From Nobel speech to gathering former laureates

Published: 2021-09-27

Almost a year ago Tommy Andersson, Professor in Economics at LUSEM, was broadcasted to and watched by hundreds of millions of people. About two months later he was in a related situation. What was the occasions and how did he end up there? And why is he gathering the world’s sharpest brains within game theory in December? Another interesting colleague check is on! 

Tommy Andersson can't wait. Soon the winner of the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2021 will be announced and Tommy will be one of the first to know.

The occasions that made Tommy pretty famous last year were the announcement of the winners of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel and the speech to the winners during the Nobel prize ceremony. 

Very soon the Nobel prize winners of 2021 will be announced. Will Tommy be the one announcing this year’s Prize in Economic Sciences? He can’t tell; who gives the speech is still a secret. What he can tell though is what it felt like to be the one to explain to the world about the research of the winners Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson last year. And what the upcoming symposium when the world’s sharpest brains within game theory will gather is all about.

Thrilled but not nervous

How did you end up giving both speech at one of the world's most watched press conferences and then also giving the ceremony speech at the Nobel ceremony 2020?

”I am since 2019 a member of the prize committee and our job is to investigate who’s going to get the prize and why. Different things then determine who is appointed to give the speeches like for example subject knowledge. I got the question and accepted,” Tommy says.

How did you prepare?

”Since it is the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that finally decides who is going to get the prize that very day, it is impossible to fully prepare. I wasn’t of course totally unprepared but the fact is that I wasn’t 100 % sure of who was going to win until the day for the press conference.”

Were you nervous?

”Actually not. For real. It was such a cool thing to do, science history was being written! I got to play a minor role on this, for the prize winners, fantastic occasion. Most people never get a chance like this and I felt really thrilled entering the press conference. When the Nobel prize ceremony came two months later in the Stockholm City Hall I was of course prepared in another way. I was just as excited even if no secret was revealed like during the press conference,” Tommy says.

How to become and to be a committee member

How did you become a member of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences?

”It is The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences who appoints the members and they asked me. I get appointed one year at a time. Luckily enough the members ususally get to stay on more than one year; we have a lot to learn and need to immerse ourselves in so many new things…,” Tommy says. 

Tell us about what it’s like to be a member of this committee?

”It is a fantastic work, I have learned and I am still learning so much that I wouldn’t have learned without being part of this committee. We are all experts within different subjects but economics is a wide field and here we need to study other, new areas to be able to do our work. We meet at least once a month the whole year around and in between there’s a lot of work…We are ten people so we are rather few, but we don’t get to choose the winner, it is the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences who does that,” Tommy explains. 

What has the research by Milgrom and Wilson given the world?

”A lot, auctions are everywhere, prices of many commodities and goods are set by auctions, all prices at the stock market are decided by auctions, most modern transactions are decided by auctions every day. For the economy it is important to understand how auctions work and how they are designed. Thanks to the research of these Laureates, the standard auction formats are now well understood and resources are more efficiently allocated to the benefit of society,” Tommy says. 

 We want to gather the world’s sharpest brains when it comes to game theory, hoping to understand what we have learned on this subject during the past 100 years.

The world’s sharpest brains on game theory

You are together with colleagues at Stockholm School of Economics arranging a symposium in December on game theory and almost ten former laureates in Economy will join in. Why now?

”We want to gather the world’s sharpest brains when it comes to game theory, hoping to understand what we have learned on this subject during the past 100 years. The fact is that the first paper about game theory was published 17 December in 1921 by the French mathematicial Émile Borel which means that on 17 December this year it will be the 100 years jubilee. The symposium will thereby celebrate the first 100 years of game theory. Around ten previous Nobel laureates will participate and give speeches,” Tommy says.

Another interesting symposium will be hosted by LUSEM and held in Lund next year:
”I will together with Christofer Edling, Professor of Sociology at Lund University, arrange and host a symposium about social networks. People are more connected than ever before and we want to understand what we have learned about social network and social capital. It will be interdisciplinary and we will gather people from different research areas such as economics, social science, sociology and political science.”

To be continued…

Last but not least, how is the kidney exchange programme going?

”Very good! Every month more than one transplantation is done thanks to our programme and the last years transplantations from living donators have increased with 10 %. Kidney exchange had never been done in Scandinavia, between living people across national borders. And it is yet more to come. The best thing about it is that this hasn’t cost society or tax payers anything”, Tommy concludes. 

About the Nobel prize and the Prize in Economic Sciences

The Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious award in its field and was established 1901. The Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was established by Sweden’s central bank (Sveriges Riksbank) in 1968. This prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, following the same principles as the Nobel Prizes. Every year in early October, the Nobel laureates are announced. On 10 December, the Nobel Day, award ceremonies take place in Stockholm and in Oslo.


More about Tommy Andersson

Tommy’s profile in the LU Research Portal

Data and Optimization Requirements for Kidney Exchange Programs

Latest book by Tommy Andersson:

Algoritmmakaren, Konsten att fatta systematiska beslut

More video clips from last year's prize announcement and prize ceremony:

Interview made with Tommy immediately after the announcement      

Tommy’s ceremony speech (starts at 1:06)