Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist: It’s worth nominating someone

21/Mar/2019

Verleihung des Preises 2019

The Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist 2019 will be awarded in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering sciences. The research community is invited to submit nominations by 8 April. Seraina Rüegger explains what it’s like to nominate one’s own boss.

Since 1920, the top science prize for researchers in Switzerland has honoured internationally recognised scientists for the importance and quality of their work. The prize is now awarded in different disciplines on a rotating basis, a system introduced in 2018. This year, a prizewinner will be sought in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering sciences.

Last year, postdoc Seraina Rüegger and her colleagues at ETH Zurich nominated peace researcher Lars-Erik Cederman, who went on to win the Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist 2018.

Why did you respond to the call for nominations?

Because they were explicitly looking for a researcher in the humanities and social sciences. Our group was enjoying great success at the time. We had published a lot of work, and had launched and completed several research projects. We all agreed that Lars-Erik had a good chance of winning the prize. If we’d not thought so, we wouldn’t have nominated him. We are, after all, a pragmatic bunch.

How did you celebrate when he was awarded the prize?

We let the champagne flow (laughs). For Lars-Erik and us it was a really exciting experience: first Lars-Erik got a phone call from Federal Councillor Schneider-Amman, then our group received visits from photographers and a film team. We will never forget the reporting in the media and the award ceremony in the Bernerhof.

How important do you think science prizes are?

I think they are very important. They show researchers that their work is valued and that it is relevant to society. The Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist makes research accessible to a wider public, for example through reports in the media. Winning a prize is also a delightful experience!

Clearly you must have submitted a very good nomination. How did you go about writing it?

It was essential to write the nomination as a group. First we brainstormed ideas and wrote a long list of what we believe are Lars-Erik’s key merits. Most of these things were listed in his CV. Then we divided up the different parts of the nomination amongst us.

What is your advice to others who are not sure about nominating someone?

Just do it! It will cost you nothing other than a few days’ work, or perhaps less, if you don’t do it alone. If you aren’t successful the first time, you can have another go three years later. And don’t leave it to the last minute to start completing the nomination documents!