Published 30 June 2014 by Kirsty Short

The Geography of Nobel Prize Winning Science

Guest Blogger Kirsty Short Shares some of her thoughts on the geography of the Nobel Prize.

Yesterday I was struck with what I consider to be 3 important thoughts.

  • The first thought of the day was that Lindau is a very wet place and I should have brought my umbrella (and worn more sensible shoes)!
  • Secondly, and perhaps more prefoundly, watching the Nobel Lauretes enter the hall at the opening ceremony I was struck by the dominence of Europeans and North Americans amongst the Lauretes. F
  • inally, Hans Rosling’s talk yesterday very elegantly highlighted the fact that Asia currently represents a significant proportion of the world’s population.

All this got me thinking – what is the geography of nobel prize winnning science and how is this going to change in the future? Of course, I am not the first person to wonder this and if you go to the following link ( the world map clearly demonstrates the current geographic bias in the origin of the Nobel prize winners in physiology and medicine.

In fact, when you look at the countries with the most Nobel prize winners the U.S.A is the clear winner (with 270 Nobel Lauretes), whilst the only non-Western country in the top 10 is Japan, who boasts a humble 12 Lauretes. This geographic bias has to change. Of course, I am not saying that science in Europe and North America will not keep going onward and upward.

Talking to Inge de Krijger today, a PhD student from the Netherlands (a country which incidently punches far above its weight by boasting 15 Nobel Lauretes), I was struck by the attractive opportunities that Europe countinues to offer young researchers. I myself enjoy the ease of international collobarations whilst doing my post-doc in Europe. Indeed, Inge points out that working at the Netherlands Cancer Institute she is given the unique opportunity to combine basic research with the clinic – an ideal situation for any biomedical researcher.

However, I believe, or at least I hope, that in the future we will see a dramatic shift whereby it will be China, India and other Asian countries that are producing the paradigm changing, Nobel prize winning science. I myself have already noticited a change within my research career. For example, in the recent outbreak of H7N9 influenza virus in China, much of the initial crucial research was performed by Chinese research groups, beating out their international counterparts. Given the important healthcare ramifications that this virus has for China and the surrounding region, this is not only logical but also reassuring. I hope that this trend continues in the future.

I would love hear your opinion on this topic, especially if you are a young researcher from, or working in, Asia. Do you think that the future of science is in Asia or do you think that we still have a long way to go ?

Kirsty Short

Kirsty Short, Lindau Alumna 2014, is a post-doctoral researcher from Australia who is currently working at Erasmus MC, the Netherlands. Her research focuses on influenza virus, and specifically trying to identify the mechanisms by which the virus damages the lung during infection.