Candidates for a Nobel prize often have to wait more than 20 years to receive the coveted award, and the average waiting times are continuing to increase exponentially, a new study suggests.
By the end of this century the predicted average age among prize-winners for receiving the award could even exceed their life expectancy, researchers said.
Given that the Nobel prize cannot be awarded posthumously, this lag threatens to undermine science’s most venerable institution, they said.
According to Santo Fortunato of Aalto University in Finland and colleagues, such nail-biting delays are becoming the norm to the point that aspiring laureates may themselves have expired by the time the medal is due to be presented.
Before 1940, Nobel prizes were awarded more than 20 years after the original discovery for only about 11 per cent, 15 per cent and 24 per cent of physics, chemistry and physiology or medicine prizes, respectively, researchers said.
But by 1985, delays of this order were featuring in 60 per cent, 52 per cent and 45 per cent of the awards in these respective fields, they said.
Fortunato and co-authors find that average waiting times are continuing to increase exponentially.
As the wait lengthens, so the average age at which laureates are awarded the prize goes up.
Researchers found that by the end of this century, the predicted average age among prize-winners for receiving the award could even exceed his or her life expectancy.
The study was published in the journal Nature.