The Nobel Prize Committee is no longer just concerned with the merits of your work — instead they are explicitly calling on nominators to “consider diversity in gender, geography and topic for the 2019 prizes.”
Of the 605 people who have won Nobel Prizes in scientific discipline, only 18 have been women.
“If a woman wins the Nobel Prize in Physics next week, she will be the first to do so in more than 50 years. Over the same period, just one woman has won in chemistry,” Elizabeth Gibney pointed out in her article for Nature.
Instead of encouraging more women to pursue science, or accepting that women perhaps just often prefer other fields — the Nobel Committee is nudging nominators to fix the perceived problems.
“We don’t work in a vacuum. We need the scientific community to see the women scientists, and to nominate those who have made outstanding contributions,” Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences told Nature.
Hansson claims that the call for diversity isn’t about lowering standards, but rather making sure that women aren’t overlooked.
The gentle nudge isn’t “radical” enough for some.
“The smallest possible nudge can make a difference, so I praise them for that,” said Curt Rice, president of Oslo Metropolitan University and head of Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research.
Rice isn’t willing to settle for that, however, and is suggesting that nominators be forced to put forward equal numbers of men and women.
“Or the awarding bodies could, for a single year, decide to give all the prizes to women,” Rice also suggested.
Rice’s ridiculous ideas contradict Alfred Nobel’s will.
Nobel’s will stated:
“The interest is to be divided into five equal parts and distributed as follows: one part to the person who made the most important discovery or invention in the field of physics; one part to the person who made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who, in the field of literature, produced the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction; and one part to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”
The will made no mention of gender, race, or geographic equality. He wanted the best — period.
Lowering the standards or changing the game feels an awful lot like a soft bigotry of low expectations.