Brian Keating in Aeon:
Imagine the outcry if, at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the legendary United States swim team – Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer and Townley Haas – still obliterated the competition, coming first in the men’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay, but only Haas, Lochte and Dwyer received medals, with nothing, not even a silver, for Phelps. ‘Unfair!’ you’d cry. And you’d be right.
The Nobel committee seems not to recognise how collaborative science is today; their paradigm remains the lone genius, or a duet or troika at most. Year after year, they perform their arbitrary and often cruel calculus, leaving deserving physicists shivering in the pool without any medal to show for it. Even those few modern experimentalists who have won unshared Nobel prizes owe their success to numerous collaborators – especially in particle physics and astronomy, which require massive data sets and large teams to analyse them. No scientist gets to Stockholm alone.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, which was given to Peter Higgs and François Englert for the theoretical prediction of what was later called the Higgs boson, exemplifies four key problems in the selective awarding of the prize.