The Nobel Prize in physics this year has gone to two very different research threads — and danced around some big societal issues, even as it celebrates distinguished work.

The award was split to honor both cosmology research exploring dark matter and the discovery of planets orbiting other stars. But the Nobel Prize is awarded to individual researchers, and that’s where things seem to have gotten a little sticky this year. (The Nobel Prize has been political in plenty of other years as well, and it’s hardly surprising that politics has again entered the arena in 2019.) On both sides of the honor, people have raised concerns about who was and was not recognized, and what that says about modern science.

“When we ask these kinds of questions, it’s not that these people didn’t deserve it, but who else aren’t we talking about that might have deserved it,” Kalpana Shankar, a professor of information and communication studies at University College Dublin in Ireland, told Space.com. “Often, people who should get credit for it haven’t, and Nobels and other major prizes are not immune to the politics of that.”

This year’s Nobel Prize in physics is a little strange from first glance, in that it recognizes two quite different research topics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel, joined the two research threads of cosmology and exoplanets by honoring what it described as “contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.”

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