Opening address – 2021

The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony 2021
Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin
Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Nobel Foundation, delivering the opening address at the 2021 Nobel Prize award ceremony. © Nobel Prize Outreach, photo: Dan Lepp
Speech by Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation, 10 December 2021.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Esteemed Nobel Prize laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen around the world!

On behalf of the Nobel Foundation, it is a great honour for me to welcome you to the 2021 Nobel Prize award ceremony.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic still affects our lives in a profound manner. Like last year the Nobel Prize medals and diplomas have been brought to you – our Nobel Prize laureates – in your home countries. And today, you will all be honoured and celebrated here in the Stockholm City Hall.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been reminded of the importance of science to find solutions to complex problems. With remarkable speed, scientists around the world were able to characterise the virus and elucidate how it infects people and how it causes disease. Vaccines were made in record time and shown to be effective. By collaborating, science and scientists have been extremely successful. However, to equitably share the results of science has often proven to be much more difficult. Now we have to make the vaccines – and the knowledge of how important they are – reach all people, in all countries.

But an even greater challenge is perhaps to build trust in science and to communicate science in a way that resonates with us as human beings, with all our fears and doubts. How can we make people trust in scientific facts rather than relying on unverified information and even conspiracy theories?

This is an important task for us if we are to be successful in dealing with our common challenges. Global problems can only be solved by global collaboration carried out in good faith.

This year’s Nobel Prizes draw attention to several of the issues facing humanity: they tell us that climate change is not a political opinion – it is scientific facts; they tell us that freedom of expression is something we need to protect and fight for; and they tell us about the disruption experienced by refugees who are forced to leave their homes.

Alfred Nobel believed in our ability as humans to constantly develop and improve the world around us. More than ever, we need what Alfred Nobel called for: great efforts for the benefit to humankind. And we need collaboration between disciplines and across borders.  

Earlier today, in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 was awarded to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. Their courage and devoted work are an inspiration to us all.

And now, we will celebrate outstanding achievements within physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and economic sciences that have all contributed to the greatest benefit to humankind.

Again, a warm welcome to the 2021 Nobel Prize award ceremony!

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