STOCKHOLM: A week of Nobel prize announcements kicks off Monday with the medicine prize, while the most closely-watched award, the Nobel Peace Prize, is seen possibly honouring work to help refugees to a better life.
Sweden’s newspaper of reference, Dagens Nyheter (DN), said Sunday it believed the prize committees would this year be looking to even out the gender gap among laureates, the vast majority of whom have been men over the years.
“This year the Nobel committees in the science disciplines are headed by women. There are also an unusual number of women’s names circulating in the speculation,” DN wrote.
Guessing who will win the prizes is usually an exercise in futility, but nonetheless speculation runs rife every year just before the big announcements.
The Nobel prizes were created by Swedish philanthropist and scientist Alfred Nobel in his 1895 will, and were first handed out in 1901.
The medicine prize will be announced on Monday at 11:30 am (0930 GMT) in Stockholm.
Swedish Radio’s science reporters said they believed Swedish biologist Svante Paabo, who successfully sequenced Neanderthal DNA, had a good shot at the honours.
Others also believed to be in the running include Jeffrey Gordon of the US, who has studied gastrointestinal development and obesity, as well as Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the US for their research on how to cut or edit a DNA sequence.
DN meanwhile said its “favourite” was US psychiatrist Karl Deisseroth, who has discovered how to turn brain cells on and off.
On Tuesday, the physics prize will be announced.
DN also predicted a woman laureate in that discipline, suggesting US researcher Deborah Jin for her work on ultracold gases. Swedish Radio meanwhile tipped US astronomist Vera Rubin for her pioneering work on galaxy rotation rates.
For the chemistry prize, to be announced on Wednesday, Swedish Radio suggested it could go to US electrochemist John Goodenough, whose research led to rechargeable batteries, or to organic chemist Per Siegbahn of Sweden.
For the literature prize, the exact date of the announcement is only revealed a few days in advance but it is traditionally announced on a Thursday, so it will likely fall on October 8.
Last year, the award went to French author Patrick Modiano, and the year before that to Canadian short story writer Alice Munro.
Some of the names circulating this year include Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich, US novelist Joyce Carol Oates, Japanese author Haruki Murakami, and Nuruddin Farah of Somalia.
On Friday, all eyes and ears will turn to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize announcement.
The committee may let itself be influenced by current events and give the nod to a person or organisation working to ease the suffering of those escaping war and authoritarian regimes.
“There is really a strong likelihood that it will go to someone helping people fleeing,” Anna Ek, the head of the Swedish pacifist organisation Svenska Freds, told news agency TT.
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Here again, another woman has been tipped as the frontrunner: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for opening her country to asylum seekers in Europe’s recent migrant crisis.
Others mentioned in the same breath include Eritrean Catholic priest Mussie Zerai, who has helped thousands of refugees cross the Mediterranean, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini.
Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who has treated thousands of women brutalised by rape in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has also been mentioned as a possibility, as has Japan’s pacifist Article 9 Association which opposed changes to the country’s defence laws.
The 2015 Nobel season winds up on October 12 with the announcement of the winners of the economics prize.
Only one woman has won the award since it was first handed out in 1969, when it was created by the Swedish Central Bank to celebrate its tricentenary.
If the committee were looking to improve those stats, it could select Americans Claudia Goldin, who has researched inequality, and Anne Krueger, a specialist in free trade and development.
This year’s Nobel laureates will receive eight million Swedish kronor (around $950,000 or 855,000 euros) per award, to be shared if there are several winners in one discipline.