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A minor is inoculated with the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine in a Mexico City library.

Modellers predict that vaccinating children against COVID-19 could significantly curtail the spread of any new coronavirus variants of concern.Credit: Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty

COVID vaccines for young kids welcome

Researchers are looking at how immunizing 5- to 11-year-olds — the largest group of people in the United States not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines — will change the course of the pandemic there, after Food and Drug Administration advisers recommended authorizing shots for children. Modellers predict that vaccinating children against COVID-19 could significantly curtail the spread of any new coronavirus variants of concern. “For every child’s life you save, you may well save many, many more adult lives,” says infectious-diseases researcher Emma McBryde.

Nature | 7 min read

The kid effect: A simulation of the effect of vaccinating US children aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19 in early November 2021.

Source: COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub

UK funding boost less than hoped

The United Kingdom has postponed an ambitious science spending target by two years, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak revealed in yesterday’s budget announcement. The government will increase research and development (R&D) spending to £22 billion (US$30.3 billion) per year by 2026 — and not by 2024 as originally planned. This means “the government will need to re-double its efforts” if it wants to meet an earlier target of increasing R&D spending to 2.4% of its gross domestic product by 2027, says Daniel Rathbone, assistant director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering.

Nature | 4 min read

Still no evidence of ‘sterile neutrino’

Researchers have, once again, failed to find any signs that hypothesized particles called sterile neutrinos exist. Neutrinos are some of the most abundant elementary particles in the Universe. There are three known types, but scientists have been searching for a fourth kind of neutrino for decades. If found, it could help to solve pressing problems in particle physics. Now, an experiment called MicroBooNE at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory did not turn up evidence of sterile neutrinos. Does this mean that the search for this mysterious particle is over? “I think that depends who you ask,” says MicroBooNE spokesperson Justin Evans.

New Scientist | 3 min read

Features & opinion

Pandemic must lead to TB vaccines

The coronavirus crisis has halted decades of progress on tuberculosis (TB). Not only are more people dying of the disease, but a target to reduce deaths by 90% from 2015 levels by 2030 is now in peril. Researchers are urging decision-makers to revive diagnosis, treatment and research programmes for TB and other infectious diseases, such as malaria. Lessons can be learnt from how COVID-19 has been handled — from extraordinary resource mobilization to the use of emerging technologies.

Nature | 4 min read

Predatory publishers’ latest scam

An analysis of predatory publishers — those that take publication fees without performing services such as rigorous peer review or quality control — reveals more of their tactics for deceiving researchers. Some re-publish bootlegged copies of papers from legitimate journals to give the illusion of credibility, making self-plagiarists of unwitting scientists. The authors of the analysis find that OMICS, a publisher fined in the United States for deceptive business practices, has since removed or changed the branding on hundreds of journals and webpages; some of these include papers backdated to before their launch or acquisition.

Nature | 10 min read

OLD ARTICLE IN NEW BRANDS: barchart showing the number of articles in OMICS subsidiaries including backdated papers

Source: K. SIler et al.

Quote of the day

“It’s cool from a forensic point of view. But would Sitting Bull have been comfortable with this?”

DNA analysis on a lock of hair belonging to nineteenth-century Native American leader Tatanka Iyotake, also known as Sitting Bull, has confirmed the identity of his great-grandson. But the finding has raised some concerns about how Indigenous data are used in research. (Science | 5 min read)