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John Maddox Prize - Guest post by Professor Anthony David

Professor Anthony David, who nominated John Maddox Prize winner Profesor Sir Simon Wessely in 2012, writes about the Prize.

The John Maddox Prize was inaugurated in 2012. There was no precedent. It was not possible to say what sort of person tended to win the prize and what effect it tended to have on their careers and standing. I fully imagined that this prize, recognising as it does, standing up for science in a sustained and consistent way against obstacles and for little personal reward other than the benefits to society and science as a whole, would represent the pinnacle of a person’s career to be followed by a period of gradual decline in celebrity and gentle well-earned obscurity.  

So, what happened next? In 2013, Professor Wessely was knighted for his services to military healthcare and psychological medicine. In 2014 he was elected President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It’s been a fairly busy couple of years. Sir Simon is rarely out of the papers and the news standing up as he does for psychiatry as a discipline and the welfare of people with mental illness and for a generally more educated and tolerant society with respect to mental health.  The area of research that led Sir Simon to clash with a minority of patient activists in the contentious area of chronic fatigue/ME remains fraught but with steady progress being made in research which combines physical and psychological approaches to treatment. Sir Simon’s prominence shows that his willingness to put his head above the parapet, which earned him the John Maddox Prize, is an enduring trait and not a flash in the pan.

What happened next has therefore been, for Simon, the antithesis of a quiet retreat from public discourse. No time for leisurely reflection on a life of achievement but a full-on engagement and upward progression. Still, I would contend that, amidst all the recent honours and awards and those yet to come, the John Maddox Prize, for what it represents and says about the recipient, does remain the pinnacle of any glittering career.

Nominations for the 2015 John Maddox Prize for standing up for science are now open and close on 20 August 2015.

Read Prof Sir Simon Wessely's post about winning the Maddox Prize.