Robert Axelrod, a political scientist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, is one of 10 researchers receiving a National Medal of Science this year, the White House announced earlier this month. The award is considered the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing science.
Administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation, the medal was established by Congress in 1959 as a presidential award to be given to individuals “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical or engineering sciences.” In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences. Axelrod, a former president of the American Political Science Association, is the only social scientist being honored this year.
Among his honors and awards are membership in the National Academy of Sciences, a 1987 MacArthur “genius grant,” the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences for an outstanding contribution to science, and the National Academy of Sciences Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War.
A committee of 12 scientists and engineers is appointed by the president to evaluate the nominees for the science medal which has been awarded to 487 distinguished scientists and engineers.
Axelrod is known for his work on the evolution of cooperation and its application across disciplines, from the social sciences to biology and computer science. In August he and collaborator Stephanie Forrest, a computer scientist, received a $99,000 grant to develop integrated approaches to cyber conflict, combining historical analysis, technical research, strategic analysis and computational modeling.
According to the NSF, “This project focuses on three areas where U.S. policy could provide additional leadership in cyberspace: publication of zero-day exploits; labeling of neutral infrastructure, such as networks associated with hospitals or religious sites, and shared norms to protect neutral cyberspaces; and sustainment of Internet interoperability, which allows Internet users on different networks to communicate directly without interference. The findings may benefit national security by giving policymakers a way of assessing the costs and benefits of publishing exploits or patches. This project injects a fresh and timely voice into debates about the cyberagenda, suggesting concrete measures for minimizing the likelihood and impacts of conflict among state actors.”
Nine of those receiving science medals this year had been granted NSF support at some point in their research careers.