Daily Briefing: Why a senior physician is sharing the story of his attempted suicide, 30 years later

A moving call for better support for doctors’ mental health, how flu mutations in a single cell help to predict immune response, and what the Bolsonaro victory in Brazil means for science.

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Flu virus

The flu viruses that infect cells aren't exact genetic copies of each other.Credit: Steve Gschmeissner/SPL

Flu evolution on a single-cell level

When it infects our cells, influenza generates a messy swarm of viral offspring with an ever-expanding variety of mutations. These mutations could affect how well a virus spreads to other people or how well a person’s immune cells respond. Researchers sequenced the full length of the viral RNAs in flu-infected cells and found that they varied in how likely they were to trigger the human immune system.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: bioRxiv preprint

Bolsonaro victory in Brazil stuns scientists

Brazilian researchers are worried about the future of science, the environment and democracy, following the victory of Jair Bolsonaro in a presidential run-off election yesterday. Bolsonaro has backed down from an earlier promise to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, but some fear that his plan to loosen regulations on the agricultural industry will hinder attempts to protect the Amazon. “I'm afraid of living in a place where I cannot freely express my ideas and opinions, where universities, schools and hospitals won't be open and free to everyone, where our natural resources are no longer preserved,” says atmospheric scientist Samara Carbone.

Nature | 4 min read

Europe shows first cards in quantum bet

Plans to build two working quantum computers are among the first winners to be announced in the European Commission’s €1-billion (US$1.1 billion) Quantum Technology Flagship funding initiative. Twenty projects have been chosen to receive the first awards, comprising €132 million over 3 years. Critics say that spreading the money around misses an opportunity for a single quantum ‘moonshot’ that targets one big goal. Others say that the approach will seed better collaboration across Europe.

Nature | 8 min read

International university forced out of Hungary

The Central European University (CEU) will move its incoming batch of master’s-degree and PhD students from Hungary to Austria. Students who are already enrolled will remain in Budapest to complete their degrees. The move follows a controversial new law that requires international universities that operate in Hungary to also operate in their country of origin. CEU, which is accredited in the United States, tried to comply with the law by setting up a partnership with Bard College in New York, but the Hungarian government has so far failed to countersign the agreement.

Nature | 2 min read


Belly-button safari, bedspread jungle

A new book takes us on safari in pursuit of the wildlife teeming on our bodies and in every corner of our homes, says reviewer William Foster. On the way, Rob Dunn — “a David Attenborough of domestic biodiversity” — shows how our immediate ecosystem is as interconnected as any rainforest and as vulnerable to disruption.

Nature | 5 min read

“Enough silence”

Thirty years ago, when he was an intern, physician Steve Robson was preparing to attempt suicide when an unexpected visitor interrupted him at the crucial moment. Now president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, having stayed silent when other doctors took their own lives, Robson tells his achingly moving story, in the hope that it will help others to seek support. Incredibly, one of the colleagues who Robson says saved his life reveals her own side of the decades-old story for the first time in the comments section.

doctorportal | 8 min read

Nature offers a collection of mental health resources and support for scientists.

Ruth Gates, cornerstone of hope for coral reefs

Marine biologist Ruth Gates, who died on Thursday aged 56, was “an optimist’s optimist” whose laugh resonated even underwater, writes science journalist Ed Yong. Gates’s colleagues describe an introvert who became “a rock star of coral science” to save the desperately vulnerable reefs she studied. Recently, Gates had been working on breeding “super corals” that can resist bleaching.

The Atlantic | 10 min read


“They called the study group ‘Name-of-NIPS Action Team’, which shortens nicely to ‘NON Action Team’.”

An anonymous attendee comments on the controversy surrounding the name of the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference, and whether to change it. (The Register)

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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