Befuddled by the yearly returning celebration of science during the Nobel award ceremonies, and heavy-heartedly noticing the absence of Earth sciences at this ball time after time, Pippi pulled herself out of her rationally induced depression and asked:
Shouldn’t there be a Nobel prize in Earth sciences?
Well, isn’t that a particular poignant question? Earth sciences simply being denied true recognition up to this moment in time, it’s beyond me. You have to remember that there was not that much science knocking about during the time the Nobel prize was organized for its inaugural celebration of science. Sure, there was some Earth sciences going on, but it was more of a hobby rather than a ubiquitous and well-respected scientific research niche; people rather focused on the ‘formal sciences’ of chemistry, physics, or apparently literature. Ignorance all ‘round, if you ask me. What is the perfect synthesis of physics, chemistry and mathematics (though not recognized by Nobel as important, foolishly, very much so)? Earth sciences. In my view solid Earth sciences, but my opinion may be jaded ever so slightly due to some personal experiences. I’m sure that some physical geographers or hydrometeorologists will have moved on from this blog post as soon as they read the previous sentence. Ah well, their loss. Sure, we may not be data-rich such as the ‘perfect world’ niches of physics and chemistry for which perfect conditions can be created, thought of or described. That’s a grand illusion when one’s considering the Earth. It’s difficult, but not impossible to “confer a great benefit on mankind” (Nobel’s will, 1895). And then discard Earth sciences as if this would not be possible? Nobel was barking up the wrong tree then. A tree? I think he’s barking up some tree-shaped mirage. Or, could it simply be that we only now deserve to contend for this conferring of great benefits on account of the copious scientific endeavors over the past few decades? Perhaps.
Be that as it may, Earth sciences already has a bunch of medals handed out, honors bestowed and awards celebrated. In the geodynamics division of EGU we award the Augustus Love medal during the EGU GA to those distinguished scientists who conferred ‘great benefits’ to the geodynamics society. And there’s an abundance of options in many disciplines, e.g., by the AGU, ILP, IASPEI, AMS and a myriad of other acronyms. Why bother then with the Nobel prize? It’s not like Earth scientists nervously await that meet-and-greet with the kings of Norway or Sweden. It’s not that the banquet is the only fancy meal we’ll ever see, or that we’ll miss out on giving lectures about our research. It’s not that a panel will ever be able to decide whose contributions to (any of the disciplines constituting) Earth sciences were most significant; we’re already able to do that for our respective disciplines. The reward money is more of an issue, since it’s slightly improbable a new benefactor will cross that threshold of indefinite twilight shortly and bequeath their money to sponsor such an Earth sciences-wide ceremony. Slightly impossible, not completely. No, it’s the recognition. Aware that the Nobel Foundation is sitting pretty with their money, there’s surely some wiggle room to add another prize/medal to the bunch. I’m not greedy and understand they cannot just add any ol’ science discipline to the historical few. Therefore I suggest this: a ‘Challenge Medal’. The actual scientific discipline changes every year, and does not include researchers eligible for the legacy disciplines. I do suggest we start with Earth sciences, as this paradigm-shifting idea was formulated here. We’ll have no issues with overlooking achievements, since this is an inherent feature of selecting one discipline to recur every few years, which also ensures preclusion of controversial recipients. All in all, I’m certain the rationale established here will be picked up by the relevant authorities ever so swiftly, and confident I’ll not become the next Gaston Ramon.
The Sassy Scientist
PS: This post was written to obtain the recognition Earth science deserves. I suggest to e-mail, tweet, poke and write the Nobel Foundation ferociously and relentlessly.
PS2: It was brought to my attention that other, showering-scientists-with-accolades organizations exist. Premier example: the Royal Astronomical Society. Apparently, they seek to get rid of some of those medals. I strongly suggest writing up a nomination or two. There’s certainly some place on my mantelpiece, for now, but I do remark that it will be instantly replaced by the Nobel prize in Earth Sciences when granted.