Unindicted co-conspirators — a way around Nobel's 3-person limit?

This is the time of year the selection process begins for next fall’s Nobel Prizes.  Unlike Literature and Peace, most fields of science have become increasingly collaborative over the last century, often forcing Nobel Committees to unduly truncate the list of recipients or neglect major discoveries involving more than three discoverers, the maximum Nobel’s will allows.  A possible escape from this predicament  would  be to choose three official  laureates randomly from a larger set of names, then publish the entire set, along with the fact that the official winners had been chosen randomly from it.   The money of course would go to the three official winners, but public awareness that they were no more worthy than the others might induce them to share it.  A further refinement would be to use weighted probabilities, allowing credit to be allocated unequally, with a similar incentive for the winners to share money and credit according to the published weights, not the actual results, of the selection process.

If the Nobel Foundation’s lawyers could successfully argue that such randomization was consistent with Nobel’s will, the Prizes would better reflect the collaborative nature of modern science, at the same time lessening unproductive competition among  scientists to make it into the top three.

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4 Responses to Unindicted co-conspirators — a way around Nobel's 3-person limit?

  1. Roger says:

    Are you looking for a Higgs compromise? I don’t think that will make anyone happy. Another alternative is to wait for deaths until there are only three left.

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  2. Wim van Dam says:

    Already the Nobel Committee sometimes uses a non-uniform distribution p to indicate who got what part of the pie. The 2011 Physics awards, for example, had p(Saul Perlmutter) = 1/2, p(Brian Schmidt) = p(Adam Riess) =1/4. So, with H_a the Renyi entropy, they are currently using an upper bound of H_0(p) = 3. And, yes, we all know that H_1 is much better behaved.

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  3. John Sidles says:

    In effect, haven’t NIH Study Sections already adopted the randomized-allocation method? For the simple reason that it is infeasible to reliably assess proposal merit with a resolution comparable to present funding rates.

    The NIH Roadmap now emphasizes the urgent need for “transformation” in biomedical research in large measure because everyone acknowledges that the present system is progressively failing.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    What a coincidence, I was worrying about this, too! My last paper has four authors, so one of us is going to have to be left out. (Hint to the committee: #2.)

    #futurenobellaureateproblems

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