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Will Boston be shut out at the Nobel Prize ceremony?

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The Red Sox finished last and the Patriots are floundering, but there’s always Nobel Prize season, right? Next week the awards are being announced, and they often deliver some nice new hardware to Boston-area researchers.

But: uh-oh. Thomson Reuters, which each year predicts who’s likely to take home the Nobels, doesn’t have any local scientists on its short list in physics, chemistry, or medicine. The company doesn’t really lay odds on the prize, but instead crunches data on how often a scientist’s work is cited by other scientists, a powerful yardstick of influence. If Thomson Reuters is correct — and it has named 35 winners since starting its service in 2002 — in the next week we can expect to hear a lot more about the molecular mechanisms of pain sensation and nanowire photonics, great advances that somehow came out of California.

If there’s any consolation for Boston, it may lie with the economics prize, where Harvard Business School professor Philippe Aghion is a favorite for his research on Schumpeterian growth theory, which you may know as “creative destruction.” As Brainiac has explained before, the economics prize is actually kind of a pseudo-Nobel, established for political reasons 73 years after Alfred Nobel’s original bequest. But, hey, a win’s a win.

Kevin Hartnett is a writer in South Carolina. He can be reached at kshartnett18@gmail.com.
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