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Phosphine has been detected in Venus’s atmosphere, raising the thrilling question of whether the molecule might be a sign of life on the planet. On rocky planets, life is the only known source of the compound — although it forms without a helping hand near the energetic cores of the gas giants. Life seems impossible on the surface of the Solar System’s hottest world, but the middle of its cloud layer offers a more promising environment in terms of temperature, pressure and presence of water and organic molecules. Even if it’s not a sign of life on Venus, the unexpected observation is exciting: “Whether it’s life or not, it has to be a really exotic mechanism,” says quantum astrochemist Clara Sousa-Silva, who co-authored the study. “Something weird is happening.”
Scientists in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) helped to develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for limited use (in military personnel). Other militaries, including that of the United States, work on vaccines and conduct medical research. But the sheer size of the PLA and the speed at which reforms are taking place make its scientific transformation noteworthy — and, for some, a cause for concern. In July, the US indicted two Chinese nationals for spying on firms conducting coronavirus research, including front-running vaccine developer Moderna. Scientists have also raised concerns about the ethics of approving a vaccine that is still being trialled.
Features & opinion
Chemist Naheda Sahtout is legally blind and has faced challenges while pursuing her laboratory research career. She argues that science needs to start a conversation to attract and empower more researchers like her. “I might occasionally need someone to help me look down a microscope, or an alternative project that makes use of my expertise and capabilities, but this doesn’t mean my scientific thinking or ability to analyse data, write papers and come up with fresh ideas is compromised,” says Sahtout. “I shouldn’t be made to feel as if seeking help is a bad thing.”
The misalignments of incentives, rewards and penalties is the biggest hurdle to the widespread sharing of scientific datasets, argues a Nature Biomedical Engineering editorial. “There are therefore plenty of incentives (both carrots and sticks) for authors to present their data on a silver platter,” says the editorial. “Rewards are harder to come by.” The editorial argues for tangible incentives at the right time, bigger rewards, and penalties only as a last resort.
With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty