Daily briefing: Pandemic burnout is rampant in academia

Sober advice for scientists on surviving burnout. Plus, preparing for the next pandemic and how to set rigorous and clear net-zero targets.

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UK funder’s data show uneven playing field

Female scientists who apply for funding from Cancer Research UK (CRUK), a publicly funded charity headquartered in London, have the same chance of success as their male counterparts, but applicants from minority groups face an uphill climb. Those are two of the key findings from the agency’s internal diversity review, which suggests that disparities linger amid some signs of progress towards equity. “You have to look deeper to find the disparities,” says CRUK fellow and cancer researcher Sophie Acton.

Nature | 7 min read

Latent Ebola strain sparks new outbreak

The genome of the Ebola virus causing a new outbreak in Guinea barely differs from that of the strain seen 5 to 6 years ago, suggesting that the virus remained dormant in survivors of the last epidemic. After analysing 2 viral genomes from the current outbreak — which has made 18 people ill and killed 9 — 3 independent groups agree that a Zaire ebolavirus strain, which was behind the last epidemic, is responsible again. Scientists had previously assumed that Ebola epidemics start when a virus jumps from an animal host to humans, but the new evidence suggests that humans are as likely as wildlife to be the source of an Ebola outbreak. “This is clearly a new paradigm for how these outbreaks start,” says infectious-disease physician Eric Delaporte.

Science | 7 min read

COVID-19 coronavirus update

Special collection

Preparing for the next pandemic

“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened a window of opportunity for rethinking the way countries prepare for public-health crises. This window must not be wasted,” says an editorial in Nature Medicine, introducing a special collection on preparing for the next pandemic.

• Now is the time to consider which viruses and microbial organisms could be the next global killer — and how to support people to make life-saving decisions when it arrives. (7 min read)

• Former World Health Organization director-general Margaret Chan shares four tenets at the heart of resolving a global health crisis. She highlights the need for decision makers to value health, build trust, form a harmonious relationship with nature and take a long-term perspective. (4 min read)

• The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented — but was expected, says John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Preparing for the next pandemic will require that we reimagine our architecture for health-security governance, he argues. (4 min read)

• Investigations show that those spreading misinformation that undermines the roll-out of vaccines against COVID-19 are well financed, determined and disciplined, notes Imran Ahmed, who heads the Center for Countering Digital Hate in Washington DC. To counter their activities, he argues, we need to understand them as an industry actively working to sow doubts about the deadliness of COVID-19, vaccines and medical professionals’ integrity. (5 min read)

Nature Medicine | Read the full collection


What’s up with Oxford–AstraZeneca

Pharmaceutical researcher Derek Lowe explores the stumbling blocks encountered by the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Results from its phase III trials were positive but left lingering questions. Several countries have suspended their roll-out of the jab — a move that leaves unvaccinated people at risk of getting COVID-19 — over concerns that it raises the risk of blood clots, despite a lack of evidence. “It’s a mess,” writes Lowe. “And it’s a mess that leads us right into the third problem, which is public confidence.”

Science Translational Medicine blog | 6 min read

Features & opinion

How to set net-zero targets that work

Commitments to reduce net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero are essential to meet Paris climate agreement targets and to save the world. But plans are hard to compare, and definitions are loose, write climate scientist Joeri Rogelj and three colleagues. They offer a checklist for countries and companies that want to set rigorous, fair and transparent net-zero targets. And, in a supplementary article, they detail ten guidelines for gold-standard net-zero goals.

Nature | 12 min read

it's all in the detail. Two charts showing pathways for reaching net-zero carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions and temp.

Source: Ref. 3

Pandemic burnout is rampant in academia

Stresses exacerbated by the pandemic are taking their toll on scientists, and the situation looks likely to continue as universities struggle with the economic fallout of COVID-19. There are no quick or easy solutions to burnout, especially with no end in sight to its underlying structural causes; academic scientists are often largely left to muddle through as best they can. Higher-education researchers offer sober advice on surviving burnout and making healthy decisions about your future career.

Nature | 9 min read

“Dare mighty things” was the message encoded in the red-and-white stripes on the landing parachute of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Now you can design your own circular missive thanks to software consultant Sam Warner (here’s mine).

Send me your inspiring three-word exhortations — plus any other feedback on this newsletter — at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Ariana Remmel

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