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Daily briefing: How to avoid arguments over authorship

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Police with helmets and riot shields walk through a crowd of men arriving at a mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang, China

Police patrol Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region, where there are reports of systematic human-rights abuses against the Uyghur population.Credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

Male DNA database faces ethical challenges

A huge database of Y-chromosome profiles has expanded from a research resource to a key tool for justice systems. But some European geneticists say that the Y-chromosome Haplotype Reference Database (YHRD) has an ethics problem. Thousands of profiles in it were obtained from men who are unlikely to have given free, informed consent. These include data from persecuted minority groups, such as the Uyghurs in China and the Roma in eastern Europe.

Nature | 10 min read

Papers in closed journals get fewer citations

Papers published in a now-defunct business journal get 20% fewer citations than do similar articles in titles that are still running, according to an analysis of finance articles. The study is among the first to investigate the effects of closing a leading journal and hint at the importance of journal prestige for researchers referencing others’ work. The study is a “provocative contribution” to our understanding of how scientists work, says social scientist Flaminio Squazzoni. The title in question was discontinued for administrative reasons and officially closed in 2006.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Journal of Political Economy paper

Video: Lessons from Kilauea

In 2018, Hawaii's most active volcano took scientists by surprise. Lava started spewing out not from the summit, but 50 kilometres away on the lower slopes of the volcano. This unexpected eruption destroyed farms, roads and more than 700 homes. A Nature video explores how volcanologists have been piecing together the events that triggered the unexpected eruption to try and better predict future hazards.

Nature | 7 min video

Reference: Nature Communications paper

Features & opinion

How to avoid authorship arguments

Authorship disputes are rife. Nature speaks to researchers, publishers and funders about formative collaborations that saw career-defining contributions to papers downplayed, and describes steps that researchers can take to mitigate tensions that might arise in collaborations. One suggestion is to have a scientific ‘pre-nup’, or team charter, that spells out roles, responsibilities and processes for conflict resolution in advance.

Nature | 12 min read

Pride in geoscience

The geosciences are among the least diverse of all science disciplines: ethnic, racial and gender representation is poor, notes a Nature Reviews Earth & Environment editorial. For LGBT+ scientists — those from sexual and gender minorities — the challenges faced include those associated with fieldwork: a survey of LGBT+ geoscientists found that a third had declined fieldwork opportunities owing to safety concerns. In celebration of Pride month, the journal has published a series of personal reflections and thoughts on some of the challenges faced by LGBT+ geoscientists.

Nature Reviews Earth & Environment | 4 World View articles and an editorial

A scatter of life and death

The first graph in history might have been a one-dimensional plot showing the wildly inaccurate estimates of the distance from Toledo, Spain, to Rome, drawn by map-maker Michael Florent van Langren in 1628. This extraordinary conceptual leap highlighted the danger that cartographic failures could pose to travellers. From train schedules to blood-glucose levels, graphs have proliferated in spectacular fashion to visualize data in a way that helps to save lives, writes mathematician Hannah Fry.

The New Yorker | 15 min read

Where I work

Jason Paliau and local assistant Sammy collect ant specimens in a rainforest in Papua New Guinea

Jason Paliau is a lecturer at the Papua New Guinea University of Resources and Environment in Rabaul.Credit: UN-REDD Programme

“It takes collaboration to get the full picture of a forest,” says ecologist Jason Paliau. Here, he works with a local secondary-school student named Sammy to measure the impact of mining and logging on the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. Paliau, who grew up in the northern city of Lae, says that local people contribute essential expertise gained from a lifetime of living on the land. (Nature | 3 min read)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01630-7

In recent Briefings, we’ve been pondering whether studying an organism puts you off eating it. Lots of you wrote in with stories about tucking into “lab kill”, as reader Simon Wilson dubs it. “Why waste a squid mantle after dissecting its axon?” sagely asks Patricia Gadsby. There are many caveats: I don’t have to tell you to make ethics, safety and legality your watchwords. Thanks to all the physicians who wrote to say: no.

There are fewer worries for those who study plants, perhaps. Michael Kertesz says that the mushrooms he grows as part of his research set off a feeding frenzy when shared with his department (he sent photos and I can confirm: those mushrooms look delicious).

And why stick to living organisms? “As a soil scientist, I receive very sceptical looks from people when I demonstrate how to discern silt from clay by putting a bit of soil in my mouth,” writes Lorene Lynn. “It’s a tried and true method.” Clay is bland and silt is “gritty and rather unpleasant”, says Lynn. (Caveat taster for any of you thinking of giving this a try!)

Thanks to everyone who got in touch. Your emails are always welcome at briefing@nature.com — we read every one.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty

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