Here's the description of research interests of Prof. X:
[Prof. X's] research focuses on deviance and social problems. His current research concerns awards, prizes, and honors in American culture.
That juicy quote is from the web page of Prof. Joel Best whose recent paper is entitled: Prize Proliferation: A Social Worlds Perspective. This paper addresses this issue: "Prize proliferation is a common theme within contemporary culture. How can we account for this pattern?"
The paper is fun, and not too long. If you want an even shorter version, go read SocProf's summary.
From Best's article filled with all kinds of interesting insights, I learned a new phrase: symbolic inflation. This is how it's defined by Orrin Klapp:
Inflation occurs when the supply of tokens in a social market place outstrips the supply of values for which tokens stand. . . . if an army wished to give out more medals as an incentive to heroism, and the material from which medals were made was cheap, it would be easy to greatly increase the supply of tokens. But since heroism is a rare thing, and calls for extraordinary courage, the supply of that value is inelastic, so increasing the number of medals given out will not “purchase” more heroism but only cheapen the medals, . . . that is, inflate them.