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Daily briefing: Meet the ‘hidden figures’ of genetics uncovered in the footnotes

Unsung female programmers and statisticians, violent drug cartels stifle Mexican science and essential elements for high-impact scientific writing

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Bolson tortoise in Mapimi Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Biological work in some of Mexico's reserves has also suffered from drug-related violence.Credit: Claudio Contreras/Naturepl.com

Violent drug cartels stifle Mexican science

Scientists tell Nature of their heartbreak at being forced to abandon field sites, interrupt experiments or even change their research focus because of increasingly violent drug gangs in Mexico. Last month, scientists studying a vulnerable parrot species got a call from their collaborators in Tierra Caliente, an area disputed by feuding cartels, who had received death threats from local gangs who wanted them to stop their research. “I cried out of frustration,” says restoration ecologist Arnulfo Blanco García.

Nature | 5 min read

Six teams battle to be Europe’s next €1-billion projects

The European Commission has selected six research projects to compete to become one of its flagship €1-billion (US$1.1 billion) science initiatives. The potential mega-projects include: exploring how artificial intelligence can enhance human capabilities; hastening the clinical availability of cell and gene therapies; a personalized-medicine initiative; making solar energy more efficient; and a humanities project called the Time Machine, which seeks to develop methods for enabling digital search of historical records in European cities. Up to three will be chosen to become fully fledged initiatives that will launch in 2021.

Nature | 6 min read

Five years on, Ukraine’s science revolution stalls

On the anniversary of an uprising that propelled Ukraine away from Russia and towards Europe, scientists say things are improving too slowly. The ‘Euromaidan’ revolution in 2014 raised hopes among scientists that Western partnerships would form and steer them out of international isolation. But outdated institutions, flat funding and low salaries have left researchers feeling discouraged.

Nature | 7 min read

FEATURES & OPINION

Illustration by David Parkins

Overdue: a US advisory board for research integrity

When it comes to fostering rigour and scientific integrity, US research institutions are stuck, argue Marcia McNutt, president of the US National Academy of Sciences, and colleagues. They call for an authoritative forum in which to hash out solutions that cut across the complex ecosystem of funders, journals, academic administrators, scientific societies and researchers.

Nature | 10 min read

How to write up your research so people want to read it

For your writing to have an impact, remember that your science is exciting, says biomedical researcher Eric Buenz. He explores the essential elements that will make your writing pleasurable and enlightening.

Nature | 5 min read

The hidden figures of genetics

Inspired by their own ignorance of the female scientists featured in the film Hidden Figures, a team of students dug through the acknowledgments of almost 900 older papers to find women in genetics who had been similarly neglected. They discovered programmers and statisticians who were never given the credit that would be expected today. “I think people think that, back then, women were just secretaries, who typed code, punched cards, and didn’t do intellectual work,” says Emilia Huerta-Sánchez. But “it was what grad students and postdocs do nowadays”.

The Atlantic | 7 min read

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Love them or loathe them, we humans cannot survive without insects.”

Biologist Dave Goulson responds to mounting evidence that we are destroying “the heart of every food web” that sustains us. (The Guardian)

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Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

Nature Briefing

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