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Possible Nobel Winners Include Harvard Chemist, Geneticist, and Economist

By Courtney P Yadoo, Contributing Writer

Three Harvard professors are likely to win a Nobel Prize next week, according to a Thomson Reuters’ annual prediction released Wednesday.

The list of 22 likely laureates includes professor of chemistry Charles M. Lieber, professor of genetics Gary Ruvkun of Harvard Medical School, and professor of economics Martin S. Feldstein.

Thomson Reuters has generated lists of probable winners since 1989, using a methodology that predominately relies upon the researcher’s number of “high impact papers” and total citation counts, according to their Web site. In addition to this quantitative data, Thomson Reuters assesses whether the discoveries are worthy of special recognition, the extent of the researcher’s contribution to the discovery, and other noteworthy awards previously held.

The formula yields a list of scholars likely to be considered for the Nobel Prize in medicine, chemistry, physics and economics.

The Harvard professors named in the Reuters list were not overly concerned with their selection.

“I frankly don’t know anything about how [Thomson Reuters] does this,” Feldstein wrote in an e-mail. “These are low probability events. It’s flattering to be on the list but even if it comes to pass it would not affect my research.”

Professor Roy J. Glauber, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics, also expressed some skepticism about any Nobel predictions since no selection details are released.

“I very much doubt that anyone has inside information because the committees involved are sworn to secrecy,” Glauber said. “And I’m not aware of anything having been leaked out. Any guesses would be based on external evidence.”

Thomson Reuters has a successful prediction rate below 20 percent, according to The Boston Globe.

The true accuracy of the predictions will not be known until the winners are announced Monday.

Perhaps the professors are right to not be so preoccupied with the distinction.

“There are curiously many requests for autographs and souvenirs,” said Glauber. “If you really devoted a lot of time to this it would use up a great deal of what you have available for research.”

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