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John Maddox Prize - Guest post by Dr Thelma Lovick

Dr Thelma Lovick, who nominated John Maddox Prize winner Profesor David Nutt in 2013, writes about the Prize.

I forget how I heard about the John Maddox Prize. Probably an e-mail arrived one day and I was sufficiently intrigued to click on a link leading to the webpage explaining what the Prize was for. What I do remember is that, having read the criteria for the Prize, I knew immediately who the winner should be. David Nutt ticked all the boxes.

David Nutt was catapulted into the public eye in 2009 when he was publicly sacked from his position as Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). His misdemeanor had been to publish a rational, evidence-based report on the safety of recreational drugs, which did not fit with Government policy.

The resulting media storm led to him being pilloried in the sensationalist tabloid press. Miles of column and web-based inches appeared. Lesser individuals might have crumbled, but not David. The “humiliation” spurred him to fight back. He now gives freely of his time to provide the public with the information it needs to make informed decisions about drugs based on facts, rather than preconceived ideas about drug use based on moral and political opinions or social acceptability. Few are prepared to put their heads above the parapet in this manner; it has been no mean undertaking. David Nutt’s scientific integrity and courage in addressing misleading information about scientific or medical issues in the face of hefty opposition are to be applauded.

I was thrilled when he won the prize. I am also thrilled that such a prize exists. I hope that the award of this prize to David Nutt will inspire others to stand up for their own science. “The strongest man is he who stands alone” (Ibsen, Enemy of the People).

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

Read Prof David Nutt's post about winning the Maddox Prize.