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Now, a peek into secretive Nobel selection process

Friday March 30, 2012 06:53:11 PM, Sourabh Gupta, IANS

New Delhi: The Nobel prize-awarding institutions, known for their secrecy, are making public the process of nomination and selection of this year's laureates.

Details such as the number of nominations received and how the laureates will be chosen over the coming months for prizes in physics, medicine, chemistry, literature, peace and economic sciences are being posted on, a website run by the Nobel Media.

"Yes, the prize-awarding institutions have started to publish nomination information to meet the great interest in the Nobel prizes," Merci Olsson, marketing and communications director of the Nobel Media AB in Stockholm, told IANS on e-mail.

According to the website, for the 2012 peace prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has received 231 valid nominations of 231 candidates, of which 43 are organisations. Last year, 247 candidates were nominated. For the Literature prize, the Swedish Academy has received 288 valid nominations and only 46 of them are first-time nominees.

The unprecedented revelations come as the committee tackles public criticism over its choice of Nobel laureates in the last few years, especially for the peace prize.

Asked if the names of nominees were also being revealed since some news reports had carried names (such as of Bradley Manning, the American soldier who allegedly passed on classified information to Wikileaks), Olsson said: "If there (are) names of nominees circulating, they cannot be confirmed nor denied as this information is confidential."

"Regarding nominations, only information about the number of nominations is made public. The names of the nominees are confidential for 50 years after the nomination," she said.

The 50-year rule is over for the Peace prize. On the website, one can find the nominations database from the year 1901 to 1956, including details of Mahatma Gandhi's nomination in 1948.

Some weeks back, the Nobel Foundation (under which the prize- awarding institutions fall) had to justify its choice of peace prize laureates to the Stockholm County Administrative Board. This was to counter criticism made by Norwegian jurist Fredrik S. Heffermehl in his book, "Nobels Fredspris: Visionen Som Forsvann' (The Nobel Peace Prize: The Vision that Vanished)".

In a letter to the board, he wrote: "The Norwegian prize awarding institution ignores the will and Nobel's intentions with the prize."

In October last year, British writer Tim Parks, in his blog on the website of "The New York Review of Books", had questioned the Swedish Academy's decision to make Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer a Nobel laureate. Consequently, the president of the Nobel Committee for Literature, Per Wästberg, gave this comment: "We go for an individual's life work regardless of nation, gender, religion. We could, if need be, give it to Portugal or the US five times in a row, or to essayists, historians, children's books writers."

(Sourabh Gupta can be contacted at




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