Last week was another week full of controversy. It started early on with the debate between U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Those hoping to hear about their thoughts on scientific issues were disappointed, as there wasn’t much to keep us interested.
Throughout the campaign, we haven’t heard in detail about their opinions on science, and so I, for one, celebrated the efforts of a number of organizations (the American Chemical Society among them) that joined together to put forward a set of questions for the candidates (including Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein) to evaluate their positions on key problems facing the science community. If you haven’t read it yet, please do at cenm.ag/20questions. In particular, I found the answers on climate change quite revealing of the scientific literacy of the candidates.
Later in the week, the controversy continued as the predictions about winners of the Nobel Prizes started to come in. By the time you read this editorial, the medicine prize will have been announced, and it is likely that you may even know who received the physics and chemistry prizes. This year I’m at a loss: I’m a supporter of electron-transfer maestro Harry Gray from Caltech and molecular machinist Ben Feringa from the University of Groningen, so I would be very pleased if either of them got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but I don’t think it’ll happen. Other predicted winners are the individuals behind technologies such as Li-ion batteries and CRISPR, but the former feels too applied, and the latter may not make it because of patent disputes. But of course I may be wrong.
Whoever wins, the controversy doesn’t stop. If recent years are anything to go by, it’s quite the opposite. We’ll have days and days of who-should-have-won-it and I-wish-the-chemistry-Nobel-went-to-a-real-chemist. To prepare, you must check out our interactive Nobel database (cenm.ag/nobeldata) and map (cenm.ag/nobelsmap). But I must warn you: Both are extremely addictive.
Let me tell you about the database. Thousands of researchers have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since it was first awarded in 1901. Nobel’s chemistry committee keeps candidates secret for 50 years. So what did we do? We sifted through the first 50 years of nominees, classified the 1,987 nominations, and created a database that answers every question you could possibly have. For example, did you know that from 1901 to 1950, only seven women were nominated, a total of 32 times, and only two won?
If you are a fan of Facebook, you can access the information on the database from there using our Facebook bot. Go to m.me/cenews, and say “Hi” to get started.
We also created an interactive map of the world that shows the geographic distribution by birth, affiliation at the time of the award, and place of death of chemistry’s 171 Nobel winners. You can select subfields that will show only the winners from that category. And if you hover over a laureate’s map marker, you will see additional details about the person. The information you can extract is truly fascinating. Did you know that the University of California is the primary affiliation of the most laureates—13—or that the various institutes of the Max Planck Society come in second at 11? Or did you know that the average age of a chemistry Nobel winner is 58, while for the four female laureates it’s 52?
So brace yourselves for Nobel 2016 and all the controversy that ensues. We’ll be offering live coverage on our website. Check it out, and while you are there, enjoy getting lost in 50 years of Nobel history.