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Nobel prizes

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November 1, 2017

The 2016 Nobel season has started, and during the last few days, I was fascinated by the impressive work that people are doing in the different fields of Science. But as I was reading through the news articles I realised that almost none of the prizes was awarded to one person alone.

“The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was divided, one half awarded to David J. Thouless, the other half jointly to F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

And so was the Chemistry prize:
“The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines”.

The 2016 Nobel prize for medicine was an exception, as it was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”. But if you look back then you will find that this is the first time in 5 years that the medicine prize went to a single individual.

Even the Peace prize has more often been awarded to organisations than individuals. The only exception to this trend is the Literature prize.

People often ask me why is collaboration such a buzz-word in education? Because, everywhere, everybody is collaborating. When you think about scientists, you might think about this person sitting on in their own lab doing research. The reality is far removed. Research fields are so vast that it is no longer possible for people to work alone. Collaboration is needed if new discoveries are to be made.

But collaboration does not come naturally to everybody and our current school system put lots of emphasis on individual working, with collaboration left to group work projects in subjects like Creative Arts. So it comes as quite a shock when you enter the workplace, and suddenly you have to work with people. Teachers are actually the worst collaborators. So often you find three different teachers setting up three different worksheets on the same topic. And then I have not started on how often people refuse to share their work.

There is a old African proverb that says:

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