Unprecedented Early Disclosure of Nobel Chemistry Laureates Due to Communication Error

by Chloe Baker
Nobel Prize Leak

In an uncommon lapse, the confidential and esteemed Nobel Prize in Chemistry found itself at odds with the digital age this past Wednesday. Swedish news outlets prematurely published the names of the award winners after receiving an email containing an official press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Academy has subsequently launched an internal investigation into the matter.

Hours ahead of the official announcement that was set for Wednesday, multiple Swedish media organizations were privy to a press release from the Academy. It disclosed that Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov—scientists based in the United States—had been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work on quantum dots.

The Big Big News chose not to publish the names until official confirmation was received from the Academy. However, numerous Swedish media outlets went ahead and reported the news. Initial skepticism about the authenticity of the email was outweighed by the fact that the Academy neither confirmed nor denied its legitimacy, stating only that the final decision had yet to be made.

“We are as yet uncertain of the circumstances,” said Hans Ellengren, Secretary-General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in a statement to The Big Big News. “This is indeed regrettable, and we sincerely apologize for the occurrence. We are in the process of determining how this incident came about.”

The rigorous selection process for Nobel Prize laureates involves a five-member committee, which spends months carefully evaluating lists of nominees. The full Academy convenes on the day of the award ceremony to make the final decision, which is then announced in a scheduled press conference.

The premature dissemination of this information not only added fuel to existing speculation that the final selection is largely a procedural formality, but also highlighted the challenges inherent in maintaining confidentiality in an age where virtually all information is accessible online.

Göran Hansson, the former President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, remarked to news agency TT that while it is crucial for the laureates to be the first to know of their win, “the electronic age has introduced new avenues through which confidential information can be leaked.”

Before the advent of digital platforms, the Academy relied on traditional methods to keep the names confidential. Couriers would deliver sealed envelopes containing the names to news agencies like AP, and would be connected via phone to the Academy to coordinate the simultaneous release of the information.

Fredrick Malmberg, Head of News at Swedish television station TV4, emphasized the rarity of such an occurrence. “I have been employed at TV4 since 1995 and do not recall an incident of this nature ever taking place,” he stated.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first instance of pre-announcement leaks concerning Nobel Prize winners. Particularly, the Nobel Prize in Literature has seen its share of such leaks over the recent years. In 2010, for example, Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet had prematurely revealed the name of the laureate in Medicine.

The precise nomination and selection procedures for Nobel Prize laureates will remain confidential, Ellengren added. “The final decision is only made when the full Academy convenes on the very same day as the public announcement,” he explained.

Contributions to this report were made by AP Writer David Keyton in Stockholm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nobel Prize Leak

What happened with the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry announcement?

An official press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, containing the names of the 2023 Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry, was accidentally emailed to Swedish media outlets several hours before the official announcement.

Who were the prematurely revealed winners?

The prematurely revealed winners were U.S.-based scientists Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov. They were recognized for their work on quantum dots.

Is the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences investigating the incident?

Yes, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has launched an internal investigation to determine how the premature release of information occurred.

Did all media outlets publish the leaked names?

No, while several Swedish media outlets published the information after receiving the email, The Big Big News opted to wait for official confirmation from the Academy before publishing the names.

Does this incident have any historical precedents?

Yes, there have been previous instances of leaks concerning Nobel Prize winners, notably in the Literature category. However, such an occurrence involving the Chemistry prize is extremely rare.

What does this incident imply about the digital age and confidentiality?

The incident highlights the difficulties in maintaining confidentiality in a digital era where information can be easily and quickly disseminated.

How did the Academy use to announce the winners before the digital age?

Until just under a decade ago, the Academy used to send a courier to AP and other news agencies with a sealed envelope containing the names of the winners. The courier would be connected via phone to the Academy and wait for a cue to release the envelope.

What is the Academy’s official stance on when the final decision for Nobel Prizes is made?

According to Hans Ellengren, the Secretary-General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the final decision is made on the same day as the official announcement, when the full Academy convenes.

Has the Academy altered its procedure for announcing winners due to digital platforms?

Yes, the Academy ceased the traditional method of sending couriers with sealed envelopes to news agencies, opting instead to announce the awards simultaneously on various digital platforms.

What were the sentiments from media professionals about this incident?

Fredrick Malmberg, Head of News at Swedish television station TV4, said it was an unprecedented event in his experience since 1995, describing it as “incredible.”

More about Nobel Prize Leak

  • Nobel Prize Official Website
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • History of Nobel Prize Leaks
  • Digital Age and Confidentiality
  • Swedish Media Outlets and Nobel Prize Leaks
  • Quantum Dots and their Importance in Chemistry

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Emily_Reads October 5, 2023 - 8:38 am

leaks have plagued the literature prize before but chemistry? thats a first. Makes you wonder.

CuriousCat October 5, 2023 - 8:45 am

Who sends out a press release for something like this via email? There are secure channels for sensitive stuff.

CryptoQueen October 5, 2023 - 9:28 am

A leak in the digital age, who would have thought! This is why blockchain tech is so important for secure communications.

AnalystJ October 5, 2023 - 9:36 am

So many questions and so few answers. Im keen to know what the internal investigation uncovers. This could be a watershed moment.

TechGuru October 5, 2023 - 1:56 pm

Oh the irony! The most secretive and prestigious award gets hit by the digital era. Tells you something about privacy these days.

JohnDoe123 October 5, 2023 - 3:29 pm

Wow, this is huge! Never thought I’d see the day when even the Nobel gets leaked. What’s next?

BizLeader October 5, 2023 - 3:43 pm

Internal investigation or not, this really harms the academy’s credibility. They’ve got to up their security.

AutoExpert October 5, 2023 - 4:06 pm

If this can happen to the Nobel, imagine the implications for other sectors. Privacy is really at risk here.

OldTimer October 5, 2023 - 5:00 pm

Back in my day, things like this didn’t happen. Ah, the digital age, a blessing and a curse.

PolicyWonk October 5, 2023 - 5:35 pm

If they cant even keep a Nobel Prize a secret, how secure is other info? Just asking.

GlobalWatcher October 5, 2023 - 6:01 pm

Interesting how a Swedish mistake became international news. Goes to show how interconnected the world is now.

ScienceFanatic October 5, 2023 - 9:01 pm

Quantum dots, huh? well deserved, but the leak is kinda unfortunate. it’s like spoilers but for science.


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