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.
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.