With the Nobel Prizes scheduled to be awarded next week, speculation is running high — particularly for the literature and peace prizes, where bookrunners currently favor Haruki Murakami and Gene Sharp, respectively.
The go-to site for science-related predictions is Thomson Reuters, which mines its "Web of Knowledge" database each year to predict winners for the medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics laureates. It notes, however, that its predictions aren't necessarily for the current year, but for any time in the future.
Favorites for medicine this year include Richard Hynes, Erkki Ruoslahti, and Masatoshi Takeichi for their work in cell adhesion; Anthony Hunter and Anthony Pawson for research on cell signaling and control; and David Allis and Michael Grunstein for their studies of genetic regulation.
For the chemistry prize, Thomson Reuters pegs Louis Brus, for his work on quantum dots; Masatake Haruta and Graham Hutchings for gold catalysis, and Akira Fujishima for titanium dioxide photocatalysis.
What's Thomson Reuters' track record? Not bad. According to its roundup of successful predictions, it nailed last year's winners for all four categories that it covers, though its predictions didn't occur that year. The Associated Press notes that the company hasn't predicted a winner in the same year of the prize since the 2009 medicine award. In all, of the 158 scientists Thomson Reuters has identified as possible Nobel laureates since 2002, "26 have won, but only nine in the year they had predicted."
David Pendlebury, who leads Thomson Reuters' Nobel analysis, tells AP that the main difficulty in predicting winners is that "there are more people of Nobel class than there are Nobel Prizes to go around."
If you really can't get enough of the Nobels, there's an app for that.