Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The frequent discussion over the out-of-touch Nobel committee usually centers on literature, less often on peace. But I was reminded this year of not how out-of-touch but rather how out-of-step these prizes are by their very nature, not to mention how exclusive a club they form. This year's prize for chemistry went to three scientists who worked on GFP, a glowing protein that has been used as a wonderful marker in many studies. As a matter of fact, it's so wonderful and has been used so many times that it's been a tool for quite a while, one that I feel like I practically grew up with. By all means they should have gotten the prize (they and a host of others; how about a list of up to ten "Nobel citations" to go along with the winners, reflecting today's global network of collaborations?), but I wish that the media blitz could be applied to current discoveries as well, like Doug Melton's recent work on reprogramming adult cells into stem cells. Of course, that particular discovery bears the possible downside of making the conservative wing say, "Great, we don't need to fund those stem cells you sickos want to use to make important medical discoveries." Maybe it's best that it goes relatively under the radar for now.