For how long will the USA remain the Nobel Prize leader?

May 10, 2018, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Nobel Prize productivity chart by country: US, UK, Germany, France. Credit: Claudius Gros, Goethe University

Since first being awarded in 1901, most Nobel Prizes for science have gone to the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and France. An empirical study by Professor Claudius Gros from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the Goethe University in Frankfurt has now shown that the Nobel Prize productivity in these countries is primarily determined by two factors: a long-term success rate, and periods during which each country has been able to win an especially large number of Nobel Prizes.

For the study, Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry and medicine were assigned proportionately, since up to three scientists can share the . The success rates were calculated on the basis of population figures. For France and Germany, the periods of increased scientific creativity occurred around 1900, whereas for the USA it occurred in the second half of the 20th century.

"The U.S. era is approaching its end," states Claudius Gros. "Since its zenith in the 1970s, U.S. Nobel Prize productivity has already declined by a factor of 2.4." According to his calculations, a further decline is foreseeable. "Our model predicts that starting in 2025, the productivity of the U.S. will be below that of Germany, and from 2028, below that of France as well."

With a nearly constant, very high success rate per capita, Great Britain occupies a special position with regard to Nobel Prizes. It remains uncertain, however, whether Great Britain will be able to maintain this success, especially in view of the increasing industrialization of research.

"National research advancement can undoubtedly also be successful independent of Nobel Prize productivity," Claudius Gros stresses. "Especially because new areas of research such as the computer sciences—a typical U.S. domain—are not included." It therefore remains open whether the decline in Nobel Prize is cause for concern, or merely an expression of a new orientation toward more promising research fields.

Explore further: Nobel chemistry prize to be announced in Stockholm

More information: Claudius Gros: An empirical study of the per capita yield of science Nobel Prizes: Is the US era coming to an end?, in: Royal Society Open Science (2018) rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/5/180167

Claudius Gros: Pushing the complexity barrier: diminishing returns in the sciences, in: Complex Systems 21, 183 (2012). arxiv.org/abs/1209.2725

Related Stories

Nobel chemistry prize to be announced in Stockholm

October 10, 2012

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday, capping this year's science awards before the Nobel spotlight moves to literature and peace.

Recommended for you

Experts disclose new details about 300-year-old shipwreck

May 22, 2018

A Spanish galleon laden with gold that sank to the bottom of the Caribbean off the coast of Colombia more than 300 years ago was found three years ago with the help of an underwater autonomous vehicle operated by the Woods ...

First violins imitated human voices: study

May 22, 2018

Music historians have long suspected that the inventors of the violin wanted to imitate the human voice, and a study out Monday shows how 16th to 18th century luthiers in Italy did it.

9 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

psychotherapist
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
The whole idea of the nobel prize is so subjective, who even cares. After drone strike obama won the peace prize, then nuke-you-over-twitter Trump might win it this time. I guess at least he squashed Isis. NK nuked themselves into peace, lol.

Well prove me wrong, the people who have been awarded the other prizes, the non-BS prizes like physics and whatever, they are really leaders in their field and the nobel prize really matters right?
Doug_Nightmare
not rated yet May 10, 2018
How long? Until PC affirmative action overwhelms the committee's good sense. Jordan Peterson for Peace Prize!
ddaye
not rated yet May 10, 2018
The US decline started at the same time as the Republican Revolution. There's no end in sight for that either.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2018
How long? Until PC affirmative action overwhelms the committee's good sense. Jordan Peterson for Peace Prize!

Looks like it's overwhelmed you...
mackita
not rated yet May 11, 2018
Is The U.S. Losing Its Tech Edge? Trade Data Hints Yes Here Dr. Peter Hagelstein discusses the difficulty of getting adequate funding for cold fusion research in the United States. He goes on to give an account of how his department was able to arrange for funding from a large US company, only to have a "very famous" physicist at MIT (Ernest Moniz - a former energy secretary of the USA) actively work against it. This included said physicist calling the vice-president of the company that had approved the funding and convincing him to to withdraw the previously agreed upon money. This serves as an evidence that there are prominent people, who want breakthrough finding go away, regardless of the overwhelming experimental evidence that the it is real and the fact, it could maintain technological leadership of the USA.
mackita
not rated yet May 11, 2018
The idea of the nobel prize is so subjective, who even cares
Alfred Nobel wouldn't be very impressed with appraisals of theoretical findings or development of formal theories. Nobel originally dedicated his prize for findings of practical importance, which would help the civilization. But the community of theorists embezzled his prize for itself and now we are facing the situation, that the founders of practical findings don't get appraisal even after decades, whereas the proponents of string theory (which failed its verification in LHC or elsewhere) got their prize already. And I'm not even talking about founders of really important findings (like the cold fusion) which aren't recognized at all. This is just the result of situation in contemporary physics, where the theorists and ideologists got all power.
From this reason it would really doesn't matter, if USA maintain leadership in Nobel prizes - the problem is, the USA research is often just this most abstract one.
mackita
not rated yet May 12, 2018
Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware This is also called Huaqiangbei ("Wha Chong Bay") by locals. Here you can find everything in electronics. Everything. Ever. Made. Most of the new stuff counterfeit, but for vintage electronics you can buy virtually anything you need to fix stuff. Imagine if there were such a thing in the west, and how it would inspire young people to get into electronic engineering or just hobby tinkering.

China is going to rule the world, like it or not.
Dan12182
not rated yet May 14, 2018
"The US decline started at the same time as the Republican Revolution," which was in 1861. That is a long time to maintain a sour grapes mentality.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet May 14, 2018
"The US decline started at the same time as the Republican Revolution," which was in 1861. That is a long time to maintain a sour grapes mentality.
You mean back when the southern democrats were forced to give up their slaves? Republicans were still fighting dems like Lester Maddox and George Wallace over that same thing in the 1960s.

And dems are still enslaving minority minds now to get themselves reelected by making thugs heroes and cops villains.

Dems - always eager to have others do their dirty work, get their hands dirty, pick their cotton, mow their lawns, clean their health clubs, etc.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.