Some surprises at the 2021 Nobel Prizes

Maria Ressa is the first Filipina to win the Nobel Prize. Photo – Eloisa Lopez / Reuters

It is not surprising that the only woman awarded is María Ressa, one of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

By Melba Castillo A. (Confidential)

HAVANA TIMES – Every year it is interesting to learn the names of these Nobel laureates in different branches of science, which since 1901, the first year they were awarded in the categories Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace, never stop to generate surprises and curiosity. These awards, as they are called, aim to recognize and celebrate the work of scientists, artists and diplomats who work on discoveries or contributions that help improve the lives of all humanity.

Depending on the scientific field in which everyone has their preferences, there are some that seem more familiar to us, but there is no doubt that most of them are special people, exceptional in their field and whose thought is worth the effort. to be known and here I would like to highlight some surprises left by the winners of this year.

The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Giorgio Parisi, a Rome-born university professor and the first Italian to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in the past two decades.

The tribute of his students to the University of La Spienza, in Rome, says a lot about his commitment to the most vulnerable: “Theoretical physics, but practical solidarity always at the service of the community defending the fragile. Happy and proud of our Giorgio Parisi.

In this tribute, he took the opportunity to express his call for more resources for scientific research. In an interview with the newspaper El País, when asked about his political commitment to causes such as quality education and migration, Parisi clearly stated: “Scientists are part of society and I think that on some issues it is just to take sides. And the people with the loudest voice need to do more, because their voice is heard the most. “

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time to two journalists, María Ressa, from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov, from Russia. The Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo awarded them the prize for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression which is a prerequisite for democracy and lasting peace”. The committee noted that the laureates received the award for their courageous work for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. These laureates, continues the Committee: represent all the journalists who defend this ideal in a world where democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly unfavorable conditions.

It is the first time since 1935 that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalism. Another of the unexpected and well-deserved surprises that the Nobel Prize winners have in store for us this year.

The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the Tanzanian writer, living in the United Kingdom, Abdulrazak Gurnah. The Swedish Academy recognized his “moving description of the effects of colonialism and the plight of refugees in the abyss between cultures and continents”, little known in our Latin America. The themes it deals with are undoubtedly of great interest in the world in which we live, in which migration, racism, colonialism, are part of our painful topicality.

According to the Nobel Committee, his novels “deviate from stereotypical descriptions and open our eyes to a culturally diverse East Africa, unknown to many.”

As he said in a recent interview, at 18, he left his family, his roots and became a refugee in exile. But he did not give up his identity, because he never forgot her. A great lesson!

The Nobel Prize in Economics, the last of the prizes to be created, was established in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden. This year it was split between Canadian David Card, US citizen Joshua Angrist and Dutch Guido Imbens. All of them live and work in American universities.

The committee determined that the three economists used natural experiments to “answer important societal questions and how to understand the connection between economic policies and other events.” Half of the award went to David Card for his contribution to labor economics, while the other half is shared by Angrist and Imbens for “their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. As the Committee says: “they revolutionized empirical research in economics”. In particular, they clarified how to properly understand the “cause-effect” relationship in data studies.

It is therefore to the social problems to which these scientists seek to provide answers, based on science, based on their experiences. In the case of David Card, it is very interesting to know his studies on labor economics, through which he demolishes one of the great myths that many governments have cultivated, including the current one in our country: that l he increase in the minimum wage generates job losses. Card was able to demonstrate, using statistical methods and rigorous empirical work, that increasing the minimum wage does not cause job losses, nor does it cause immigration.

These notes on the Nobel Prize in Economics lead me to reflect on the importance and necessity of basing public policies on science, and not on beliefs, prejudices or political interests, because it is very clear that the 21 companyst century is more and more complex and requires proposals and solutions combining methodological rigor and interdisciplinarity.

It is not at all surprising that the only woman awarded is María Ressa, one of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. To say it from one of the laureates, Giorgio Parisi said: “After 30 years, it becomes difficult to reconcile motherhood and research. Then there are social problems, such as, for example, that if you have to move to work, it is easier for the wife to follow the husband than the other way around. Not to mention the lack of resources for daycare centers. These and others are societal issues which are reflected in the world of research as well.

These are some of the obstacles that women scientists face that mean that at least this year only one woman is represented in the 2021 Nobel Prizes and none in the field of science. Another lesson to think about.

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