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Only old, white men: The Nobel Prize has a problem with women

2019-10-09T17:17:26.513Z

The same procedure as last year: The Nobel prizes were again awarded only older, white men. It will not be until 2069 that women will be nominated.




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The Nobel Committee in Stockholm have done it again: On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Medicine went to three middle-aged men. On Tuesday, at the award of the Physics Prize, it was similar. And at the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, of course, three older men won again. Award winner John Goodenough, aged 97, even set a new record. No Nobel laureate was older at the time of the announcement.

The criticism of these decisions: Once again no woman. And again, only researchers from renowned institutions in North America and Europe are honored. The only exception is Chemistry Prize winner Akira Yoshino, he conducts research in Japan.

Whether there would have been any alternatives for award winners and whether there would have been any women among the researchers proposed by the community of science: we will not know it until 50 years have passed since the archives file.

Alfred Nobel stated in his will that prizes should be awarded to the most worthy of their profession, regardless of their nationality. Almost every year, it shows that the practice is different. The US is in the number of winners by a clear margin number one. The gender ratio has changed little in the last 100 years. Only five percent of the Laureate of the Science Awards Medicine, Physics and Chemistry are women.

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In physics, last year's Donna Strickland was the first woman in 55 years and the third ever. How is this extreme imbalance? Is this a consequence of the so-called Matilda effect, which describes systematic discrimination of women in science?

Although other internationally significant science awards, such as the Gairdner Award in Canada and the Lasker Award in the US, show similar statistics, the Nobel Prize in particular has become a symbol of seemingly irreconcilable gender inequality in the sciences.

Editors of the leading medical journal "The Lancet" therefore called on the scientific institutions to recognize their own role in the continuation of inequalities. They also demanded that the price committees should make their selection processes more transparent.

The Nobel Foundation's archive provides information on the decision-making processes involved in awarding the prize. Our reading of the reports on candidates for the Nobel Prize for Medicine, which had been shortlisted decades ago, revealed that once upon a time many very old boys networks operated at the heart of the noble system. The inequality of opportunity begins with the fact that the award-worthy researchers were not even nominated (more on the topic read here).

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Göran Hansson, current secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Chemistry and Physics Prizes, recently spoke in a "Nature" interview about a variety of efforts and advances in the gender issue. However, the documents will not be available until 50 years after the expiration of the still-valid period for the nominations and expert reports. So who was allowed to nominate this year, which regions of the world were preferred and who was available? Were women included and what arguments were used for their excellence? Later generations will not know it until 2069 at the earliest.

It is important to make the nominations in the Nobel Committee directly transparent. This would mean sharing the scientific community, because perhaps it is they who, year after year, offer to the committees a very diverse selection of candidates in terms of gender and background. So encrusted structures can be recognized and finally broken up.

Open the archives! Only then can the criticism of the caricature of the "old men from Stockholm for old white men from Europe and North America" ​​become superfluous.

Source: spiegel

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