Some surprises at the 2021 Nobel prizes

Every year it is interesting to know the name of the Nobel Prize winners in different branches of science, which since 1901, the first year in which they were awarded in the categories of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace, do not stop generating surprises and curiosity. These awards, as is known, seek to recognize and highlight the work of scientists, artists and diplomats who are working on discoveries or contributions that help improve the lives of all humanity.

Depending on the field of science in which each one has their preferences, there are some that are more familiar to us, but what remains without doubt is that most of them are unique people, outstanding in their field and whose thought is worthwhile. know and here I point out some surprises that this year’s winners left us.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Giorgio Parisi, a Rome-born university professor and the first Italian to win a Nobel Prize in physics in the past two decades.

The tribute of his students from the University of La Spienza in Rome says a lot about his commitment to the unprotected: “Theoretical physics, but practical solidarity always at the service of the community, defending the most fragile. Happy and proud of our Giorgio Parisi ”. In that tribute, he took the opportunity to express his claim for greater resources for scientific research. In an interview with the newspaper El País, when asked about his political commitment to causes such as quality education and migration, he clearly says: “Scientists are part of society and I believe that on certain issues it is fair that we take sides. And people who have a stronger voice have to do more, because their voice is heard better ”.

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time to two journalists, María Ressa, from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov, from Russia. The Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo awarded them the prize for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” The committee noted that the awardees received the award for their courageous work for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. These winners, the Committee continues: they represent all journalists who speak out for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasing adverse conditions.

It is the first time since 1935 that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalism. Another of the unexpected and well-deserved surprises that the Nobel Prize winners brought us this year.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Tanzanian writer, living in the United Kingdom, Abdulrazak Gurnah. The Swedish Academy recognizes its “moving description of the effects of colonialism and the difficult situation of refugees in the gap between cultures and continents”, little known in our Latin America, the topics it deals with are undoubtedly of great interest in the world. that we live, in which migration, racism, colonialism, are part of our painful present time.

According to the Nobel Committee, his novels “depart from stereotypical descriptions and open our gaze to a culturally diverse East Africa unknown to many.”

As he said in a recent interview, at 18 he left his family behind, his roots, and became a refugee in exile. But he did not renounce his identity, because he never forgot her. Tremendous lesson!

The Nobel Prize in Economics, the last of the prizes to be established, was created in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden. This year it has been shared between the Canadian David Card, the American Joshua Angrist and the Dutch Guido Imbens. All reside and work in universities in the United States.

The committee noted that the three economists used natural experiments to “answer important questions from society and how to understand the connection between economic policies and other events.” Half of the award goes to David Card for his contribution to the economics of labor, while the other half is shared by Angrist and Imbens for “their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships.” As the Committee put it: “they have revolutionized empirical research in economics.” In particular, they have clarified how to properly understand the “cause-effect” relationship in data studies.

It is then, the problems of society to which these scientists are seeking to give answers, from science, from their experiments. In the case of David Card, it is very interesting to know his studies on the economics of labor, by means of which he demolishes one of the great myths that many governments have sustained, including the current one in our country: that the increase in the minimum wage generates losses of job. Card was able to demonstrate, with the help of statistical methods and rigorous empirical work, that raising the minimum wage does not cause job losses, nor does immigration.

These notes on the Nobel Prize in Economics lead me to reflect on the importance and need for public policies to be based on science, not on beliefs, prejudices or political interests, since it is very clear that the society of the 21st century is increasingly complex and requires proposals and solutions that combine methodological rigor and interdisciplinarity.

It is no surprise that the only woman awarded was Maria Ressa, one of the Nobel Peace Prize winners. To put it in terms of one of the winners, Giorgio Parisi: “From the age of 30, it becomes difficult to reconcile motherhood with research. Then there are problems that are of society as a whole, such as that, if you have to move for work, it is easier for the wife to follow the husband than the opposite. Not to mention the lack of resources for day care centers, for example. These and others are problems of society that are also reflected in the world of research ”.

These are some of the barriers that women scientists face and what makes, at least this year, only one woman is represented in the 2021 Nobel Prize and none in the field of science. Another lesson to ponder.

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Some surprises at the 2021 Nobel prizes

Hank Gilbert