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The secret battles between your cells

Cells use a variety of ways to eliminate their rivals, from kicking them out of a tissue to inducing cell suicide or even engulfing them and cannibalizing their components. It’s called cell competition, and it works a bit like natural selection, in that fitter cells win out over their less-fit neighbours. Biologists are looking for ways to fight cancer and ageing by reining in the process or helping it along.

Nature | 11 min read

Canadian election leaves scientists hanging

Most of the parties battling in Canada’s general election have little to say about the country’s scientific future. That’s in contrast to the last election in 2015, when the Liberal party squeaked to victory on a platform that included boosting research funding, lifting a gag rule on government scientists and putting more focus on the environment. This time, only the Green Party has presented a comprehensive science platform, with the other parties focusing on policies that address climate change.

Nature | 5 min read

Classicist accused of selling bible bits

The University of Oxford is investigating whether classics scholar Dirk Obbink sold ancient Bible fragments to the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby craft store chain. The pieces ended up in the hands of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, which is bankrolled by the family. Hobby Lobby separately last year paid US$3 million in fines related to smuggled artefacts. Obbink denied the allegations when some of them were raised last year in The Daily Beast.

The Guardian | 5 min read


Microbes might help with nuclear waste

Bacteria discovered in a Mexican lake accumulate two radioactive isotopes in their cells. They could help to soak up radioactive contaminants in polluted waterways.

A visitor from interstellar space

The 2I/Borisov comet is only the second known visitor to the Solar System from another star system — and it looks surprisingly like comets that orbit the Sun. The other object, known as ‘Oumuamua, puzzled scientists with its rocky, asteroid-like appearance when it was detected in 2017.

Extreme winter leads to an Arctic reproductive collapse

Unprecedented snowfall stymied breeding for birds and other creatures in northeast Greenland last year. For the first time in more than two decades of yearly observations, researchers have recorded an almost complete reproductive failure across the entire food web.

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the scientific literature.


How pandemics shaped society

In his new book, historian Frank Snowden argues that infectious diseases have shaped social evolution no less powerfully than have wars, revolutions and economic crises. Reviewer Laura Spinney notes that we still seem to be repeating many of the mistakes that triggered or exacerbated epidemics in the past.

Nature | 5 min read

Boosting inclusivity in the Nobels

Nature contacted three of the world’s largest international scientific networks that include academies of science in developing countries and asked if they had been invited to nominate people for the Nobel prizes. All three said no. The finding hints at one reason why the Nobels in chemistry, medicine and physics continually fail to acknowledge the achievements of diverse scientists, argues a Nature editorial. It’s time to open up the prize’s nomination process and its archives to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Nature | 4 min read


Science is shameful to rely on young reformers

Early-career researchers’ efforts to fight the perverse incentives that dominate science are all the more impressive because they are at the most vulnerable point of their careers, argues health-data scientist Jessica Butler. Funders and journals, not students, should take the lead by promoting standards such as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and registered reports.

The perverse path of climate funding

Small island states are the most vulnerable to climate change and most blameless in causing it, yet a statistical loophole is stopping research funding from getting to them. Funders must stop basing need solely on gross national income per capita, writes marine biologist Nicholas Higgs. Instead, they could refer to the official United Nations list of small island developing states to ensure these countries get their due.

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“We talk about a leaky pipeline all the time. It’s absolutely not. Women are being shoved out the back door quietly.”

Physicist Emma Chapman, who also works to end sexual misconduct in academia, says that her greatest battle is persuading universities to stand behind victims rather than cover up for perpetrators. (National Geographic)