San Francisco, California

The Absurdity of the Nobel Prizes in Science

Ed Yong:

Defenders of the prize note that the Nobel committee is bound to the conditions laid out in Alfred Nobel’s will—the document that established the awards. But the will calls for the recognition of “the person”—singular—who has made the important discovery in their respective field “during the preceding year.” The Nobel committee, by contrast, recognizes up to three people, for work that could have been done decades prior. If they are already bending the original rules, why not go further? As the editors of Scientific American suggested in 2012, why not award the scientific prizes to teams and organizations, just like the Peace Prize can be?

The price of reform is low, and the cost of avoiding it is high.

[...] In some ways, the prizes are not about who has made the most important contributions, but who has best survived the hazardous labyrinth of academia.

I particularly like what Ed has to say about how the prize should be awarded to teams of people instead of the mythical genius archetype.