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Monday, October 3, 2016

The Nobel Prize becoming a show business?


Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor, MERCATORNET


The Nobel Prize season kicks off today with the announcement of the 2016 prize for medicine. Some 273 scientists have been nominated for this one prize, according to @NobelPrize, which also informs us that the average age of medicine laureates has climbed from 58 to 67 over the past century -- a fact which contributes to the view of the the prizes as an affair of "old white men".

That is an image the Nobel organisations are anxious to change. It's not easy because the achievements behinds the prizes -- especially in the scientific fields -- are usually highly technical and difficult to explain. (The sorts of things that cause men, and a few women, to grow old and white while they work at them for decades.)

But in an article today Australian researcher Lukasz Swiatek describes how the organisers are reaching out to non-academic audiences and in particular youth. The Peace Prize Concert, for example, is going to be bigger and louder than ever this year. Not everyone is happy with this trend -- not just because it lacks gravitas but because of the commercial interests it involves. Is the Nobel enterprise on the right track? Tell us what you think.

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The most vocal critic of the push to celeb status for the Nobel Prize has been the Norwegian jurist and peace activist Fredrik Heffermehl. Writing about the Peace Prize in particular, he has argued that the new communication activities diminish the “character, integrity, and independence” of the prize.

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