The Breakthrough Prizes are gaining recognition, but Wired writes that they also need to increase their diversity.
Billionaire Yuri Milner started the awards about six years ago and then teamed up with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and others to bring some glamor to basic science. Past award galas have featured the singer Lana Del Ray, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Diaz, and others in a black-tie, red-carpet affair in which prizes of $3 million are awarded. This year's winners include Ionis Pharmaceuticals' Frank Bennett and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Adrian Krainer, who developed a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy.
While Milner and others selected the first year's crop of winners, Wired notes that past winners now choose subsequent awardees. But it says that as most winners have been male and white, this has led to low diversity in award selection. The University of Dundee's Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who won the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her work on pulsars, tells Wired that more diverse nominees are needed. She is also donating her prize money toward PhD scholarships for students from underrepresented groups.
"It's not just women," she tells Wired. "I'd like to increase the diversity in general."