Norway aims for more Nobel Prizes

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Researchers May-Britt and Edvard Moser have won Norway’s first-ever Nobel Prize in medicine, but admitted they hadn’t quite comprehended the huge honour they were due to receive on Wednesday. State officials, meanwhile, are already hoping for more Nobel Prizes, and providing new sources of funding to help spur the process.

Edvard and May-Britt Moser were ready to receive Norway's first Nobel Prize in medicine, at formal ceremonies in Stockholm on Wednesday. PHOTO: NTNU/Kavli Institute/Ned Alley

Edvard and May-Britt Moser were ready to receive Norway’s first Nobel Prize in medicine at formal ceremonies in Stockholm on Wednesday. PHOTO: NTNU/Kavli Institute/Ned Alley

“It’s a big day, and I’m not sure I’ve realized what’s about to happen,” Edvard Moser told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Wednesday morning. He met NRK at the couple’s hotel in Stockholm just hours before he and his wife and research partner May-Britt Moser were to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2014. Their prize, along with all the Nobel Prizes apart from the Peace Prize, was being awarded at highly formal ceremonies in the Stockholm Concert House late Thursday afternoon.

May-Britt Moser was also still digesting the news that she would be seated next to Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at the gala Nobel banquet Wednesday evening that follows the awards ceremony. On her other side would be Prince Daniel, husband of Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria. She decided that the best thing to do was to go jogging Wednesday morning, before having to get dressed up. Both she and her husband prefer a relaxed style, but were enjoying the Nobel whirl.

The Mosers, who are sharing their Nobel Prize with their mentor John O’Keefe, have been experiencing a week of festivities and formalities in Stockholm that are far removed from their daily work in the lab at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. They said the “high point” came when they delivered their Nobel lectures at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute on Sunday, which May-Britt Moser described as “fantastic fun.”

On Wednesday afternoon, though, another high point was expected when they actually would receive their medals from King Carl Gustaf. “I think they’ll be gold, but I don’t know for sure,” Edvard Moser said with a smile to NRK. That was to be followed by the banquet and ball in the Stockholm City Hall.

Government gives research a boost
Norwegian officials are proud of the Moser’s accomplishment and Education Minister Torbjørn Roe Isaksen hopes there will be more. “Of course we have an ambition (for more Nobel Prizes),” Isaksen told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday. He thinks Norway’s research circles need a boost, not least the country’s “most clever” researchers.

Starting next year, the Norwegian research council (Forskningsrådet) will be able to offer more than NOK 1 billion in unencumbered funding to a total of 159 projects due to extend over a three- to four-year period. The projects were selected from a total of 1,052 applications, with NOK 520 million of the funds earmarked for projects in the fields of medicine, health and biology. Another NOK 292 million will be granted to projects within math, science and technology and NOK 263 million to research in social sciences.

Among those winning grants is Guro Elisabeth Lind, a 37-year-old professor who has been studying means of discovering colon cancer at an earlier stage. She already has won professional recognition including the “Early Career Award” from Oslo University Hospital.

The Mosers’ Nobel is seen as a new source of inspiration for Norwegian researchers and now the government is keen to inspire as well. The hundreds of millions in new financial assistance was made possible though increased funding in the state budget.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund