The Nobels start without favorites and with criticism for the lack of award-winning women

  • The week begins with the award, this Monday, of the Medicine and Physiology award

Everything is ready for him Nobel Prize week kick-off: the delivery of the most important scientific awards of the year. This Monday, October 3, around 11:30 in the morning, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. On Tuesday the 4th, more or less around the same time, it will be time to find out who are the winners of the physics award and on Wednesday the 5th it will be time to talk about chemistry. The delivery of all these awards will be broadcast live through the organization’s website.

This year, Nobel week starts with no clear favorites. At least in the scientific sphere. Just a year ago, on the eve of the awards ceremony, there were many rumors in scientific forums about a possible award for vaccines against covid-19 or, at least, for any of the scientific advances that had changed the course of the coronavirus pandemic. But despite the frenzy for an award for the “science against covid-19“, the 2021 awards highlighted jobs that have nothing to do with the pandemic. In this sense, as several scientists involved in the process later reflected, the Nobel Prize winners opted to reward more established discoveries.

In the Medicine categorythe Nobel went to researchers David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for his discovery of receptors that regulate touch and temperature (an area of ​​study that, by the way, was inspired by experiments with chillies). In the area of ​​Physics, the works of Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann y Giorgio Parisi on “the science to understand the progress of the climate crisis” and other complex systems. In Chemistry, the award went to researchers David MacMillan y Benjamin List for “the art of creating organic molecules”.

The delivery of the 2021 Nobel Prizes aroused great joy among the experts in each of the outstanding disciplines but, in turn, also generated the occasional anger in the scientific community. For example, one more year criticism abounded for the lack of women among the awardees. In Medicine, for example, of the 224 people awarded throughout the history of these awards, only 12 were women. In Physics, among the 218 winners there are only four researchers. And in Chemistry, of the 185 outstanding professionals, there are only seven scientists.

The pools of the Nobel 2022

This year, the Nobel pools are not too unanimous. There are voices that point, for example, to neurological research that has made it possible to decipher the mechanism behind diseases such as Parkinson’s or dementia. Or the incredible work of the Human Genome Project, which this year has succeeded in reconstructing the most comprehensive atlas to date of the genes that determine our health and our disease. There are also those who, with some hope, again point to vaccines against covid-19 (and the development of mRNA technology) as candidates for the Nobel.

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The reality is that the list of nominees and finalists is secret and kept under lock and key until the last moment. The winners, in fact, find out about their prize just as the announcement is made public. And the final count of candidates remains under summary secrecy for fifty years. So, except surprises, the Anticipation for the Nobel Prizes will continue until the end.

Yes, there is some other clue about the candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize. This year, as announced by the organizers of the contest, the names of the British journalist specializing in the natural world are ringing David Attenboroughthe World Health Organization and the disidente bielorrusa Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. They are also among the candidates for the peace award Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and the Government of National Unity of Burma.

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