100 Women: Where Are The Female Nobel Prize Winners?

100 Women: Where Are The Female Nobel Prize Winners?

The 2017 Nobel season is still under way, with the prizes for peace, and economics yet to be announced.

But for the sciences, this year's work is done and many in the scientific community are noticing some similarities about the winners.

In the case of physics, the winning discovery had already been making global headlines.

The prize was shared by three researchers for the groundbreaking 2015 detection of gravitational waves.

For chemistry, the committee recognised the less publicised work of developing a new microscopy technique, which the Nobel committee said had "moved biochemistry into a new era".

For physiology or medicine, a team who uncovered a better understanding our body clocks was honoured.

However, the science community was quick to notice that this year's laureates all had one thing in common.

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Benjamin Saunders@BenSaunders

If anything these drawings are just emphasizing the old white dude uniformity of the winners.

End of Twitter post by @BenSaunders

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Ed Yong?@edyong209

Well that was fun. Tune in next year to see who'll win the next Nobel Prizes for White Men in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology/Medicine.

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Raychelle Burks?@DrRubidium

Replying to @David_Dobbs

My new book "How to win a Nobel Prize in science" will be very short

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100 women BBC season logo

What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. In 2017, we're challenging them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today - the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport.

With your help, they'll be coming up with real-life solutions and we want you to get involved with your ideas. Find us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and use #100Women

With prizes often awarded years, or even decades, after the discoveries that merit them, it was an opportunity for celebration for the teams involved.

The Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, said the three physicists honoured by the Nobel Committee were "outstanding individuals whose contributions were distinctive and complementary".

Yet despite being excited by the wider recognition of this groundbreaking research, it is clear that many scientists feel a change is necessary.

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Becky Douglas@BeckyDouglas

Casually updating my CV to include "worked on Nobel Prize winning research." https://twitter.com/NobelPrize/status/915152750887014400 …

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Bryan Gaensler?@SciBry

Replying to @SciBry

I am thrilled for this year's winners. Totally deserved. It's not the winners who are problematic. It's the prize process behind it all.

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Divya M.@Divya_M_P

“Diversify the Nobel or abandon it?” is an interesting question among women/BIPOC scientists, and p boring at large since nothing changes

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Only 17 women have been awarded a Nobel prize in the three science categories since the awards' inception in 1901. There have been no black science laureates.

Of the 206 physics laureates recognised, two have been women - Marie Curie (1903) and Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963).

There are more men named Robert on the list of previous chemistry winners than there are female laureates.

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Alexis Verger@Alexis_Verger

Replying to @Alexis_Verger

It does not look good in physics, does it ? Once every 60 years !! Next one in 2023 ?

Some researchers on Twitter took issue with the current criteria for awarding the Nobel. Each prize cannot be shared by more than three people, laureates are not nominated posthumously, and nomination lists are kept confidential for 50 years.

Vera Rubin, Lise Meitner and Jocelyn Bell Burnell were all cited as worthy potential recipients of a prize in previous years.

Rubin's death in 2016 means that her work on dark matter, believed to occupy most of the mass in the universe, is now ineligible for recognition.

Meitner's long-term collaborator Otto Hahn was awarded the chemistry prize for nuclear fission in 1944, which she did not share, despite being nominated in previous and subsequent years.

Burnell and Chien-Shiung Wu, both physicists, also saw their colleagues win for research they had worked on, but were not included.

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Mika McKinnon?@mikamckinnon

Replying to @mikamckinnon

Of 2,658 nominees for the Nobel Prize in physics 1901-1965, only 93 were for women or teams including women. Thread: https://twitter.com/mikamckinnon/status/821233526888484864 …

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Rod Van Meter@rdviii

As much as I'm thrilled by the LIGO prize, my heart aches and indignation burns for Vera Rubin. She should have won years ago, now will not.

 · Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa

End of Twitter post by @rdviii

Given the lifelong prestige of becoming a Nobel laureate, the prize is a significant boost to any researcher's career. The acclaim can legitimise a life's work, and yield international notoriety in a field where funding is highly competitive.

Yet for women in physics and chemistry, there are few forerunners to aspire to. Medicine does only slightly better, with 12 female laureates.

Other prizes such as literature often fare better in terms of gender equality, with previous winners including Alice Munroe, Doris Lessing and Toni Morrison.

This year the literature prize has gone to a Japanese-British male author - Kazuo Ishiguro.

While equality initiatives like Athena Swan and organisations like Stemettes work to promote and encourage women, the Nobels remain the most prominent glass ceiling in the world of science.

As part of this year's 100 Women Challenge, a team in Silicon Valley, where women hold just one in 10 senior positions, will be looking at ways to tackle the glass ceiling.

They reveal their results on Friday 6 October.


Source link: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41513261


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