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Sigma Xi Will Present First Gold Key Award at Annual Meeting

October 13, 2016

From Executive Director and CEO John C. Nemeth

It is the greatest of honors and such a pleasure for me to announce that the inaugural Gold Key Award, Sigma Xi’s highest accolade, will go to Norman R. Augustine. Selected by the Executive Committee and approved by the full Board of Directors, this award recognizes extraordinary achievement and contribution by a Sigma Xi member to the world of research professions encompassed by our Society. 

The official citation reads:
The Gold Key Award is presented to a member who has made extraordinary contributions to his or her profession and has fostered critical innovations to enhance the health of the research enterprise, to cultivate integrity in research, or to promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition.

Norman R. Augustine

Norm Augustine

Sigma Xi member Norman Augustine is considered a businessman in Washington, D.C., but he still speaks like the aerospace engineer he was at the beginning of his career. In his retirement, after serving as chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., he wants to dedicate “whatever runway” he has left to two areas that could help create jobs and improve national security. The key to both, he says, is strengthening K–12 education and increasing federal funding for basic research.

For K–12 education, Augustine wants to help young people prepare for careers in science and engineering. As lead director of the National Math and Science Initiative, he oversees efforts to get more high school students to take advanced placement courses to prepare them to be successful in college. He also founded the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education, which brings together business leaders in Maryland to support public K–12 schools in the state. 

When it comes to improving education, his sights don’t stop within America’s borders. Augustine knows that getting quality education oversees would help elevate the quality of life for people in other countries, who—in many areas of the world—do not enjoy the same quality of life as Americans. Equalizing this disparity would help reduce the threat of attacks on the United States, he said. Augustine learned firsthand how opportunities that come from education can help improve a person’s life. He was the first in his family to go to college, and he attended Princeton University with his education paid for by a university scholarship. He has gone on to become a trusted voice in Washington on science and national security issues by leading reports for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; chairing the National Academy of Engineering; and serving on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In terms of research, other countries have been prioritizing their research investments while federal funding for research in the United States has declined. Augustine, however, is an advocate for funding basic research because of the foundation it builds for creating jobs. He knows basic research is the key to developing solutions for issues such as producing energy, conserving the environment, and strengthening national security. 

Despite few scientists and engineers in Congress, Augustine sees a widespread understanding among political leaders that research helps create jobs. There is also the sentiment, however, that more research funding isn’t affordable. In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. government’s total budget for research and development was approximately 0.78 percent of the gross domestic product, down from its peak of more than 2 percent in the 1960s during the space race. In fiscal year 2015, the chunk of the total research and development budget allocated to basic research was approximately 0.20 percent of GDP. 

“People who say we can’t afford to increase the spending in research, I just dismiss that … the issue is one of priority,” Augustine said. 

In the meantime, the research enterprise can do more to help itself. Augustine thinks researchers should speak out more about the reasons their work is valuable and get non-researching allies to do the same. 

“One of the things we have to do is get more people who are the beneficiaries of research, which is almost everybody in this country, to speak out,” he said. 

Norman Augustine will accept the Gold Key Award at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting on November 12. He will also present a keynote lecture titled, “Do the Merits of Science Speak for Themselves?” Go to for the full interview with Augustine.