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Cosmides Wins NIH Pioneer Award
By Patricia Kobor
Leda Cosmides, PhD, Professor of Psychology, and co-chair of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara, was one of thirteen scientists honored with Pioneer Awards at a symposium at the National Institutes of Health in late September. Elias Zerhouni, MD, Director of NIH, presented the award.
According to NIH, "the Pioneer Award supports exceptionally creative scientists who take innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research. The award gives recipients the intellectual freedom to pursue groundbreaking new research directions that could have significant impact if successful but that, due to their novelty or other factors, also have inherently high risks of failure." The generous awards consist of $500,000 per year for five years.
Dr. Cosmides applies evolutionary psychology to discover the design of the human mind and brain. She and her collaborator, John Tooby, will use the award to develop evolutionary and computational approaches to the study of motivation and developmental neuroscience. She was an APA Early Career Contribution award winner, and a finalist for the 2004 NIH Pioneer awards.
Multiple layers of review led to the selection of the 2005 Pioneer Award recipients. From an original pool of 840 self-nominated scientists, a group of outside evaluators narrowed the field to 285. A second set of outside experts evaluated these applicants, focusing on their innovativeness and creativity, the importance of the scientific problem to be addressed, and the likelihood that the project's success would have a high impact on biomedical research. The evaluators also considered the appropriateness of the project for the Pioneer Award mechanism, including the requirement that it be distinct from other research by the investigator. These evaluators identified 20 scientists who were then interviewed at NIH by the third group of outside experts.