It's a favorite parlor game for science geeks: predicting who will win the Nobel Prizes.
For guidance, you can look to the winners of the Lasker Awards for medical research, or the Shaw Prizes for astronomy and life sciences. Recipients of the John Bates Clark Medal are considered front-runners for the economics prize. (If you want to know who probably won't win, peruse the list of Ig Nobel laureates.)
How do they get into that top tier? "Not only do Citation Laureates have stratospheric citation totals, they also typically write multiple high-impact reports, and do so over many years," writes David Pendlebury, a former Thomson Reuters manager who now consults with the firm on bibliometric analysis.
But that's just a starting point. The analysts then consider other metrics, such as citations per paper. Those with CPPs that are well above the average for their field get a close look. The candidates who make it this far are then vetted a little more subjectively, as the analysts consider whether the scientists' work is in a field the Nobel committees are likely to recognize, Pendlebury writes.
The Thomson Reuters team has an impressive track record – since they began making predictions in 2002, they've identified 27 people who went on to win a Nobel in a scientific field, including all nine winners in 2011. Looked at another way, the method has led the analysts to predict 15 of the 44 prizes handed out over the last 11 years.
Will they be right again this year? We won't know until the prizes are announced (the first winners will be named Oct. 7). In the meantime, here are the predictions, with three possible winners for each prize:
The first group of candidates made "fundamental discoveries concerning DNA methylation and gene expression." That's the mechanism that turns genes on and off so that cells can develop into specific tissues. The scientists in this group are Adrian Bird of the University of Edinburgh and Howard Cedar and Aharon Razin from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A second group might be recognized “for elucidating the molecular mechanisms and physiological function of autophagy,” the process the body uses to break down and destroy cells that are no longer useful. These winners would include Daniel Klionsky from the
A final contender in this category is Dr. Dennis Slamon, a
Nobel Prize in physics
One of the favorites in this category – and a likely emotional favorite for many people who have been following the search for the Higgs boson – is Peter Higgs, who is projected to be a co-winner with Francois Englert. The two men predicted the existence of the subatomic particle, which is thought to be associated with an energy field that imparts mass to particles. Experiments at the
Another contender in this category is a trio of scientists who have searched for – and found – planets orbiting other stars.
The third candidate for the physics prize is Hideo Hosono, director of the Materials Research Center for Element Strategy at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, "for his discovery of iron-based superconductors," according to the Thomson Reuters analysts.
Nobel Prize in chemistry
What’s trendier in science these days than nanotechnology? Almost nothing, except perhaps DNA. So it comes as little surprise that Thomson Reuters has named a trio of chemists for their work on DNA nanotechnology. This is a field that uses nucleic acids to build teeny-tiny structures and machines, not to encode genetic information. The scientists whose work might be honored are A. Paul Alivisatos from UC Berkeley, Chad Mirkin from
Another approach to building small substances is something called modular click chemistry. It involves taking smaller units and joining them together into bigger structures using a variety of chemical reactions. Valery Fokin and K. Barry Sharpless from the
How do we know which chemicals may cause cancer? By putting them in a lab dish with a particular strain of the
Nobel Prize in economic sciences
This award may be shared by three economists who study labor markets, the value of education, social programs like Medicaid, immigration and other aspects of microeconomics. Joshua Angrist of
If you’ve never studied economics, you might be surprised by the amount and complexity of the math involved. Sir David Hendry of
Someone from the
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