Daily briefing: What abortion bans mean for public health

With abortion bans going on the books in US states, what does the research say? Plus: an influential panel has voted to officially name the Anthropocene epoch and science in Europe on the eve of the European Union’s parliamentary elections.

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Government filmmakers document an atomic bomb explosion at the test site in Nevada. 1957

Filmmakers record an atomic bomb blast in Nevada in 1957.Credit: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty

Panel votes to recognize Anthropocene

An influential panel of scientists voted this week to designate a new geologic epoch — the Anthropocene — to mark the profound ways in which humans have altered the planet. The proposal would still have to be approved by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which oversees the official geological time chart. The start of the Anthropocene would be linked to the first atomic-bomb blasts, which littered the globe with radioactive debris that left its mark on the geologic record.

Nature | 3 min read

What abortion bans mean for public health

An Alabama law putting a total ban on abortion joins a slate of eight similar laws in the United States (none of which has yet come into effect). Wired explores how such restrictions might affect women’s physical health, looking at research on what has happened in other countries. In Romania, for example, maternal mortality rates spiked to 150 women per 100,000 births after abortion and contraception was made illegal in 1966 — and fell by 50% in the first year after they were legalized again, in 1989.

Wired | 9 min read

Green-energy ‘nudges’ might backfire

Applying ‘nudge’ theory to influence people to reduce their carbon emissions could end up eroding support for more painful, but more impactful, carbon-tax policies. In multiple experiments, researchers asked people to imagine themselves as policymakers and to choose whether to implement a carbon tax, a green-energy nudge for consumers or both. They found that nudges decreased support for the tax, possibly “by providing false hope that problems can be tackled without imposing considerable costs”. The good news: support for a carbon tax went back up when people were informed that nudges can supplement, but not replace, more transformative changes.

Grist | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Climate Change paper


Credit: Scott Reinhard

The cities in Europe mapped by their publication output for 2018, according to the Dimensions database of scholarly literature. (Scott Reinhard)

The future of research on a divided continent

On the eve of the European Union’s parliamentary elections, a special issue of Nature examines the prospects for science across the region.• A series of infographics explores the research investment and scientific output of the disparate countries that make up Europe. (6 min read)

• The European Union has partially approved the shape of its next giant research-spending programme, but it faces political tensions. Learn how European scientists will spend Horizon Europe’s €100 billion (US$112 billion) funding pot. (12 min read)

• The EU has a controversial plan to boost its spending on defence research. Discover why many academics oppose the programme. (8 min read)

• The EU fills a void in international scientific leadership, argue research-policy specialists James Wilsdon and Sarah de Rijcke. They highlight the potential for its model of science policy and governance to become more influential around the world in the decade ahead. (8 min read)

• Not everyone is as optimistic: Nature presents the views of nine leading Europeans on future priorities for science. They rail against nationalism and short-term planning, appeal to make climate change the main focus of all research programmes and call for more openness, cooperation and spending. (13 min read)

• Amid all the uncertainty, early-career scientists still flock to the region. Explore opportunities for learning new techniques, working in diverse settings and polishing your confidence when you join the European research community. (14 min read)

• Finally, a Nature Editorial urges Europe’s scientists to continue celebrating the strengths that make the EU great. (4 min read)


“Fight the culture that encourages secret parenting by … not parenting secretly. Eventually, your colleagues will adapt.”

Economist Emily Oster argues for working parents — especially senior-level ones — to speak openly about child-care obligations to help normalize the experience. (The Atlantic)

“Is it lame to email a professor to tell them how much I loved their class?” “No!” is the resounding answer from academics, who are queuing up on Twitter to encourage students to make their day by sending some positive feedback. You know where I’m going with this … you can make my day, too, by sending your feedback on this newsletter — whether positive or not — to

Thanks for reading!

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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