Are awards and prizes in science a good thing or do they reward a tiny subpopulation of individuals at the expense of the community? 

On the whole I believe that the giving of awards is a positive thing for the scientific world. They draw attention to individuals that make a disproportionate positive difference. 

In fact, I feel so strongly about this that in my field of stem cells I personally fund an annual award called the Stem Cell Person of the Year Award. This is now the third year that I have been doing this award. In the first two years of the award, the winner received not only recognition, but also a $1,000 cash prize that I fund out of my own pocket. This year I've boosted that prize to $2,000. 

This is a lot of money to me personally, but I feel so strongly that we need to recognize positive risk-takers and outside-the-box thinkers in my field that it is worth it me. 

The first winner of the award in 2012 was patient advocate Roman Reed, while last year in 2013 the winner was Dr. Elena Cattaneo who is a scientist and was also appointed a national Senator in Italy. Notably, Cattaneo along with two colleagues received the Public Service Award the following year from the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), the largest scientific stem cell organization in the world. 

Here is a video of me explaining a couple years back why I'm doing this award and the type of candidate I'm looking for to be the winner of the award.

The way this Award process works is I have an open period of nominations and then I do an Internet poll whereby readers of my blog can vote for their favorite candidate. The top 12 vote getters are finalists from which I choose the winner. 

The 2014 Stem Cell Person of the Year Award process is ongoing now with voting onthe nominees to end at midnight on October 22.  You can read about the candidates here. They are an amazing group of people making game-changing differences, often taking risks themselves to help others.

You can also vote here on your favorite of these candidates.

Also, I'd be curious of your thoughts more generally on a scientist who personally funds an award in their field.