Hello Nature readers, welcome to your essential daily round-up of science news.

A local farmer bends down to reach foliage in a clearing in Uganda. In his left hand he holds a hoe.

A new initiative aims to gather information on roughly 500 million farmers, such as the ones with small operations in Uganda.Credit: Geovien So/SOPA Images via ZUMA

Big-data to transform farming in poor countries

A major data-gathering project has launched to fill a yawning information gap about the activities of an estimated 500 million farmers living in poverty. The US$500-million project will gather information about seed varieties, income and farmers' technological capacities across 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The information will help coalition members, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and national governments, to track whether their ongoing agriculture investments are making a difference. They also hope the data will enable governments to tailor their policies to help farmers.

Nature | 4 min read

How to tag a billion plankton pics

To understand the distribution and behaviour of plankton — the powerhouse of the ocean’s food web — scientists must analyse billions of images. The problem is that, in photographs, these tiny organisms look like floating specks of dust. Researchers are harnessing the power of machine learning to categorize the terabytes of data involved.

Nature | 3 min read

India, United States will lose most from climate change

India, China, Saudi Arabia and the United States are the countries with the most to lose economically from climate change. Researchers looked at climate-modelling data, economic damage estimates and socio-economic projections to develop a map that shows which countries will bear most of the cost. “It makes a lot of sense, because the larger your economy is, the more you have to lose,” says climate-change scientist Kate Ricke.

The Independent | 8 min read

Reference: Nature Climate Change paper


No more first authors, no more last authors

The way science normally credits authors creates a negative-feedback loop that hinders unconventional collaborations, argues research-development specialist Gretchen Kiser. We should ditch first authors, last authors and the fight for asterisks that stalls team science.

Nature | 5 min read

How to transition to a new lab

Marine-chemistry technician Melissa Miller has crossed every ocean and been to the North Pole in the name of science. She shares her advice for entering a new lab, as someone who does it several times every year.

Nature | 5 min read

Nail your graduate-fellowship application

Application season is here for graduate students who are seeking external funding. PhD Earth-science student Gabi Serrato Marks offers her tips for writing the perfect application and “making it through the process with your self esteem intact”.

Personal blog | 6 min read


“Anyone who struggles hard with a problem never forgets it.”

You can sniff out when people are fudging their accomplishments by digging for the details, says Elon Musk. (CNBC)