Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Indian nominators for Nobel Prize letting invitations rot

Indian institutes, academics and scientists, invited to nominate Indians for the Nobel Prize, are "letting invitations rot in their drawers". The usually secretive Nobel Committee, which decides the coveted prizes, has told this to The Times of India (TOI), India's leading daily newspaper.

Sources in the Committee told TOI for instance this year not a single Indian nomination was received for the Nobel Prize for Medicine. In other categories like economics, physics and chemistry, just 10% invitations sent to Indian institutes or scholars seeking nominations were responded to.

Interestingly, most of their responses were nominations for non-resident Indians. "Ever year, around 5,000 nomination forms are sent out globally to individuals and institutes in 220 countries. The response rate from India is abysmally low,'' Nobel Committee for Chemistry Chairman Sven Lidin told TOI in an exclusive interview.

He said the response rate among individuals asked to nominate is about 30% while among institutes it is as low as 10%. "It is not just the case with nominations for physics, medicine and chemistry but also economics. It is a serious worry for us.''

Lidin said Indian universities do not take the nominations seriously. "In some cases, they aren't even aware of breakthrough work being conducted by individuals scientists or groups and hence don't know whom to nominate,'' said Lidin, who is visiting India to look for nominators.

He said they are never sure that they were reaching the right people to nominate. "In some cases, say for example, an institute director isn't well versed with chemistry as a subject because his specialization has been physics and hence he does not nominate when asked to do so for a Nobel in Chemistry.''

Lidin said the Nobel Committee is now travelling extensively across the world to search for the best people and institutes to be asked to nominate. "Quest for nomination is a big responsibility for us. Science in India and China is incredibly strong and has a very long academic tradition. But the number of Nobel winners is very low."

Lidin said institutes with Nobel laureates are usually very good with nominations. "That is why universities in the UK, the US, Germany and France nominate large number of scientists and end up winning the most prestigious prize more often.''

Nominations to the Nobel Prize can be made only through invitation. The Nobel Committee sends out invitation letters to individuals qualified to nominate --- former laureates, scholars, academics and higher education institutes and universities in every country. It bases its assessment on nominations received before a particular date.

The Committee then assesses the candidates' work and prepares a short list, which is later reviewed by permanent advisers specially recruited for their knowledge of specific candidates. Around October every year, the Committee chooses Laureates through a majority vote.

Source: The Times of India, January 1, 2014

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