Daily briefing: Why lab students keep getting the same remarkably wrong answer

Chaos at the Cochrane Collaboration, no charges over lab death and how the ubiquity of Google is changing teaching.

Search for this author in:

Hello Nature readers, this is your essential daily briefing of what matters in science.

Patrick Harran pictured waking out of a Superior Criminal Courts building in LA in 2012.

Charges against chemist Patrick Harran stemming from a 2009 lab accident, have been dropped.Credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP/Shutterstock

Chemist will not face charges over lab death

A judge in Los Angeles County has dismissed a criminal case against chemist Patrick Harran, who faced charges of violating health and safety standards after a fatal accident in his lab. Research assistant Sheharbano Sangji was killed in 2009 when the t-butyl lithium she was handling exploded into flames.

Nature | 2 min read

Mass resignation at Cochrane Collaboration

The governing board of the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration has been gutted after it expelled physician and researcher Peter Gøtzsche. A further four elected board members stepped down in protest — which then forced the group to request that two appointed members resign, to maintain the statutory balance between appointed and elected members. The organization — which carries out systematic reviews of health-care interventions — says it received “numerous complaints” about Gøtzsche after he criticized the Cochrane’s review of the HPV vaccine in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. With only six people left on it, the board might now be dissolved entirely.

Nature | 3 min read

NIH set to strengthen its sexual-harassment policies

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is to introduce a centralized system for reporting harassment by NIH scientists. The agency is also planning to update its relevant policy and launch training and education campaigns. The move comes several months after the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its own effort to update its harassment policies.

Nature | 3 min read

Glitch interrupts satellite mission

A gravity-mapping space mission has not gathered science data since mid-July because of a problem with a key microwave instrument on board. The twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission measure minute differences in the distance between them to chart changes in Earth’s gravity, revealing the distribution and flow of water and ice across the planet.

Nature | 2 min read


How to confront sexism in the workplace

There is plenty of evidence to show that gender bias plays out against women in academic hiring, tenure and promotion, as well as in teaching evaluations. But it’s not always clear how to navigate it in your own career. A department chair, senior academics and an astronaut share their advice and strategies, from babywearing to choosing an academic robe in lectures.

Nature | 11 min read

Condensed-matter physics’ tumultuous history

The science that brought us superconductivity, superfluidity, magnetic memory, liquid-crystal displays and more was once known as solid-state physics — better known since the 1970s as condensed-matter physics. Historian Michael Gordin reviews an engaging new book that explores how US condensed-matter physicists struggled to define their field — and get the funding they felt they deserved.

Nature | 5 min read

How to teach labs in a post-mobile phone world

While teaching an intro-level biology lab, ecologist Terry McGlynn was flummoxed as to why students were getting some straightforward questions “remarkably wrong in an unexpected manner, nearly all with the same wrong answer”. The cause, he argues, was the ability to google anything on a mobile phone — without the training to think critically about the results.

Small Pond Science blog | 4 min read



A shopkeeper won’t accept a “quantum cat in a box”, saying “I’m afraid we can’t give refunds once the box has been opened.”

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 19 September 2018: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that the critique co-authored by Peter Gøtzsche of the Cochrane Collaboration's HPV vaccine review was published in The BMJ. In fact, it was published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.

Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.