Daily briefing: The fight for the future of fecal transplants

Who will control the brown gold mine, 5 reactions chemists wish existed and how open access is influencing big pharma.

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Metformin pills move through a sorting machine at a Laurus Labs Ltd., a pharmaceutical plant in India.

Pharma firms are embracing open-access publishing. Credit: Sara Hylton/Bloomberg via Getty

Big pharma is embracing open access

Big pharmaceutical companies publish a higher proportion of their papers in open-access journals than does the rest of the medical-research field. An analysis of papers published by companies such as Pfizer and Roche reveals that they also cite a higher proportion of open-access articles. “They don’t need the imprimatur of prestigious journals,” says social scientist Kyle Siler. “They’re not playing the academic status game.”

Nature | 4 min read

Source: Ref. 1

Spanish reforms target hiring, family life

The Spanish government has passed reforms to the nation’s scientific system that aim to make it easier for public research institutions to hire staff, and for scientists to buy equipment and return to a science career after taking maternity or paternity leave. The changes have been widely welcomed by the country’s scientists, but many say that more are needed to improve the research system, which has struggled over years of low funding.

Nature | 3 min read


AI empowers conservation biology

From analysing the sound of birds hitting power lines to spotting the tell-tale pelt of an endangered animal on social media, researchers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle mountains of image and audio data. Nature Toolbox explores the AI systems on offer, and how scientists are using them to answer pressing ecological questions.

Nature | 8 min read

Five reactions chemists wish existed

No wonder many of the bestselling and most prescribed medicines have structural similarities, notes Chemistry World: the majority are the products of just two reactions. (The amide formation and the Suzuki–Miyaura cross coupling, if you’re keeping score). But what if organic chemists could figure out a few more reactions that were as safe, straightforward and robust? Here are five reactions that could change everything.

Chemistry World | 13 min read

Read more: Seven chemical separations to change the world (Nature, from 2016)

The fight for the future of fecal transplants

Fecal transplants offer hope for people who suffer from painful and debilitating gut problems — but is the transfer of fecal matter from one person to another a drug, and should it be regulated like one? The US Food and Drug Administration is feeling pressure from big pharma, patient groups and physicians to deliver rules that will define the future of the brown gold mine.

The New York Times | 8 min read

Read more: Careful sorting of probiotics may finally pave the way for an FDA approval (Nature Medicine)


“The dawn of a new era in human spaceflight.”

Astronaut Anne McClain welcomes the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, the first commercial spacecraft to autonomously dock to the orbiting laboratory. (Twitter)

Read more: SpaceX Crew Dragon: Launched and docked. Now, about that splashdown… (The Register)

How well do you know the periodic table? I surprised myself with a fairly respectable 10/16 on New Scientist’s elemental quiz — let me know how well you did (and any other feedback) at

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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