The Mahathir Science Award (MSA) is positioned as the world’s most prestigious science award for tropical sciences, and bestowed on any scientists, institution or organization worldwide in recognition of contributions and innovations towards solving problems in the tropics through science and technology. The categories for the award are Tropical Agriculture, Tropical Architecture and Engineering, Tropical Medicine, and Tropical Natural Resources. It is awarded to the most deserving based on merit. As such, this extends beyond the boundaries of Malaysia in order to encourage excellence in tropical science that will accord direct benefits to countries in the tropics and indirectly to the global community.
In 2005, the ''ASM Award for Scientific Excellence in Honour of Tun Dr Mahathir'' was renamed as the Mahathir Science Award. In 2010, the Mahathir Science Award Foundation was set up to manage and oversee this prestigious award, maintaining its relationship with the Academy of Sciences, Malaysia (ASM). It is hoped that through this award, a new benchmark will be set for tropical sciences, and the profile of science in Malaysia and the tropics will rise to greater heights.