Since 1901, mankind has developed a particular fascination with the Nobel prizes, and justifiably so. The honour immortalises the awardees and guarantees recognition for a lifetime. Despite this fact, it has always engendered controversies from critics and commoners alike. Why is that so?

The Nobel prizes are awarded by the Swedish Academy and Norwegian Nobel Committee, as mentioned by Alfred Nobel in his will. Nobel gave away 94% of his property or 31 million Swedish Kronor towards the establishment of the five Nobel prizes- in medicine or physiology, chemistry, physics, literature, and peace to recognise individuals who contribute remarkably in these respective fields. This pursuit has however been thwarted by criticisms and controversies over time. From awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel prize for literature in 2016 to the Nobel peace prize to Barack Obama, the prizes have innocuously been marred by sceptics and its credibility questioned repeatedly. After awarding Barack Obama in 2009, the committee responsible for delegating this award (Norwegian Nobel committee) came under fire for this decision. People from around the world cited lack of insight by the Norwegian Committee and demanded a rollback of the honour. The following are a few issues that have been raised multiple times since the establishment of the prizes-

1. The Nobel prizes in the sciences can recognize only three people at maximum: This plays a major role in harbouring disinterest among organisations which work collaboratively towards finding discoveries. In today’s time, thousands of people are involved in a single invention or discovery, but only three people can be bestowed with the honor. Hence, organisations cannot be awarded the Nobel prize in sciences, thus derecognising the effort of multiple other authors worthy of this distinction.

2. Nobel prizes cannot be awarded posthumously: The average age of a Nobel laureate hovers around 59, and it’s a well known fact that most laureates are awarded in their latter years. The prizes are supposed to be awarded for achievement in the year preceding the awards, but that doesn’t always happen in the case of science Nobels. A lot of times, the prize is awarded years after so that the research is not debunked by another discovery. Many researchers have missed out despite their great contributions as the prizes aren’t given posthumously. (The prizes have been awarded posthumously only twice, in rare cases.)

3. Nobel prizes don’t recognise the social sciences: Considering that the Nobel prize in economics isn’t technically a Nobel and is awarded in the memory of Alfred Nobel by Sveriges Riksbank, critics have argued for similar prizes in other fields of social sciences like anthropology, psychology, and sociology.

4. Gender, race, and why they matter: Out of the 200 Nobel laureates that have been awarded for Physics, only two have been women (1% of the total). Only one woman has won the Nobel in economics since it was first given in 1969, and similar patterns have been observed in the Nobel prize for literature and chemistry where the representation of women is not indicative of their contributions in the fields. Racial bias has been another bone of contention, as white Europeans and Americans continue to form a majority of the winners’ lot.

Another year of the Nobel week gone by, the world is doe-eyed to witness how the winners would continue their legacy. Even though the world’s most prestigious awards have garnered praise, sparked courage, and evoked hope in many there are a few controversies that dampen the shine of the prestigious medals.


Feature Image Credits: TUM

Vijeata Balani
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If Mr. Dinesh Singh were a Pokémon, he would surely be from the same family as the cumbersome and exponentially lazy Slowpoke. Like his far cuter counterpart, the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University took a while to wake up and realize that he was digging his own grave by not paying heed to any of the furious questions hurtled at him by the agitated youth studying in the capital. With issues such as safety, accommodation, and elections hanging by an incredibly thin thread, Dinesh Singh finally took matters into his own, highly slippery hands and addressed the students on 1st September.

If replying to tricky questions was an art, none could have been better than our beloved Vice Chancellor. Every controversial question was tackled with a diplomatic smile and a not-so-subtle subject change. Since safety was of utmost importance, girls were promised a hostel with free travel facilities as well as the installation of CCTV’s all around the campus. Looks like programmes such as Big Boss are not enough to satisfy the TRP-hungry show producers and their equally bored audience. Next in line is a peek into the lives of the young and frustrated DU Students.

With some great ideas in the pipeline, such as mobile canteens and easy access to Wi-Fi, it is quite a shame that this pipe is similar to Delhi’s sewage line constructed during the colonial times; untouched and never to be modified. Dinesh Singh was obviously daydreaming when he announced that disabled-friendly modes of transport would be provided in the form of DTCs and Metros, forgetting that the college campus itself would still be a nightmare for those facing difficulties. He also seems to have taken Dalrymple’s description of Delhi as the city of Djinns quite seriously, with his strong belief in an invisible hostel that has already been magically constructed for girls in South Campus, in a location that shows it is still clearly under-construction.

If I were bestowed with the honor of being made the Vice Chancellor of DU, I would dye my hair and get a face-lift to make sure my dynamic audience has its eyes glued on me instead of snoring at the back. Then the words that come out all airbrushed from my lips might as well be ignored. While mentioning the proposition that the football teams in DU would be getting a special training in New Zealand, I wouldn’t add the extra advantage being offered to the women’s soccer team being sent free of cost. This hidden information exists for the sole reason that, brilliant though the opportunity sounds, Dinesh Singh conveniently forgot to mention that the facilities for women’s soccer are relatively new and still under development in many colleges. So unless there was a secret agreement between New Zealand and India regarding the exchange of their excess population of sheep in return for female textile workers disguised in soccer cleats and sweat absorbing shorts, It is hard to see how this would boost the morale of rising sport stars without motivating them to train first.

My humble request to our Vice Chancellor would be for him to invest in an expensive hearing aid, so that his ears don’t fail him when questions regarding various important issues are shot at him. However, if I were in his place I would definitely arm myself with a shield, just in case one well-aimed arrow leaves me struggling to form coherent sentences.