Pity the Nobel committee now trying to make its selection for the next prize in physiology or medicine, soon to be announced. The committee has a very difficult task.

The five-member group at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm is sifting through dossiers on more than 100 candidates. The committee members are no doubt asking themselves, as they must ask themselves every year, “How are we to select from among this collection of outstanding, world-class researchers just one (or at most three) to honor with the Nobel Prize in Medicine?” All of the candidates have conducted exceptional research all are of the highest scientific caliber. Plainly, there are more scientists worthy of receiving the prize than there are Nobel Prizes to go around.

That circumstance leaves a great number of researchers “who are peers of prize winners in every sense except that of having the award,” Columbia University sociologist of science...

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