Ever since its inception by Alfred Nobel in 1895, the Nobel Prize has been the grand international appreciation of remarkable people in Physics, Chemistry, Peace, Literature, and other fields. It is the proof of a unique accomplishment, and the ultimate medal of honour for science and arts.
What proves the stature of such a prize is the fact that it is not automatically awarded each year. The Foundation may choose to withhold the prizes if they see no one fit to receive it. There may be other reasons as well for not awarding the prize. And it may happen that the prize is turned down, just as Le Duc Tho had refused the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 as he believed peace has not yet reached Vietnam.
Last year, the Swedish Academy that awards the Nobel Literature Prize witnessed a compromise to its integrity. Allegations of sexual harassment by the hands of a member in the Foundation has seen almost half of the 18-member Academy resign their positions.
At the time, the 2018 Prize was cancelled, and was determined to be given next year with the 2019 Prize. However, Lars Heikensten, Executive Director of the Nobel Prize Foundation stated that the 2019 Prize may be postponed if they do not regain their trust in the Academy.
He added that the sexual harassment scandal led to several crises in the Foundation, and brought to the public a number of other issues such as clashes between certain individuals in the Foundation, as well as a number of structural and organisational issues. Yet, Heikensten believes that more transparency will bring forth a better Foundation in the future, and that their closed culture has gone for too long and was in critical need of change.
Heiknens personally believes that “…the Academy has cultivated a closed culture over a long period of time. This was likely to be challenged at one time or another. Personally, I am convinced that greater openness towards the outside world would be good for the Swedish Academy. It will strengthen the institution long-term and enable it to re-establish confidence. I believe that in the end something good will come out of this situation, even if that of course has not been the feeling during recent weeks.”
Lars’ statement on the website also assured the general public that this conflict does not affect other Prizes such as Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, Peace, or Economics. They are handled individually in collaboration with other independent organisations.