The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced the largest transformational gift in AAAS’s history, the Mani L. Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award established by Mani Lal Bhaumik is an Indian American physicist and a bestselling author.
The $11.4 million committment to the organization will support a $250,000 annual cash prize for up to three scientists whose foundational research and activities best exemplify the Science Breakthrough of the Year, published in Science each December.
“The international award will help the science most poised to change the world have its maximum impact,” said Sudip S. Parikh, Ph.D., chief executive officer at AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “It has the power to propel discovery and advance innovation society needs.”
Recognizing the most significant developments in scientific research is a central philosophy for donor Mani L. Bhaumik, Ph.D. — a physicist with myriad contributions to the development of high-powered lasers — as well as for AAAS and the Science family of journals.
Science’s 2021 Breakthrough of the Year, for example, honored a solution to a challenge that had perplexed scientists for 50 years: how to predict the shape a string of amino acids will fold into as it becomes a working protein. In two papers published simultaneously in Nature and Science in 2021, researchers showed how this could be done using artificial intelligence-driven software. Moving forward, groundbreaking achievements like this will receive further recognition at the individual level through the Mani L. Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award — the largest of any scientific society.
“My humble advice to the potential winners of the award would be for them to realize that science is a very hard taskmaster and demands dedication with unremitting strenuous work for success,” said Bhaumik. “Fortunately, the ecstasy of revealing the secrets of nature makes the arduous work feel like fun.”
The cash prize builds upon the well-established Science Breakthrough of the Year, the journal’s choice of the top research advance of the year. After the news and editorial staff of Science select and publish the Breakthrough, a committee of approximately ten individuals — convened by the Science journals’ editor-in-chief — will select up to three winners whose work best exemplifies the related research field to receive the Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award.
Starting in 2023, the selection committee will convene in January of each year. The individual winner or winners will be announced before the end of March.
“This award gives the committee latitude with respect to who they select, which is an exciting feature compared to other committees of this award type,” said Holden Thorp, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the Science journals. “Usually, the individuals are selected first, but here a key research advance is selected, and then a committee decides who the standout contributors are.”
The scientist or scientists who receive the award will be invited to present at a public symposium about their award-winning contributions.
“Scientists are at the forefront of tackling the biggest, most complex challenges of our day,” said Gilda A. Barabino, Ph.D., AAAS president-elect. “This generous award goes a long way toward ensuring that our most impactful scientists will have the resources they need to pursue groundbreaking research.” Barabino is also president of Olin College of Engineering.