Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace essentially for effort: he’s trying hard, saying the right things but not yet delivered concrete results. (He’s also got much less close to nuclear disarmament than Ronald Reagan got in the Reykjavik summit with Mikhail Gorbachev.)
I’m pretty underwhelmed by the award as I would rather see the prize go to those who have produced results. Someone such as Denis Mukwege and the amazing work he has done getting treatment for those attacked during the Congo civil wars, including treatment for over 20,000 rape victims.
But why not apply the same logic to the sciences?
Find a scientist who has got the right intentions, tries hard – but hasn’t (yet) made a theoretical or research breakthrough.
In fact, the argument for doing this is rather better than for the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s because spending a lifetime doing research that only ends up confirming what everyone thought they knew anyway plays a vital role in science. It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t win you prizes – but this sort of confirmation that everyone isn’t all going off on the wrong track is crucial to science.
So why not reward this endeavour by giving a prize to someone for the valuable work of confirming rather than path-breaking?
(Or, alternatively, don’t do that. But also only give out the Nobel Peace Prize for tangible achievements.)