With the current hype around prize winners, we may not forget about the much larger number of scientists who have been never honored or even lost their live for doing good science.
The Nobel Prize violates a central paradigm of science that false opinions are always corrected, see also the summary at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize_controversies.
So this is not so much about the recent scandal around the secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, Urban Lendahl, who resigned due to the Macchiarini scandal.
Or about the recent Astra Zeneca money behind the nomination of Harald zur Hausen. I am thinking here about cruel treatments for example
1927 “for the discovery of the therapeutic value of malaria inoculation in the treatment of dementia paralytica” to Julius Wagner-Jauregg
1949 to Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz “for the discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy (lobotomy) in certain psychoses”.
The refrain is a familiar one that there are no isolated geniuses but (Atlantic), it
reinforces a flawed reward system in science in which the winner takes all, and the contributions of the many are neglected by disproportionate attention to the contributions of a few.
To be a Nobel candidate may be predictable if I am reading correctly a paper on archiv.org. The “traditional” impact factor is largely useless
as it ignores the importance of citing papers: a citation from an obscure paper is given the same weight as a citation from a ground-breaking and highly cited work
It may be, however, that the (PageRank derived) CiteRank is holding some promises – giving weight by whom you are cited. In this case, even a 100 citation paper can lead to a Nobel prize.
But is it predictable to get a Nobel prize candidate? Certainly not. I agree with a news feature about a science manager who
recently read Outliers, a book in which Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that
exceptional people get where they are partly because of the exceptional circumstances in which they find themselves, rather than through exceptional ability or sheer hard work.
Anders Sandberg attended a seminar in Stockholm and has written an interesting report. I have doubts if we have so much need for heroes. There are so many prizes that you can apply for – an impressive list of prizes and honours that you can find at the CVs of some laureates: Albert Lasker Award, Paul Ehrlich Prize, and many, many more. Google returns 60.100.000 hits if you search for “science prize” and there is now even the European database of science prizes that will find a prize for every scientist. Yea, yea.