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The 2013 Physics Nobel prize went to François Englebert and Peter Higgs, for their discovery of the Higgs boson. I was wondering why the CERN, as an institution, or the ATLAS collaboration, are not co-awarded the price with Englebert and Higgs. Apparently, “collaborations” cannot be awarded the Nobel prize. Is it a tradition, or something written in the rules of the Nobel foundation? Has there ever been an exception?

  • Why should they? I mean almost any scientist works in some company and why should this company also get co-awarded? It is true, that without the LHC, they would not have been able to discover the Higgs boson, but it is still an achievement of only a little team out of the more than 3.000 employees of CERN. – 2ndkauboy Oct 8 '13 at 10:59
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    CERN was mentioned as the firs possible collaboration to get a prize. "First" in this sense excludes the Peace prize which has been given to "groups" since quite a while. There are no formalities that would prevent such group-awards. – Peter Jansson Oct 8 '13 at 11:02
  • Because when Alfred Nobel wrote his will to setup the prizes most science was done by individuals or very small groups where only recognizing the leaders was reasonable; not massive teams of hundreds or thousands. Despite there being an institution or organization clause that would be reasonable for a lot of recent work it's never been used because: TRADITION! – Dan Neely Oct 8 '13 at 14:25
  • Isn't the IPCC (2007 winner) a collaboration? – mankoff Oct 8 '13 at 14:58
  • @mankoff Yes and awarded the Peace prize – Peter Jansson Oct 8 '13 at 15:43
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In paragraph 4 of the statutes, it restricts the price to be only awarded to two works and to a maximum of 3 individuals. But it also says, that it can be awarded to an institution or organization. Which has been done with the Nobel Peace Prizes to the EU.

A prize amount may be equally divided between two works, each of which is considered to merit a prize. If a work that is being rewarded has been produced by two or three persons, the prize shall be awarded to them jointly. In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.

[…]

Each prize-awarding body shall be competent to decide whether the prize it is entitled to award may be conferred upon an institution or association.

  • More precisely, it is up to each prize committee to decide if organizations can receive prizes. So a collaboration needs to be a self-standing organization to be eligible, it would seem. – aeismail Oct 8 '13 at 11:33
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    So, if it's up to each committee, has the physics committee ever taken an “official” position on the matter? Have collaborations/institutions ever been awarded the prize? – F'x Oct 8 '13 at 11:51
  • As far as I can see, only the Nobel Peace Prizes has been awarded multiple times to an organization, but none of the other Nobel Prizes. – 2ndkauboy Oct 8 '13 at 12:36
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Apparently, there might have been an internal dispute behind Nobel physics delay, on the possibility of including the CERN as a recipient. However, according to this article, some members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science hint that it was not possible with the current rules:

  • “It was discussed a lot. But we must follow the (Nobel’s) will as I see it. There is nothing in it about institutions so in that way the decision was dead simple,” said Hans Ryde, professor of physics at Lund University.

  • The chairman of the prize committee, Lars Brink, defended the decision, saying it was a “theoretical prize”.

  • “Research is changing. If you go back a hundred years it was about a single person doing experiments and making discoveries. And today it’s 6,000 or so people – a sort of collegial research situation,” said Academy member Per Carlson, professor of elementary particle physics at the Royal Institute of Technology.

    “I don’t know if the Academy will open up the possibility to give the prize to organizations in the future – it’s a possibility,” he suggested. “In my view it should be possible.”

So even though a Nobel Prize can be awarded to an organization, it seems that the Royal Swedish Academy of Science does not consider this possibility yet.

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