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Daily briefing: The pitfalls of peer review — and how to avoid them

Top tips for getting through the peer-review process, the oldest animal painting in the world and how to build a cell from scratch.

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Laboratory workers in India

Scientists often struggle with manuscript preparation and journal guidelines. Credit: Samyukta Lakshmi/Bloomberg/Getty

Global scientists struggle with publication

More than two-thirds of researchers find it difficult to prepare manuscripts and to respond to peer-review comments, finds a survey of nearly 7,000 researchers from over 100 countries. Researchers said that they struggled with unclear guidelines and language barriers when submitting to English-language journals. Many respondents also expressed confusion about the rules on plagiarism and authorship.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Author Perspectives On Academic Publishing: Global Survey Report 2018

Europe has cut red tape for science

The European Union has made good on its promise to reduce the amount of red tape that scientists must wade through when applying for grants from its flagship funding programme, Horizon 2020. A report by the European Court of Auditors says that centralizing support services, improving information-technology tools and developing a single rulebook for participation has streamlined the process for scientists hoping to grab a piece of the €76.4-billion (US$87.4 billion) pot.

Nature | 3 min read

The oldest animal painting in the world

A faint ochre cave painting of a horned, four-legged animal could be the oldest figurative art ever found. Uranium dating shows that the image was created at least 40,000 years ago. Figurative ivory sculptures almost as old have been found in Germany, so this new finding reveals that ancient humans seemingly made the transition from abstract to figurative art at roughly the same time in wildly distant locations.

The New York Times | 7 min read

Reference: Nature paper

New head for House Science Committee

Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democratic member of the US House of Representatives and a former chief psychiatric nurse, is poised to take charge of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology now that her party has won control of the chamber. She would succeed committee chair Lamar Smith, a Republican who was often at odds with the scientific community because of his positions on climate change and the role of the National Science Foundation, and his fondness for launching investigations into individual researchers and government agencies. Johnson says that as chair, she would focus on broadening access to science and restoring “the credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking”.

The Washington Post | 5 min read

FEATURES & OPINION

Illustration by David McLeod

How to build a cell from scratch

Scientists are getting closer to the goal of building a synthetic cell from the bottom up. The pace of work has been accelerating, thanks in part to recent advances in microfluidic technologies, which enable scientists to coordinate the movements of minuscule cellular components. The end game is to map the boundaries that separate life from non-living matter.

Nature | 13 min read

Cell-sized liposomes created on a microfluidic chip.Credit: Cees Dekker lab, TU Delft

The race to the Moon — in 3D

Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May’s latest collaboration is a stereoscopic delight, finds reviewer May Chiao. The erstwhile rocker, along with co-author David Eicher, offers 150 stereo photographs to give us an inkling of the thrill of exploring an extraterrestrial landscape, alongside a balanced history enriched with fresh details from the Soviet and US space programmes.

Nature | 5 min read

How to navigate peer review

Three researchers studied the experiences of early-career researchers — and drew on their own publication woes — to come up with their top tips for getting through the peer-review process. They outline how to choose your target journal, deal with editors and handle conflicting feedback.

LSE Impact Blog | 7 min read

Reference: Learned Publishing paper

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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