Daily briefing: CERN scientists stunned by ‘highly offensive’ presentation

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

Left: James Allison, Right: Tasuku Honjo

James Allison and Tasuku Honjo share the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.Left: Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock. Right: MEXT/CC BY 4.0

Cancer immunologists scoop Nobel Prize

Two scientists who pioneered an entirely new way of treating cancer have won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. James Allison of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and Tasuku Honjo from Kyoto University in Japan showed how a protein on immune cells can be used to manipulate the immune system so that it attacks cancer cells.

Nature | 5 min read

Learn more about what immunotherapy is and how it works.

Read more about joint Nobel Prize winner James Allison and his work on immunotherapy.

Finland joins radical open-access plan

Finland’s national research funder has joined the ambitious European open-access pledge know as Plan S. (Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s special envoy on open access, says the ‘S’ stands for “science, speed, solution, shock”.) The 12 funding bodies who have made the pledge will require all their funded scientists to publish in free-to-read journals only by 2020.

Nature | 2 min read

Read more: Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions

CERN scientists stunned by ‘highly offensive’ presentation

Physicist Alessandro Strumia has been suspended from his work at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab, after giving a controversial talk at a workshop on high-energy physics and gender. His slides included the statement that the concept of gender equality is blind to “human biology practiced as in the plains of Africa thousands of years ago” and that physics was “invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”. Strumia also named a specific female scientist whom he believes was unjustly hired instead of him. CERN, which hosted the workshop, called Strumia’s comments “highly offensive” and contrary to its code of conduct. Strumia has defended the accuracy of his presentation.

BBC| 5 min read


How to get lucky

Good fortune is tricky to plan for, but researchers might be able to encourage it to come their way, says nanoscientist Andy Tay. He describes how, with good career planning and a proactive attitude, we can prepare ourselves to make the best of a lucky break.

Nature | 5 min read

Clear up this stem-cell mess

Various populations of cells in the adult human body have been haphazardly labelled as “mesenchymal stem cells” (MSCs), argue three researchers. Contradictory findings have bestowed MSCs with a near-magical, all-things-to-all-people quality in the media and in the public mind — hype that has been easy to exploit by people flogging unproven treatments. It’s time to ditch the catch-all ‘MSC’ name, and apply ourselves to categorizing cells more accurately, say the researchers.

Nature | 9 min read

Brain cancer: fighting the intractable foe

Despite dramatic advances in treatments for many other malignancies, a diagnosis of brain cancer still carries a high likelihood of death within five years. Despite a lack of progress in the clinic, research on this group of conditions is advancing steadily. This Nature Outlook explores potentially game-changing insights and treatments.

Nature | Multi-part series | Multi-part series

Why I smuggled blood for a decade

As a journalist working in China, Kathleen McLaughlin smuggled blood products from the United States for her own use for years. Her motivation? To stay alive in the home of the world’s largest and deadliest blood-plasma scandal, in which some one million people had been infected with HIV, while the government covered it up. Years later, she meets one of the impoverished farmers who saw his community devastated by the for-profit plasma business, and Wang Shuping, a physician who sacrificed everything to raise the alarm.

The Guardian | 16 min read


“For every 70 seconds that a speaker droned on, the odds that their talk had been boring doubled.”

Ecologist Robert Ewers observed 50 talks to determine whether boring speakers actually do talk for longer — or whether it just feels that way. (Nature)


One space tourist astronaut says to the other, “We should have gone to Tuscany! There is LITERALLY nothing here.”

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 02 October 2018: The description of the presentation in both the main headline and the headline for the section has been updated to better reflect events at CERN.

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