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  • 'Nobels' for developing country scientists launched

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A new annual award, to be known as the Trieste Prize, has been launched in order to give international recognition and visibility to the most outstanding achievements of scientists from developing countries.

The award has been established by the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) — formerly known as the Third World Academy of Sciences — in collaboration with the Italian coffee company Illycafé.

The prizes will each include a cash award of US$50,000, donated by the company, and will rotate among different fields of science. The first two prizes, to be awarded later this year, will honour outstanding work in the biological sciences, and in physics and astronomy.

TWAS officials say that the decision to name the prize after the city in which both the academy and the coffee company are based is intended to recognise "the unique and fundamental role" that its scientific institutions have played in promoting science and technology in the developing world.

These institutions include in particular the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), whose founding director, the late Pakistan-born physicist and Nobel prize-winner Abdus Salam, was also the main architect of TWAS (see Physics centre for the developing world turns 40).

Candidates for the new prizes must be nationals of developing countries who both live and work in the South, and the prizes will only be awarded for research work that has been carried out in institutions in developing countries.

Each award will be made by a panel of internationally-renowned scientists, and nominations — as with the Nobel prize — will be invited from individuals, academic institutions and funding bodies around the world.

Individual scientists, however, will not be able to nominate themselves. And those who have won the Nobel Prize, the Tokyo/Kyoto Prize, and Crafoord Prize or the Abel Prize — each already intended to honour outstanding scientific achievement — will not be eligible.

When the decision to award the prize was initially taken by the TWAS General Assembly, the original plan was to make one award each year (See $100,000 prize for developing country scientists). However this has since been modified to allow recognition of more scientists.

TWAS officials said at the time that the new prize was intended to act as a type of "developing country Nobel prize", implicitly recognising the fact that virtually no top-level international scientific awards are currently won for research carried out in developing nations.

Mohamed Hassan, executive director of TWAS, said that the involvement of Illycafé in the award scheme stems from its long-term trade links with Latin American countries including Brazil and Colombia. "The company sees its decision to finance this award as giving something back to the developing world," he said.

Further details about the Trieste Prize can be found by going to www.twas.org.

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