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Commentary: Forecasting The Nobel Prize Winners: Some Caveats Are In Order

At this time of year, guessing who will win the Nobel Prize is a popular parlor game for scientists. The fact is, of course, no one except members of the Nobel awards committees can possibly predict the fields or discoveries that will be selected, much less the actual winners. Like the weather, however, fields and individual winners can be intelligently forecast. And one of the strongest indicators of Nobel-class science is citation frequency. That's the major criterion--along with whether a re

Eugene Garfield

At this time of year, guessing who will win the Nobel Prize is a popular parlor game for scientists. The fact is, of course, no one except members of the Nobel awards committees can possibly predict the fields or discoveries that will be selected, much less the actual winners. Like the weather, however, fields and individual winners can be intelligently forecast. And one of the strongest indicators of Nobel-class science is citation frequency. That's the major criterion--along with whether a researcher has garnered one of several "predictor" awards--that The Scientist used in the current edition's, as well as our two previous issues', list of "nominees" for this year's prizes.

More than 25 years ago, citation data from the Institute for Scientific Information demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of Nobelists, like all highly creative people, are productive. They publish five times more than the average scientist; they are cited 30 to...

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