Nobel and other Prizes

[op-ed snap] It’s time to update the Nobel prizesop-ed snap

  1. Theme:A case for expanding the number of fields eligible for the Nobel Prize.
  2. Background: Nobel prizes were the brainchild of Alfred B. Nobel (a Swedish industrialist best known for inventing dynamite) to annually reward persons for contributions in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.
  3. Arguments for including more fields: Discoveries in newer fields like ecology, geology and climate science are increasingly critical for addressing today’s most pressing problems. A similar evolution was recognized with the 1968 establishment of a Nobel-calibre prize in economics.
  4. The Nobels’ narrow focus creates a two-tiered scientific universe: wherein only select fields have access to a uniquely powerful publicity mechanism, prestige, power and wealth that the Nobels bestow.
  5. Much of today’s most exciting and important science resides at the borders of traditional disciplines or in ones that don’t have a dedicated prize.
  6. Arguments against: The Nobel disciplines are still the “purest” sciences, and as such deserve extra recognition.
  7. Previous attempts to include more fields: In 2009, 10 prominent scientists and engineers, including a Nobel laureate, wrote an open letter asking the foundation to recognize more areas of science. The Nobel Foundation responded, in essence, by saying the committees that made the awards “have been reasonably successful up till now in tracing major developments of modern civilization”.

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