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Nobel Representation

When the winners of this year's Nobel Prizes were announced, there were no women among them, a cartoon at Vox says, adding that there was a high probability that that scenario would occur.

Earlier this year, a team of Danish researchers compared the gender ratio of Nobel laureates — in physics, chemistry, economics, and physiology and medicine — to their wider fields. As they reported in Palgrave Communications, the researchers found that even when accounting for historical gender ratios and the later age at which scientists tend to receive such an award, women are underrepresented among Nobel laureates. They estimated a 96 percent chance that the gender distribution of Nobel Prizes would be biased against women.

The Vox cartoon also notes that there is an imbalance in the geographical distribution of Nobel Prizes, as researchers in Europe and the US are overrepresented. "In its systemic biases, whether conscious or not, the Nobel Prize reflects the history of Western science," the cartoon says.

Both the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute have announced changes to their nomination processes aimed at boosting gender and geographic representation among Nobel nominees. And this year, Göran Hansson, the secretary-general of the academy, told Nature News that these policy shifts appear to have led to more women being nominated, though that more data is needed to see whether the trend holds.

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