Nobel Prizes: Average Time from Discovery to Award is Increasing

Source: Physics Today, May 2014

After 1985 about 15% of physics, 18% of chemistry, and 9% of medicine prizes were awarded within 10 years of the corresponding discoveries. By contrast, before 1940 about 61% of physics, 48% of chemistry, and 45% of medicine prizes were awarded within 10 years of the corresponding discoveries.

What’s more, after 1985 about 60% of physics, 52% of chemistry, and 49% of medicine prizes were awarded following a post-discovery delay of more than 20 years. By contrast, before 1940 only about 11% of physics, 15% of chemistry, and 24% of medicine prizes were awarded after a delay of more than 20 years.

In all fields, the frequency of the prize being awarded more than 20 years after discovery is increasing. The rate of increase in the frequency of receiving the award after 20 or more years is fastest for physics and slowest for medicine.

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