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Beginning on October 5th, in the annual tradition, the world’s attention will once again focus on Sweden for the announcement of the Nobel Prizes. A small group of researchers will have their lives forever changed, earning a distinction that guarantees a virtual immortality as a Nobel Laureate.
In scholarly circles and even in the media, speculation about the prize runs high, as observers try to anticipate which researchers and advancements might merit a summons to Stockholm.
Since 2002, the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters has brought a new dimension to identifying researchers who might be in line for science’s highest award. Each year, the company announces a new batch of Citation Laureates—researchers whose work has achieved quantifiable esteem and impact in the scientific community, at a level far beyond the norm. This attainment, demonstrated in the elevated quantity of highly cited papers written by these select researchers, signals that they are “of Nobel class” and likely to earn the Nobel someday.
The Road to Stockholm
The path to becoming a Citation Laureate, and in fact to Stockholm, is varied. John A. List, a Thomson Reuters 2015 Citation Laureate in Economics, shared that his economics work began with a focus on field experiments that explore economic questions such as: Why do people discriminate? Why do men earn more than women in labor markets? Why do people give to charitable causes? How can we induce people to conserve energy in their home?
“I had always been a sports card enthusiast and frequented naturally occurring markets where buyers and sellers would trade memorabilia. My work in field experiments began when I started to combine the two in the early 1990s,” said List, of the University of Chicago. “My simple goal was to learn how well our theoretical models explained the world. When they did not match I attempted to learn why, and strived to put forth ideas for better models. I gradually evolved into combining elements of policy and behavioral economics into my research. In this way, I have been able to test new behavioral theories in naturally-occurring markets.”
Similarly, the road to Stockholm is packed with countless competent and qualified individuals, many of whom are advancing breakthrough technologies that will change the lives of future generations. Such is the case with Zhong Lin Wang, a 2015 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate in Physics. “My goal is to develop fundamental new science and key technologies that will promote the progress of our society and improve the quality of people’s life. I have been focused on new energy research, which is a core area for many decades to come,” said Wang.
He went on to explain how he has been involved in nanoscience research for more than three decades, since he was a graduate student. “Over the years, I have been focused on structure analysis of nanomaterials. . . we published the first paper on ZnO nanobelts in 2001, which started a new area in nanoscience of oxide materials. It is also the beginning of my major invention of nanogenerators and piezotronics.”
Perseverance and dedication are two common traits of most Citation Laureates. Some remain focused on an area for many years, while others are part of the launch of a new, rapidly rising field. All have a passion for what they do. As Wang explained, “my love of science and a positive personality have been the major drivers for me making continuous important advances.”