Nobel prizes in year marked by pandemic
Published : Thursday, 1 October, 2020 at 11:06 PM Count : 288
Press freedom groups and climate activist Greta Thunberg are making Nobel Peace Prize buzz ahead of next week’s award announcements, in a pandemic year that has highlighted the importance of science and research.
The Nobel prizes for literature and peace, to be announced on October 8 and 9 respectively, tend to garner the most public interest, given occasionally to well-known people or organisations.
But the prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry and economics are usually awarded to research teams toiling for decades far from the limelight, perhaps stars in their fields but rarely known to the public.
This year, the new coronavirus has brought science centre-stage.
“The pandemic is a big crisis for mankind, but it illustrates how important science is,” Nobel Foundation head Lars Heikensten said.
No prizes are expected to be awarded this year for work directly linked to the virus, as Nobel prizewinning research usually takes many years to be verified.
The virus could however influence the various committees that select the laureates.
“The pandemic has changed us as thinking beings for the foreseeable future,” Bjorn Wiman, culture editor at Sweden’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter, told AFP.
For the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, “it’s clear the pandemic will have some kind of effect on the reflections of the (Academy’s) Nobel committee members. They’re just people too”.
“Other things perhaps seem more important now than six months ago,” Wiman said.