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The 2001 Nobel prizes are being awarded today in Stockholm and Oslo (there’s a live webcast of the ceremonies from 4.30pm local time). This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week, three laureates discussed a fascinating range of issues.

Economist Joe Stiglitz, biologist Paul Nurse and 1991 literature laureate Nadine Gordimer ranged over talk about the work that had won them the prize, to intellectual property rights, the impact of 11 September and the relationship between their responsibilities in their field, and a wider responsibility to humanity (which the prizes are designed to foster).

The BBC only archives these programmes fitfully on its website, but you can listen to the replay at 9.30pm London time tonight (and I imagine by next week the programme will be available in the archive) or find the programme on the Listen Again page. Here are some highlights.

On IPR and the pharmaceutical companies. “The pharmaceutical companies will tell you the stronger the patent laws, the better for health. That’s wrong,” said Stiglitz. “Intellectual property rights are not a natural law. They are a man-made law and we should be able to design them to ensure the best outcome for public health.”

On scientific work. “There’s no such thing as a breakthrough,” said Nurse, who won the prize for his joint work on the regulators of the cell cycle, described in most press reports as a “breakthrough” in cancer research.

On the alliance against terrorism. “We have an alliance against terrorism,” said Stiglitz, “but we need an alliance on positive things: to create a healthy world environment, to rid the world of poverty.”

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