,000, half of which of which will be used to develop his science communication skills.

In announcing the awards the PM said the prizes recognise the winners and highlight the importance of science to this country.

They do, but these and other top scientists and their achievements still don’t get the publicity and public appreciation they deserve. Nor do they achieve the hero status accorded to their sporting equivalents.

They should.

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