Nobel Prizes: US dominates predictions

US-based scientists and economists dominate a list of Nobel Prize predictions derived from their high citation counts

October 4, 2014

Every year David Pendlebury, a citation analyst at Thomson Reuters, predicts three potential prizes in physics, chemistry, economics and physiology or medicine based on the tipped winners’ citations counts and responsibility for founding a new field of research likely to be recognised by the Nobel Committee.

Mr Pendlebury has successfully predicted 35 winners since 2002 – although the prizes were not necessarily won in the year he predicted them (see table below). Last year eight of the 11 awardees had been previously tipped.

Included in this year’s list of “Thomson Reuters citation laureates” are 17 academics from US universities, including six from the University of California and three specifically from the University of California, Berkeley.

Only one academic at a UK institution is named on the list: James Scott, director of research in the University of Cambridge’s department of physics, who is predicted to share the physics prize for “pioneering research on ferroelectric memory devices”.

Other countries with representatives on the list include Canada, Germany, Australia, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. The latter’s representative is Charles Kresge, chief technology officer of oil company Saudi Aramco, who is tipped to share a prize for the design of functional mesoporous materials (materials with tiny pores used for a range of applications ), which he developed while at the US’s Mobil Research and Development Corporation.

Among the prizes Mr Pendlebury correctly predicted last year was the physics prize for Peter Higgs and François Englert for the much-feted discovery of the Higgs-Boson.

“One didn’t need citation analysis to correctly forecast [their prize], but we did use citation counts to the different key papers of 1964 to decide which of all the authors to name,” Mr Pendlebury said. “Citations to the papers showed most credit went to Higgs and Englert - with his colleague, Robert Brout, who died in 2011.”

This year’s tips include:

  • In physiology or medicine, the University of California San Francisco’s David Julius, for elucidating the molecular workings of how nerves process the sensation of pain
  • In physics, the University of California, Berkeley’s Peidong Yang for pioneering light-generating nanowires, used for data storage and optical computing
  • In chemistry, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Ching Tang and the Kateeva corporation’s Steven Van Slyke for inventing organic light emitting diodes, which are widely used in smartphones
  • In economics, New York University’s William Baumol and Israel Kirzner for the “advancement of the study of entrepreneurism”.

The first of this year’s prizes - the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine - will be announced on Monday, 6 October.

Nobel prize predictions, 2002-2014

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