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Scientists in a laboratory having a discussion.

Fresh scientific collaborations lead to exciting results. Credit: Getty

Human behaviour

Want fresh results? Analysis of thousands of papers suggests trying new teammates

A deep dive into the physical-science literature links the most original research with the most recently formed teams of co-authors.

The most original research papers come from the freshest teams, according to an analysis of hundreds of thousands of physical-science articles.

Teamwork has become increasingly important in science, but little is known about how the effectiveness of newly created teams compares with that of more established ones. To get a better understanding, Shlomo Havlin at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, and his colleagues assessed the ‘freshness’ of teams of article co-authors by examining whether any of the researchers had previously written papers together, taking into account team members’ career stages and productivity. The study authors also analysed the originality of the teams’ papers and the impact of the work in different fields.

They found that the teams that had worked together previously the least produced the smallest number of research papers — but their work had the greatest originality. Their papers also had significantly more impact in several research areas than did papers from teams whose members had worked together before.

Large and fresh teams had the most original and impactful work, say the authors, who stress it is not clear whether this is a cause and effect relationship.

More Research Highlights...

Light micrograph of a human egg cell during fertilisation

As a human egg cell is fertilized, two chromosome-containing cellular structures (dotted circles, centre) merge into one — a process that often goes wrong. Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library

Developmental biology

The error-prone step at the heart of making an embryo

High-resolution imaging shows why the union between two sets of chromosomes goes awry as least as often as not.
Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Agriculture

Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty

Metabolism

A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
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