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The Nobel Prize: Here’s how it works

Press release   •   Dec 09, 2012 12:52 UTC

Nobel Laureates are chosen after an extensive selection process at the top scientific academies in Stockholm and Sweden. Just weeks after this year’s Laureates receive their prizes from the hand of King Carl XVI Gustaf, work begins on nominations for next year.

“To those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” That is what Alfred Nobel wrote in his will to describe who would be eligible to receive the Nobel Prize.

The prize is awarded in Stockholm each year in the following categories:

  • Physics

  • Chemistry

  • Physiology or Medicine

  • Literature

Laureates in physics and chemistry are selected by the Royal Academy of Sciences, the prize in medicine is awarded by Karolinska Institutet and the prize in literature by the Swedish Academy. All three institutions are based in Stockholm.


Finding candidates is an ongoing process. The Nobel Committee sends out invitations for nominations in September.

To be eligible for the prize, candidates must be nominated by:

  • members of the prize-awarding institutions in Stockholm

  • professors active in the involved fields at Swedish and foreign universities

  • specially invited scholars at Swedish and foreign universities

  • learned societies

  • previous Laureates in the field

  • members of other academies and societies with similar duties

  • presidents of esteemed societies of authors in the respective countries (Literature Prize)

Individuals cannot apply for the Nobel Prize; any chagrin aside, candidates may not nominate themselves.

The three institutions must receive the nominations by 31 January.


Candidates are screened by a separate Nobel Committee for each prize within the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish Academy. The committees have between three and five members. Each Nobel Committee in turn summons experts from around the world, who examine the achievements of the candidates.

During the summer the Nobel Committee members compile a report on the candidates nominated for that year’s prize.


The proposal is presented to the members of the prize-awarding academy in September. The members of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Karolinska Institutet include the most prominent professors. The members of the Swedish Academy receive the proposal.

These three groups discuss the merits of the candidates and choose who will receive the prize in early October. Once the prize recipient is informed, the rest of the world is notified.

Award Ceremony

Nobel Week begins around 6 December each year. All of the Nobel Laureates and their families come to Stockholm. They participate in an extensive program of festivities and academic events arranged by the Nobel Foundation. The Laureates receive the prize (SEK 8 million in 2012) from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at the Stockholm Concert Hall on Nobel Day, 10 December.

Asset management

The fortune that serves as the basis for the prize and that makes it all possible is managed by the private Nobel Foundation. It ensures the economic base and guarantees the independence of the Nobel Prize-awarding institutions when choosing Laureates.

More prizes

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo on the same day that the other prizes are awarded in Stockholm, 10 December. The reason for this is that Sweden and Norway formed a union when Alfred Nobel established the Nobel Prizes.

The Prize in Economic Sciences, which is also awarded on Nobel Day in Stockholm, is not a Nobel Prize in the original sense. Its full name is the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. This prize was founded as recently as 1968 when the Riksbank celebrated its 300-year anniversary.

For more information:
Per Holmlund, PR Manager, Stockholm Business Region
+46 70 472 80 69,

About Stockholm Business Region
Stockholm Business Region is the official investment promotion agency for the Stockholm region. Stockholm is one of Europe’s most dynamic regions. With continual high growth, world-leading clusters within life science, cleantech and ICT, and as a center for fashion and design, Stockholm is the natural capital city of Scandinavia.