News blog

Nobel Prize pot slashed by 20%

This year’s Nobel prize recipients will split a pot of money diminished by 2 million Swedish krona, or about US$281,000, compared with the amount last year’s laureates shared, the Nobel committee announced on 11 June.

In response to sluggish financial markets that have eaten into the capital that supports the prize, the Nobel committee will divvy out 8 million krona to winners of the prizes in medicine or physiology, physics, chemistry, economics, literature and peace to be announced in October. It is the first time that the prize has been cut since 1949, when its nominal value fell from 159,773 krona to 156,290 krona.

This Nature reporter first learned of the cuts when a structural biologist friend fretted that he would not be able to afford a Ferrari, should he ever win a Nobel. For pseudo-historical context on this potential dilemma, Nature examined how the Ferrari-buying power of the Nobel Prize has changed over the years.

The Nobel Prize has been awarded since 1901, and Ferrari introduced its first road car, the 166 Inter, in 1949. The car apparently listed for US$9,000, when Nobel winners earned 156,290 krona (which converts to about US$30,000 at the 1953 rate (the earliest we could find)).

In the interest of time, I’ve created a very crude Ferrari buying-power index, based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $257,000 for the 2012 Ferrari 458 Italia Spider (a 550 horsepower, V8 convertible that does 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds and can reach a top speed of 198 miles per hour) and the real value of the Nobel prize at the end of 2011 (via this table). I calculated the NNPFBI  (Nature Nobel Prize Ferrari Buying Index) every 10 years between 1901 and 2011, but also included 2012.

For the sake of simplicity, the NNPFBI is based on the full award. But, as Nature showed in this graphic, the Nobel committee has been increasingly awarding the prize to multiple winners (up to three), thereby diminishing the NNPFBI by a factor of 2 or 3. An adjusted NNPFBI (ANNPFBI) would make more sense, but we’ve got real news to report and I will leave that to an interested reader.

Note the steep drop of the NNPFBI between 2011 and 2012, from 5.5 to 4.4. But even if three laureates share an award, each can still buy a Ferrari 458 Italia Spider — with enough money left over to get a mid-priced Porsche.



 Image of a Ferrari driving through Cambridge, Massachusetts near the campuses of MIT and Harvard via Chris Devers under Creative Commons


Comments are closed.