Why Getting a Nobel Prize Nomination Isn't News

Pretty much anyone who can convince a professor or member of Congress to write a recommendation can get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination

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The nominees for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize are leaking out. There are 241 of them, including the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and the radical-transparency web site WikiLeaks. But when it comes to a Nobel, winning and getting nominated aren't even close. Here's how you get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize:

The process starts every September, when the Nobel Committee reaches out to a pool of people qualified to submit nominations. According to the Nobel Web site, this group includes:

Members of national assemblies, governments, and international courts of law; university chancellors, professors of social science, history, philosophy, law and theology; leaders of peace research institutes and institutes of foreign affairs; previous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates; board members of organizations that have received the Nobel Peace Prize; present and past members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; and former advisers of the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

These people send back their nominations, and then the Committee narrows down the list until a winner is chosen. So while people may love to describe themselves as "Nobel Peace Prize nominees"--understandably!--it's still worth noting that the only barrier to entry is getting someone on the Nobel list to write you a recommendation. This also partly why the full list of nominees is kept secret for 50 years: sometimes this group nominates people like Joseph Stalin and (briefly) Adolf Hitler.

So, 241 nominees this year. That's 188 individuals and 53 organizations, according to the Associated Press. The full list of nominees won't be released, per Nobel policy, but we do know that 241 is a record number. In 2010, the year Liu Xiaobo won, there were 237 nominees--that was also a record number. And in 2009, when Barack Obama took the prize home, there were a reported 205 nominees--also a record number.

For the sake of context, here's a graph showing nominees by year since 2004:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.