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Daily briefing: Why COVID science didn’t win a Nobel

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William G. Kaelin receives his Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

The gap between a scientific discovery and recognition with a Nobel prize has grown over time.Credit: Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty

Why COVID science didn’t win a Nobel

Some scientists expressed surprise and disappointment that none of this year’s Nobel prizes were awarded to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly those developed using messenger-RNA (mRNA) technology, which have launched a new class of vaccine. The timing of nominations — which must be submitted by 1 February — might be a factor. So too is the question of how mRNA technology will kick off research into vaccines against other diseases. “We want to give credit to the right people. And for the right discovery,” says Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, which selects the prize winners. “So stay tuned.”

Nature | 5 min read

Chang’e-5 reveals Moon volcano surprise

The first samples brought back from the Moon in half a century — and the first ever by a Chinese mission — reveal surprisingly recent volcanic activity. Researchers analysed tiny fragments from the 2 kilograms of lava rock that the Chang’e-5 lander returned last December. The samples indicate volcanism that is at least one billion years younger than any found by NASA’s Apollo astronauts or by the Soviet Union’s uncrewed Luna missions in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Science paper

Cautious welcome for malaria vaccine

Researchers are celebrating the historic news that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the roll out of the RTS,S malaria vaccine among children under age five in Africa. But there are challenges ahead: the vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, has shown only modest efficacy, and requires a complex regimen of doses. Some researchers fear that the move will overshadow existing malaria control measures that are often underfunded, such as insecticide programmes and functional health systems. Nevertheless, researchers are grateful for the WHO’s decision. “With the devastation of COVID-19, and with progress stalled on malaria control, and news of resistance to anti-malaria drugs, it’s uplifting to see some positive news,” says epidemiologist James Tibenderana.

Nature | 5 min read

Question of the week

COP26: have your say

It’s been more than three decades since the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its first findings about global warming, and six years since world leaders signed the Paris agreement, committing 196 governments to fighting climate change. Now, after a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments will meet once again in Glasgow, Scotland to renew — and strengthen — their commitments to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. We would like to hear your views about climate change, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit and how science plays into the political process. Your comments might feature in future stories or help us shape our coverage.

Features & opinion

Futures: science fiction from Nature

In this week’s helping of short stories for Nature’s Futures series:

• An alien perspective offers a delightfully fresh viewpoint on a long-ago irreproducible result in ‘Friendship and other anomalous results’.

• Our quest for knowledge has chilling repercussions when aliens harness it for malign intentions in ‘Seams’.

Bitcoin and the death of cash

A new book by economist Eswar Prasad probes how digital innovation is reshaping money as both a tool and a concept. “Prasad is deeply interested in the social impact of the digitalization of money, such as making finance more inclusive,” writes reviewer and economist Paola Subacchi. “On one point, however, Prasad seems confident — that although cash will become more marginal, it will never be phased out.”

Nature | 5 min read

Podcast: AI ‘nowcasts’ imminent storms

Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) company, DeepMind, has teamed up with the UK Meteorological Office to predict heavy precipitation up to two hours ahead. Their system was trained on 1.5 million radar observations of rain in the United Kingdom. The forecasts could inform more than just whether to pack an umbrella: extreme weather can violently affect lives and livelihoods.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Quote of the day

“Know your bodies…. Do not dismiss your pain or malaise.”

Neuroscientist Nadia Chaudhri, whose forthright and moving Twitter posts shared her experience with terminal ovarian cancer, raised awareness of its symptoms, and fundraised for underrepresented neuroscientists, has died aged 43. (Montreal Gazette | 7 min read)


Today, our flightless friend Leif Penguinson is trekking near the frigid waters of the Dudh Koshi river, which is fed by the meltwater of Mount Everest in Nepal. Can you find the penguin?

The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and John Pickrell

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