Nominations For The "Science Oscars" Have Opened With More Than $20m Up For Grabs


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Laureates from the 2016 ceremony. Breakthrough Prize

It’s an argument you’ve probably heard many times before. Why do actors get huge salaries and glitzy award shows – complete with all their envelope dramas – when the “real heroes” like scientists go unnoticed behind the scenes?

Well, that’s where the Breakthrough Prize comes in. Founded by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and physicist-turned-venture capitalist Yuri Milner in 2012, this annual competition seeks to award scientists with multi-million dollar prizes for groundbreaking research and discoveries. And the nominations for this year’s awards have just opened.


Nominations can be submitted online from now until May 31, with anyone allowed to nominate anyone else for one of the prizes (note, you cannot nominate yourself). The awards, which last year saw celebrities like and Vin Diesel attend, will take place at a televised ceremony in Silicon Valley in December 2017.

There will be seven prizes with an award of $3 million each. Five of these are in Life Sciences, awarded to people who have made “transformative advances in understanding living systems and extending human life,” according to a statement.

content-1488453929-breakthrough.jpgThe other two will be awarded in Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. The former recognizes one or more individuals who have made “profound contributions to human knowledge”, and is open to all physicists. The latter is awarded to someone who has made “outstanding contributions to the field of mathematics.”

In addition to these, there will be six New Horizons prizes, each awarding $100,000 to promising early-career researchers in Fundamental Physics and Mathematics.


Last year, winners included the team behind the LIGO experiment that discovered gravitational waves and three scientists who advanced quantum field theory (Joseph Polchinski, Andrew Strominger, and Cumrun Vafa), while Jean Bourgain scooped the Mathematics prize for work in number theory and other areas.

So, if you know someone who might be particularly deserving of one of the awards, why not go and nominate them. Hopefully La La Land won’t accidentally scoop one of these prizes too.

Image in text: The Breakthrough Prize trophy, courtesy of Breakthrough Prize


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