Hello Nature readers, this is the news that matters in science today. You can also sign up to get it free in your inbox.

Peter Weiss, director of the Space Department of COMEX, tests a pressurized suit in a lava tunnel

Credit: Richard Bouhet/AFP/Getty

October’s best science images

A pressurized spacesuit being tested in a cave on Réunion Island is one of our picture editors’ picks for best science photos of the month.

Nature | Leisurely scroll

Wellcome: This is how we’ll do Plan S

Two of the world’s largest biomedical research funders — the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — have joined Plan S, a bold European pledge to publish all the research they fund under open access licences by 2020. The Wellcome Trust is also the first funder to detail how it intends to implement the plan:

• As of 1 January 2020, the charity will no longer allow the research it funds to be published behind a paywall for some time before it becomes free to read.

• Researchers can still publish in subscription journals, but only if accepted manuscripts are also posted to the PubMedCentral repository at the same time.

• The Trust will also stop paying its researchers’ open-access fees for hybrid journals, which mix free-to-read and paywalled content. But it won’t ban hybrids outright if authors can find a work-around.

Nature | 5 min read

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

Software spies signs of human evolution

Deep-learning systems are revealing the sequences in our DNA that have been molded by natural selection. The algorithm is trained on simulated data to identify mutations that might have spread through human populations because they give their bearers a better chance of surviving — and ultimately reproducing. The gene variations flagged by the algorithms can then be investigated further to determine what effects they have.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Communications paper

Invaders hit South Africa’s resources and biodiversity

Invasive species cost South Africa about 6.5 billion rand (US$450 million) a year and are responsible for about one-quarter of its biodiversity loss. Invasive species also guzzle a substantial amount of the country’s water, a serious problem in a nation experiencing a prolonged and catastrophic drought that is expected to worsen as the climate changes. The findings come from a pioneering report by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, which could serve as a benchmark for other nations thanks to its comprehensive approach.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: The status of biological invasions and their management in South Africa

Rogue chemicals threaten ozone hole

Extra-cold Antarctic temperatures have led to a slightly larger hole in the ozone layer this year compared to 2017. Ice crystals high in the atmosphere interact with chemicals derived from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) pollution to produce the chlorine atoms that eat away at the ozone layer. The news highlights the importance of finding out who is still using CFCs, despite the chemicals being banned since 1987.

Nature | 4 min read

Leading coral-reef lab loses funding

Ocean researchers around the globe are reeling from the news that the most-cited coral-reef research institute in the world will lose most of its national funding after 2021. The Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, will lose over one-third of of its current annual budget. Some researchers link the decision to the Australian government’s more general failure to adequately address climate change, which is the greatest threat to coral reefs — but the government denies that there was any political interference.

Nature | 5 min read


Sam Goudsmit, the atomic sleuth

Samuel Goudsmit’s achievements spanned the co-discovery of quantum spin and the founding of pre-eminent physics journal Physical Review Letters — as well as at least 48 nominations for a Nobel prize. A new book about the scientist’s life recounts the thrilling wartime mission he led to scour Germany for clues to the country’s nuclear efforts, and to apprehend its leading nuclear physicists.

Nature | 6 min read

A good time to be a neuroscientist

Early-career neuroscientists are facing a lack of academic jobs and cuts to brain-science research by pharmaceutical companies. But never fear — there is a broad range of careers to choose from, some of which might surprise you. Nature spoke to five neuroscientists putting their discipline to work in film, career coaching, comedy, biopharma and octopus biology.Nature | 10 min read

Academia reminds me of my cult

Graduate school has a lot in common with a cult, argues former humanities researcher Andrew Marzoni. He should know — he grew up in a Christian sect widely regarded as one. Marzoni calls out unchecked power dynamics, exploitative labour practices and the insistence on unwavering commitment to a supposedly noble, transcendent cause. “No one says it aloud, but every graduate student knows: This is the price you pay for a chance to enter the sanctum of the tenure track. Follow the leader, or prepare to teach high school.”The Washington Post | 9 min read


“There is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’.”

One reason given by the United States government in its application to have a climate-change lawsuit thrown out. The US Supreme Court has denied the request, and so the case — brought by 21 children and young adults — will go forward. (Nature)