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Eight years on the Jahre Prize Committee

Harald Stenmark will conclude his service as chair of the Jahre Prize Committee with this year's awards. A celebration of research, the awards ceremony is slightly more laid back than in 2011, but still equally dignified and prestigious.

Harald Stenmark og Anette Sørensen

Harald Stenmark and Anette Sørensen say farewell after eight years as the chair and secretary of the Jahre Prize Committee. Photo: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

Professor Harald Stenmark has chaired the Jahre Prize Committee for eight years.

"The prize is one of the largest and most prestigious awards in the Nordic region in the field. A traditional prize that puts a spotlight on some of the top research in the Nordic countries," says Stenmark, adding that his stint as chair has been an exciting one.

Overview of top research in the Nordic countries

Among other things, Stenmark has appreciated the opportunity to meet some of the foremost researchers in the Nordic countries through his leadership of the Committee. "We receive a very large number of nominations, and it's interesting to learn a little about the medical research going on at the ground level," he explains.

"It's fun to see that there's so much good research that I otherwise would not have known about in disciplines other than my own," Stenmark continues. He has also been very pleased with how the Committee works together. The cordial and collegial tone among the members provided a platform for congenial meetings and made it easy to do their job.

The Jahre Prize Medal, which is awarded together with the prize money. Photo: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

Anders Jahre and the prize

Anders Jahre (1891 – 1982) was a Norwegian shipowner, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

The Anders Jahre Foundation for the Promotion of Science was established after the shipowner made several major donations to UiO. Half of the return from the Anders Jahre Foundation goes to the advancement of medical science and research. The remainder is divided between the legal profession and the chemical and technical fields.

Anders Jahre had a special interest in medicine, and decided that part of the return on the foundation's funds was to be used to award an annual Nordic medical prize for outstanding international work.

The Anders Jahre Award for Medical Research was bestowed the first time in 1960. Since 1965, the award has been split into two prizes: a main prize and a prize for young scientists. Jahre received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Oslo in 1961 and, in 1963, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from Lund University. He was an honorary member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Nordic Medical Society in Stockholm.

The other members of the Committee are from each of the other Nordic countries. "The award statutes stipulate that the chair of the Committee shall be from the University of Oslo, and that representatives from the other Nordic countries shall be appointed," says Stenmark. Professor Seppo Meri (University of Helsinki), Professor Lars Bo Nielsen (University of Aarhus), Professor Cecilia Lundberg (Lund University) and Professor Magnus Karl Magnusson (University of Iceland) are the other permanent members of the Committee. In addition, each representative has deputies. Professor Ludvig Sollid is the deputy for Stenmark.

Slightly less formal

This year, only the chair is being replaced. The secretary also follows the chair. Only two members of the Committee are replaced at a time in order to maintain continuity. The Committee's fixed structure for how it reviews all the nominations is thus maintained in this way.

Not many changes have been made since Stenmark took over as chair. The awards have been carried out entirely according to plan each year.

Neither Harald Stenmark nor Anette Sørensen can recall any surprises in the process. "It's just as grand every time," says Sørensen. "One small change worth talking about must be that we have made it slightly less formal," says Stenmark. "Previously the dress code was white tie and tails for the festivities, and we always danced the polonaise. The dress code has been simplified to the tuxedo. The polonaise was done away with long ago on the advice of the highly capable organisers at the University, who help us with the practical details."

A great pleasure

"It is important to say," says Anette Sørensen, "that it has been a great pleasure to do this work. To be allowed to pay tribute to the work that has been done and those who have excelled. To celebrate their accomplishments.""Yes it has always been a very pleasant task to call the prize winners," Stenmark adds with a smile.

Stenmark believes that there is room for improvement in regard to the attendance at the prize lectures. It's somewhat of a shame that more people don't use the chance to listen to some of Scandinavia's greatest scientists. Attendance was good last year. When we have had Norwegian prize winners it has been easier to attract a large audience, they note.

Jahreprisvinnere 2011 - 2019
 Jahre Prize winners during Stenmark's period as committee chair from 2012 to 2019. The top row shows the main prize winners. A list of the award winners by year is available on the prize's website. No prize was awarded in 2016 because the Committee considered switching to a larger award every two years.

2019 Jahre Awards

In October, Stenmark will award his final Jahre Prizes. The main prize of 1 million kroner goes to Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin at Uppsala University. The Anders Jahre Prize for Young Scientists is being shared this year by Associate Professor Lars Tjelta Westlye at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo and Associate Professor Jenny Mjösberg from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

Anette Sørensen og Harald Stenmark
Anette Sørensen and Harald Stenmark, outgoing secretary and chair of the Jahre Prize Committee. "Good collaboration between the chair and secretary of the Jahre Prize Committee has been invaluable. Anette has done a formidable job," says outgoing committee chair Stenmark. Photo: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

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By Silje M. Kile Rosseland
Published Aug. 31, 2019 11:23 PM - Last modified Oct. 15, 2021 11:04 AM