Why don’t women win Nobel science prizes?

[Y]ou have to go back a full 54 years to find the last female Nobel laureate in physics.

This scarcity of women (and black and minority ethnic men, for that matter) is often put down to the time lag between work being carried out and being rewarded with the highest accolade in science. The awards, it is argued, reflect the make-up of academic institutions way-back-when.

This over-cautious approach, where scientists are rewarded for discoveries often decades-old, means younger scientists who are still active, a greater proportion of whom are women, miss out. It also meant that the committee missed out on the chance to celebrate the late American astrophysicist Vera Rubin, whose observations in the 1970s provided the first compelling evidence for the existence of dark matter. Rubin died last year, before an experiment such as CERN had been able to solve the mystery of what dark matter actually is. If it continues on this trajectory, the Nobel prize risks looking not just traditional, but like a relic, gathering dust.


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