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This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to the ‘godfather’ of the fiercely competitive field of palaeogenomics. Svante Pääbo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, pioneered the use of precious snippets of DNA in fossils that are tens of thousands of years old to study human evolution. His work has led to the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome and the discovery of the group of hominins called the Denisovans.
Incumbent Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the country’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will face a run-off at the end of the month after Bolsonaro’s performance in the 2 October election was better than expected. Lula is seen as a science-friendly candidate — for example, he is the only contender who responded to a call from the Brazilian Academy of Sciences to invest in research, education and sustainable development. Scientists warn that it could take years for Brazil to increase budgets and rebuild scientific institutions, even if Lula wins. “We have to reconstruct the whole system,” says molecular biologist Helena Nader.
The United Kingdom’s scientific community is urging new Prime Minister Liz Truss to appoint a science minister — a post that has been vacant for nearly three months. Scientists also want Truss’s government to recommit to the previous administration’s agenda to make the country a ‘science superpower’. The pleas come amid fears that the government will deprioritize research and that Truss’s economic agenda, which has led the value of the pound to tumble to record lows, will hurt UK scientists. “Because of all the noise and the new announcements in the tax and other spaces, there has really been very little attention to anything that relates to science,” says Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society in London.
In a large study, researchers have identified several areas of the mouse genome that influence longevity. Some of these genetic effects differed between male and female mice — and some affected lifespan only in mice that had reached a certain age. Longevity is a complex trait, and the study has done well to uncover firm genetic links, says geneticist João Pedro Magalhães. But the work poses many questions. “It’s a stepping stone,” he says, “towards understanding the genetics of longevity, and ultimately mechanisms.”
Features & opinion
In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death for US children. Yet firearm injury is among the least researched and worst funded of the leading causes of death in the United States, note three violence researchers. “The lack is largely due to two decades of firearm injury being treated more as a political topic than as a public-health problem,” they argue. They outline how to establish the knowledge that is needed to reduce firearm suicide, homicide and unintended harm.
A spate of studies confirms that many researchers are not willing or able to honour their commitments to share their data on request. For example, researchers approached the authors of almost 1,800 journal articles and found that only 6.7% of authors actually shared their data in a usable form. Critics say that publishers bear some of the blame by not enforcing the requirement. In any case, researchers can better prepare themselves by forming a data-sharing plan ahead of time, getting training on open-science practices and considering repositories that suit their data.
Having depleted fish in its home coastal waters, China has built the world’s largest fleet of deep-water fishing ships, reports The New York Times. One vast mothership services many smaller ships, allowing them to transfer tonnes of fish without having to return to port. The vessels travel to waters around the world, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. The international conservation group Oceana tallied nearly 300 Chinese ships working near the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador in 2020. “Our sea can’t handle this pressure anymore,” says Alberto Andrade, a fisher from the Galapagos. “The industrial fleets are razing the stocks.”
Where I work
Cyril Barbier is production and hatchery manager at Gårdsfisk, a land-based fish-farming company in southern Sweden. “Conventional fish farming in the sea can have big environmental and welfare impacts,” he says. “Fish can escape from their enclosures, they can spread disease, and waste from the farms can over-fertilize waterways and ruin aquatic ecosystems. Our aim is to produce the most sustainable fish in the world.” (Nature | 3 min read)