The 2019 Ig Nobel Awards have been handed out to the most unusual studies performed in science, and one of them found that surgeons performed better when they’re trained like dogs.
In case you didn't already know, the Ig Nobel awards are a bit of a spoof on the world-famous Nobel awards, but instead of getting a million bucks and a fancy statue, you get $10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars (which are virtually useless due to runaway inflation) and a somewhat less gold-plated statuette. Actually, it's a coffee cup.
But anyway, the award is still handled with some prestige. It's given out at Harvard University by real Nobel laureates who treat the recipients with the same grace as they themselves were treated. Albeit with more shouting, paper airplanes, and a little girl who loudly complains if the acceptance speech goes on for too long.
This year's award winners included an Italian researcher who discovered the cancer and heart disease-fighting properties of pizza (when made and consumed in Italy), a Japanese research team that measured the total amount of saliva produced by a group of 5-year-olds in a single day (a disturbingly large amount), and a joint Turkish/Swedish/German team that discovered which country's cash had the most dangerous bacteria (it was Romania, in case you were wondering).
Strangest of all might be an American research team that won the award for Medical Education. Karen Pryor, Theresa McKeon and Dr. I. Martin Levy published a paper in 2015 titled "Is Teaching Simple Surgical Skills Using an Operant Learning Program More Effective Than Teaching by Demonstration?” In it, the researchers used “operant learning”--also known as clicker trainer--to teach a group of orthopedic surgeons how to do their jobs.
“Traditionally, experienced surgeons will train the younger surgeons and they make it quite hard,” Pryor, an animal trainer, told the Associated Press. “With our method, they learned to use the tools with great confidence and calmness and turned them into calm, pleasant, serene people.”
The study was published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. For the full list of Ig Nobel Award recipients, head on over to the Improbable Research web page.