Obama meets with fellow U.S. Nobel prize winners

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

President Obama met briefly Tuesday with the other Americans accepting Nobel prizes next week, continuing an Oval Office tradition even though he happens to be among this year's winners.

Americans account for 11 of this year's 13 recipients. Obama will accept his Peace Prize in Norway on Dec. 10, the day the others receive their prizes in Sweden.

Obama impressed his fellow winners with his grasp of scientific issues, said Elizabeth H. Blackburn, one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

"He communicated to us that he's very serious that science is a very important part of national policy and that's where the future lies," Blackburn said. Obama also noted that his daughters have shown excitement about science, she said.

At least eight of this year's Nobel winners received tens of millions of dollars in federal research and development funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and Energy Department, according to the White House.

Blackburn will share the physiology and medicine prize with Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak. The trio has received more than $22 million in research grants over the years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the NIH. Each has also received separate grants from the NIH and the National Science Foundation.

Two Americans, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz, who are sharing the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Israeli Ada E. Yonath, have been granted about $14 million by the general medical sciences institute since 1971. Total NIH support for the researchers has exceeded $17 million. Economics prize winner Elinor Ostrom has been granted $27.2 million over the course of her studies. She will share the prize with Oliver Williamson, who has received $235,900 for two projects.

"Without federal support, there would be no support for this kind of research, because the federal government is the only one that provides basic science support," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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