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And the 2021 Nobel Prize goes to the men… so far

All eight winners of the 2021 Nobel Prizes in Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics literature is male, re-igniting a recurring debate about diversity in highly coveted awards, particularly in science.

Ardem Patpoutian and David Julius received the Nobel Prize in Medicine on Monday. Giorgio Parisi, Soukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann won the physics gong for their work on understanding chaotic environments, while Benjamin List and David Macmillan received chemistry praise for developing a tool for molecule formation.

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrajak GurnahiThe 72-year-old on Wednesday became only the second writer of color in sub-Suharan Africa to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The last black recipient of the award was Toni Morrison in 1993.

The Nobel Assembly and Nobel Committee secretary Thomas Perlman announced the winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden. (TT News Agency/Jessica Go via Reuters)

Anne-Marie Morehead, head of the Swedish Association of Female Academics, said, “Abdulrajak Gurna meets at least one criterion of a writer from a non-traditional cultural circle – a non-European with a colonial background, but he is not a woman. ” .

“There are two prizes left, the Peace Prize and the Economy Prize. The (Norwegian) Nobel Committee… still has a chance to honor a woman.”

The opposition leaders of exiled Belarus Svyatlana Sichanovskaya and Greta Thunberg are at least two women seen in controversy over the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded in Norway on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is headed by a woman and most of the members are women. Like the previous committee: headed by a woman and with a majority of women on it.

In recent years there has been a real push to not award the prize only to white people from North America and Western Europe, as was the case in earlier decades.

There has never been one black recipient of prizes for medicine, chemistry and physics, compared to a dozen black Peace Prize winners in Nobel’s history, explains Professor Winston Morgan, a toxicologist at the University of East London who has looked at representation Award as part of his research on inequality in science.

“In terms of the difference between the world population and the conquerors — one of the biggest differences is gender,” Morgan said. “The number of women awardees is really small.”

Scientists of both genders have already taken to social media to address the lack of women identified so far this year.

GenderAvengers, a non-profit group dedicated to advancing women’s voices in public discourse, said that the awards were “like a terrifying mystery where you know the end halfway through the book. 4 out of 6 categories.” Announced and a woman appears in it, @NobelPrize. Is the 2021 Nobel Prize story written by men? (Spoiler: Women are doing amazing things too).”

Nobel Prize, Nobel Laureate Professor David WC Macmillan of Princeton University, who shares the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Benjamin List for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis, of the laureates Eric Francis Wischaus, Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr., Duncan Haldane, Angus Deaton, Christopher Sims celebrate together. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

Some expressed dismay, including Eli Murray, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.
That this year’s awards do not include the contributions of Caitlin Carico and Kizmekia Corbett, lead scientists in the development of mRNA vaccines that have changed the course of the pandemic.

However, Nobel watchers said it was entirely likely that Cariko and Corbett would be recognized in the coming years. He said that the committee tried to reward the recipients after some time.

“The issue for the Nobel Prize is that it has a norm and tradition and it’s hard for them to break away from it,” Morgan said, adding that the committee would respond to scientific innovation during the pandemic in three or four years.

He said that if you look at the general trajectory of Nobel laureates, the number of women scientists was increasing as much as men in Japan and China.

“We are not seeing the same trajectory for black scientists. It worries me more,” he said. “You need to ask whether there are enough black scientists in universities and whether they are being supported.”

Asked why there are so few black Nobel laureates for literature, Gurna told Reuters the world is changing.

Jesper Hegström, president of the Nobel Assembly, which awarded the prize in Physiology or Medicine, said there was no simple explanation for the lack of female laureates, but it reflected the under-representation of women in science.

“Historically, women have been under-represented in science, so the farther you look back, the fewer women candidates are,” she said.

Abdulrazak Gurnah, Nobel Prize, Nobel Laureate Tanzanian novelist Abdulrajak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, during an interview with Reuters at his home in Canterbury, Britain. (Reuters/Henry Nichols)

Hegstrom declined to say whether gender played a role in the committee’s selection process.

“I’m not at liberty to give you any details on this, but in general terms, I can say that scientific ability is the deciding factor,” he said.

However, critics point to the formation of scientific selection committees. Of the 50 professors on the drug selection committee, only 25 percent are women.

The Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences consists of six members, one of whom is a woman, and two co-members, both men. The Chemistry Committee consists of six members, all men, and two co-opted members, both women.

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