NEW YORK - Scientists who discovered phenomena as different as the molecular mechanisms of pain, organic light-emitting diodes that illuminate mobile phones and a new quantum state of matter are top contenders for Nobel prizes next month, according to an annual analysis by Thomson Reuters.
The predictions announced on Thursday come from the Intellectual Property & Science unit of Thomson Reuters (which also owns the Reuters news service). Since 2002, it has accurately predicted 35 Nobel laureates, including nine who won in the year of the forecast and 16 who won within two years.IP&S, which sells data, bases its forecasts on scientists' citations, or references to their published papers by others.
Citations can reflect how influential a study was, but are not a perfect benchmark. Breakthroughs in specialized fields could have few citations while a lesser finding in a popular one could have many.
But some citations are essentially tips-of-the-hat by one scientist to another and can indicate standing in a field. Since Nobel nominations come from past winners and other eminences, reputation counts.
The IP&S analysts predicted seven possible winners in medicine and physics and eight in chemistry. The Nobel committees honor a maximum of three scientists in each field, so predicting more than twice that number increases the odds of being right.
For the Nobel Prize in medicine, which will be announced on Oct. 6 in Stockholm, the Thomson Reuters analysis shows deserving discoveries going back decades.
David Julius of the University of California, San Francisco, is in contention for discovering the cellular receptor for the hot-pepper molecule capsaicin in the late 1990s. He worked out how it is activated by capsaicin as well as heat, triggering pain.