The Nobel Prize is regarded as the epitome of Science Prizes, it has a unique standing to which all other prizes have to compare and measure up to. To most people the Nobel Prize is a black box, which operates from the Olympic Mountains to raise a few individuals to Nobel Laureate class. In this paper I will not address this but look into how the Nobel archives can be used as a resource in discussing scientific work, scientific rewards and if that allows us to discuss these aspects of science in a better way.

For a long time the Nobel system was hidden in secrecy, due to the fact that the awarders were private bodies and the statutes of the Nobel Foundation and the awarding institutions prohibited any access. However, from the mid 1970s it has been possible to do research in the Nobel archives of the awarding institutions after the statutes were changed. Most historical research into the Nobel archives has been performed into the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which holds the Nobel archives for physics and chemistry. The archives are open for scholarly research after special application on material older than 50 years. From the beginning a lot of people hoped this material to hold answers to a lot of questions. Still this material leaves many questions unanswered. The minutes do not hold any discussions only the decisions, but it holds extensive nomination data as well as interesting and crucial evaluation reports. Especially the latter material is of great interest, also the general reports.

The talk will give a quick overview of how the Nobel system operates, but its main purpose is to ask a few questions. What kinds of research questions have been addressed by using this material in more than 35 years that this particular material has been possible to research? Have this research influenced the way science is presented to the general public? And what can we expect from this historical resource in the future?

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The workings of the nobel prizes in the sciences
Is there a public understanding?

Karl Grandin   Professor Center for History of Science The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Nobel Prize is regarded as the epitome of Science Prizes, it has a unique standing to which all other prizes have to compare and measure up to. To most people the Nobel Prize is a black box, which operates from the Olympic Mountains to raise a few individuals to Nobel Laureate class. In this paper I will not address this but look into how the Nobel archives can be used as a resource in discussing scientific work, scientific rewards and if that allows us to discuss these aspects of science in a better way.

For a long time the Nobel system was hidden in secrecy, due to the fact that the awarders were private bodies and the statutes of the Nobel Foundation and the awarding institutions prohibited any access. However, from the mid 1970s it has been possible to do research in the Nobel archives of the awarding institutions after the statutes were changed. Most historical research into the Nobel archives has been performed into the archives of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which holds the Nobel archives for physics and chemistry. The archives are open for scholarly research after special application on material older than 50 years. From the beginning a lot of people hoped this material to hold answers to a lot of questions. Still this material leaves many questions unanswered. The minutes do not hold any discussions only the decisions, but it holds extensive nomination data as well as interesting and crucial evaluation reports. Especially the latter material is of great interest, also the general reports.

The talk will give a quick overview of how the Nobel system operates, but its main purpose is to ask a few questions. What kinds of research questions have been addressed by using this material in more than 35 years that this particular material has been possible to research? Have this research influenced the way science is presented to the general public? And what can we expect from this historical resource in the future?

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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