Nobel winners 'unlikely to include Higgs'

There will be no Nobel Prize this year connected to the apparent discovery of the fabled Higgs boson particle, according to a citation analyst with a history of successfully predicting winners.

October 6, 2012

Every year David Pendlebury, a citation analyst at Thomson Reuters, makes three predictions for Nobel Prizes in the categories of physiology or medicine, economic sciences, physics and chemistry.

All of last year's winners had been previously been tipped by Mr Pendlebury.

His method is to search Thomson Reuters' Web of Science database for highly cited papers. He then examines whether the authors were involved in initiating the area of research in question. He also considers whether the research areas are likely to be recognised by the Nobel Committee by considering issues such as their topicality and how they relate to other prizes awarded.

Since the announcement in July that a subatomic particle with properties similar to those predicted for the Higgs boson - popularly known as the God particle - had been detected at the Cern particle physics laboratory, speculation has been rife that the person after whom the particle is named - Peter Higgs, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Edinburgh - would be rewarded with this year's Nobel Prize for physics.

However, Mr Pendlebury pointed out it was premature to claim the Higgs boson had been "identified definitively". He also noted that the Nobel committee had historically been "conservative" in recognising breakthrough discoveries, with the average time between a discovery and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in physics standing at around 25 years.

Mr Pendlebury also observed that nominations for this year's prizes needed to be made by February - before the Cern announcement. He suggested the Nobel Committee would also need time to determine who else beside Professor Higgs should be credited with the discovery.

Nobel rules only allow three people to share one award, but Mr Pendlebury said six researchers could reasonably claim a share of the credit for the prediction of the Higgs boson - although one had already died.

Of the 21 people Mr Pendlebury has tipped for prizes this year, 13 work at US universities. UK and Japanese universities have three representatives each, while Canada has two (see attachment).

Mr Pendlebury's aim in making the predictions is to show that citations, which he calls "formalised repayments of intellectual debts" can, "when counted and analysed in quantity, serve as another, complementary form of peer review and identify excellence in research".

The first of this year's Nobel Prizes will be announced on Monday.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

The UK-based researchers tipped by Mr Pendlebury this year are:

• Graham Hutchings, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Cardiff. Tipped for the chemistry prize alongside Masatake Haruta, adjunct professor of applied chemistry at Tokyo Metropolitan University, for their independent "foundational discoveries of catalysis by gold".

• Sir Anthony Atkinson, a research fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. Tipped in economic sciences "for studies of income inequality and contributions to welfare state and public sector economics".

• Leigh Canham, honorary professor in the University of Birmingham's School of Physics and Astronomy. Tipped in the physics category "for discovery of photoluminescence in porous silicon".

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