This week a high-profile group of scientists had a letter published in New Scientist that calls for the Nobel prizes for science to be revamped because the awards are too narrow to reflect the breadth of modern science. The Nobel Prize winners will be announced next week.

A few choice quotes:

Many of these fields, as well as these challenges, do not fit well into the remit of the prizes that he created. If the World Health Organization were to eradicate malaria, for example, the achievement might not qualify for any of the existing prizes.

Fundamental breakthroughs in areas such as neuroscience and ecology, some of which will eventually help tackle the threats mentioned above, are also going unrecognised.

We appreciate that the foundation is bound by Nobel’s will. But we also note that the foundation has shown flexibility in the past, the creation of the economics prize in 1968 being one example.

So what are they proposing?

1. The creation of Nobel prizes for Global Environment and Public Health. The new prizes would focus on applications of science rather than basic research. As with As with the existing peace prize, organisations would be eligible.

2. The expansion of, or an addition to, the prize for physiology or medicine to recognise contributions from across the life sciences.

The scientists who signed the letter

Larry Brilliant

President, Skoll Urgent Threats Fund and adviser, Google.org

Rodney Brooks

Panasonic Professor of Robotics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and

founder of iRobot Corp and Heartland Robotics

Peter Diamandis

Chairman and CEO, X Prize Foundation

Tim Hunt

Cell Cycle Control Laboratory, Cancer Research UK

David King

Director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

Lynn Margulis

Distinguished University Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Steven Pinker

Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor, Harvard University

Peter Raven

Director, Missouri Botanical Garden

Frans de Waal

Director, Living Links Center and C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology, Emory


E.O. Wilson

Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University

Technorati verificiation code: 7tmr9xuazw