A patience wait for over 20 years is often required by the Noble Prize candidate to receive the highest of scientific accolades.
According to a Correspondence by Santo Fortunato of Aalto University in Finland and colleagues, such nail-biting delays are becoming the norm - to the point that aspiring laureates may themselves have expired by the time the medal is due to be presented.
Before 1940, Nobel prizes were awarded more than 20 years after the original discovery for only about 11 percent, 15 percent and 24 percent of physics, chemistry and physiology or medicine prizes, respectively. But by 1985, delays of this order were featuring in 60 percent, 52 percent and 45 percent of the awards in these respective fields.
Fortunato and co-authors find that average waiting times are continuing to increase exponentially.
As the wait lengthens, so the average age at which laureates are awarded the prize goes up.
By the end of this century the predicted average age among prizewinners for receiving the award could even exceed his or her life expectancy. Given that the Nobel prize cannot be awarded posthumously, this lag threatens to undermine science's most venerable institution, Professor Fortunato said.
The study is published in the journal Nature, entitled "Growing time lag threatens Nobel"