Why there should be more science Nobel prizes and laureates - And why proportionate credit should be awarded to institutions
The four science Nobel prizes (physics, chemistry, medicine/physiology and economics) have performed extremely well as a method of recognizing the highest level of achievement. The prizes exist primarily to honour individuals but also have a very important function in science generally. In particular, the institutions and nations which have educated, nurtured or supported many Nobel laureates can be identified as elite in world science. However, the limited range of subjects and a maximum of 12 laureates per year mean that many major scientific achievements remain un-recognized; and relatively few universities can gather sufficient Nobel-credits to enable a precise estimate of their different levels of quality. I advocate that the Nobel committee should expand the number of Nobel laureates and Prize categories as a service to world science. (1) There is a large surplus of high quality prize candidates deserving of recognition. (2) There has been a vast expansion of research with a proliferation of major sub-disciplines in the existing categories. (3) Especially, the massive growth of the bio-medical sciences has created a shortage of Nobel recognition in this area. (4) Whole new fields of major science have emerged. I therefore suggest that the maximum of three laureates per year should always be awarded in the categories of physics, chemistry and economics, even when these prizes are for diverse and un-related achievements; that the number of laureates in the 'biology' category of physiology or medicine should be increased to six or preferably nine per year; and that two new Prize categories should be introduced to recognize achievements in mathematics and computing science. Together, these measures could increase the science laureates from a maximum of 12 to a minimum of 24, and increase the range of scientific coverage. In future, the Nobel committee should also officially allocate proportionate credit to institutions for each laureate, and a historical task force could also award institutional credit for past prizes.
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