Go back

Government advisers take prize for championing science

Anthony Fauci and Salim Abdool Karim awarded Maddox Prize for their pandemic work

Two of the world’s most prominent government advisers have been honoured for their work defending science in the United States and South Africa in a year of unprecedented attacks and scrutiny.

At an online award ceremony on 14 December, Anthony Fauci and Salim Abdool Karim were jointly awarded this year’s John Maddox Prize “for standing up for science during the coronavirus pandemic”. The prize is given annually by the charity Sense about Science and the journal Nature to someone deemed to have both defended and explained science.

Fauci has been at the forefront of the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both as an adviser to government and as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This has seen him publicly attacked and denigrated, not least by US president Donald Trump, who has often seemed to ignore Fauci’s advice on wearing masks and the benefits—or lack thereof—of touted treatments for Covid-19.

Karim is an infectious diseases epidemiologist and director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa. He has spearheaded that country’s response both to Covid-19 and the AIDS disaster that proceeded it.

‘Difference between life and death’

Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of Nature, said: “As many are confronted with confusing, contradictory and sometimes even false information, leaders who are able to convey the important messages clearly, can literally mean the difference between life and death. It is our pleasure to work with Sense about Science to recognise the roles that Anthony Fauci and Salim Abdool Karim have played in this pandemic and also that of the Aids crisis in the 1980s.”

Fauci made no mention of Trump in his acceptance speech, although he noted issues this year with the promotion of drugs “that don’t work” and the neglect of mask wearing.

Asked who should win an ‘anti-Maddox’ prize for the year, Karim told Research Professional News: “We have our fair share of villains who push science aside and are clearly anti-science in almost all countries. We also have scientists with their own vested interests or agendas, who are not true to science but use their position and title to punt their political positions. I do not think it is appropriate to name anyone in particular.”