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Who Decides Who Gets the Nobel Prizes?

Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.
One of the medals awarded to Nobel Prize winners.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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When Alfred Nobel wrote his will in 1895 he made specific recommendations as to what bodies would select and vote on each of the Nobel Prizes. For the most part, these institutions continue to award Nobel Prizes based on Nobel’s recommendations.

No one can nominate him or herself for a Nobel Prize. In fact such nominations call for immediate disqualification for an award, at least in that year. Each body that determines winners for Nobel Prizes has their own discreet nomination and selection process.

The Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics are determined by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This group also awards the Nobel Prize for economics, though this prize is not part of Nobel’s initial intent, and award monies do not come from Nobel’s estate.

The whole Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not make up the voting body. Instead the Academy invites distinguished people in the fields of chemistry, physics and economics to make nominations. The nominees are then discussed in a report given to five members of the Academy who will ultimately vote and determine the prizes. The vote can be split, and in the past, prizes have been awarded to more than one person.

Unlike other prize giving ceremonies, the names of nominees who do not win the prize are not disclosed for 50 years. So one may be nominated without ever be aware of the nomination. Only the winners of Nobel Prizes are recognized as having been nominated.

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The nomination and voting process is nearly identical for Nobel Prizes awarded in medicine. However the determining body is the Karolinska Institute, a medical school near Stockholm, Sweden. Nominees are still kept confidential, and the vote often is split, with two people receiving Nobel Prizes.

The Swedish Academy follows a similar process to determine Nobel Prize recipients in the field of literature. However, many feel that both the peace and literature prizes are far more subjective than those offered in the science fields. Despite the controversy, Nobel Prize winners in literature have come from diverse countries, and particularly in the last 15 years, those receiving the prize represent many Asian and African countries.

Nobel Prizes for peace go through a nomination and selection process administered by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is a group of five members selected by the Norweigian government. Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, the prize for peace is always issued in Oslo, Norway, not Stockholm Sweden.

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Discuss this Article

anon941462
Post 9

I think it's actually written in the Nobel charter that once someone gets the peace prize, they're allowed to then spy on their own countrymen and blow up foreigners with drones. Pretty sweet deal.

anon359428
Post 8

Stop hating on Obama. He has a Nobel Peace Prize and you don't.

anon344861
Post 6

I think its bull that they give the metal to just about anyone. After Nine months in office, Obama hadn't proved himself. I guess it helped for him to go into other countries and say what he thought of America. I love this country, and I feel Obama is undeserving of this award!

cmsmith10
Post 3

@gardenturtle: The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.

In 2009, there were 205 candidates nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. It was announced on October 9, 2009 that Barack Obama won the prize. This was 8 months after Obama’s inauguration as president of the U.S.

Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel committee, stated “He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate”. Jagland went on to say the committee was greatly influenced by a speech given by Obama reaching out to the Muslim world in June of 2009 in Cairo. They also emphasized the president’s efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and climate change.

GardenTurtle
Post 2

Why did Barack Obama receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009? Out of all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, that one kind of surprised me. I'm just not sure what exactly he did.

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