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Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) photographed in Masoala National Park, Madagascar

The aye-aye inserts ‘the entire length of its extra-long, skinny and highly mobile middle finger into the nasal passages’.Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy

Nose-picking primates eat their own snot

Researchers have discovered that aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) — round-eyed, nocturnal primates found in Madagascar — use their long, skinny middle fingers to pick their noses, and eat the mucus. Biologist Anne-Claire Fabre recalls her surprise when she first saw a captive aye-aye picking and licking, because the creature’s whole middle finger seemed to disappear up its nose. “It is nearly 8 centimetres — it is really long, and I was wondering where this finger is going,” she says. To solve the anatomical puzzle, researchers carried out CT scans to build 3D models of the aye-aye’s head and hand, revealing that the creature’s long digit could extend into its sinus, throat and mouth.

The Guardian | 4 min read

Reference: Journal of Zoology paper

What Xi Jinping’s third term means for science

At the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th congress, Xi laid out his vision for science and innovation to drive the country’s growth, having been reinstated as general secretary of the party for a third term. Xi’s speech noted that China already has “the largest cohort of research and development personnel in the world”. He said that, to boost innovation, investments in the country’s skilled workforce will continue. Analysts say that China’s epic investment in science is also likely to continue, and the country is expected to prioritize research in aerospace — including space science — defence, climate change, clean energy and agriculture.

Nature | 6 min read

India to scrap hundreds of science awards

Indian scientists were surprised to learn that the government plans to scrap nearly 300 science awards. Although many researchers acknowledge problems in how the awards’ winners are selected, they say the decision to discontinue them without explanation is demotivating and will not fix the issues. “Scrapping these will demoralize the scientific community and weaken the pursuit of science in India,” says physicist Soumitro Banerjee. The government does plan to introduce a new prize, the Vigyan Ratna award, which will be India’s version of a Nobel Prize, but the details have not yet been provided.

Nature | 4 min read

Features & opinion

How to avert a looming water crisis

Intensive irrigation and climate change are depleting groundwater reserves in Bangladesh, which is home to a network of hundreds of rivers and the world’s largest river delta. To improve the country’s water security, researchers need more information on water use, quality, flows and forecasts.

Nature | 11 min read


Illustration of a woman trapped in a cave pushing away a large virus to open a way to a beautiful outdoors scene.

Credit: Sam Falconer

Preparing the world for the next pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic can teach us many valuable lessons that, if acted on, will put the world in a much better position to respond to future outbreaks.

Researchers are studying viruses that jump from animals to people — most pandemics in recent decades have emerged in this way. Machine learning could help to predict what the next pandemic-causing pathogen will be, or where it might first infect people. Climate modelling could also inform plans for infectious-disease outbreaks.

Countries must also ensure that they are better prepared to deal with pandemics. Health-care professionals must have the tools and training to spot an outbreak and limit its spread. Delaying transmission is crucial to fighting infectious diseases, which, as history tells us, are very difficult to eradicate after they have gone global. Some strategies that could help to achieve this can operate in the background — far-ultraviolet lamps, for example, could disinfect the air in public spaces. But many others require public support, and the sometimes confused messaging around COVID-19 revealed weaknesses in how public-health authorities communicate health advice.

Nature Outlook: Pandemic preparedness is an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Infographic of the week

Research swings: Volume of publications related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals from 2000 to 2019.

Adapted from: Changing Directions: Steering Science, Technology and Innovation towards the Sustainable Development Goals

Progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — a set of commitments that aim both to end poverty and protect the environment — has stalled, in part owing to a failure to adjust institutions of science and governance to meet the SDGs. Since the goals were agreed in 2015, the rate at which research from high-income countries on, or about, the SDGs is being published has mostly either plateaued or is falling. It’s a different story for low- and middle-income countries, where funding and policy systems are clearly more aligned with the goals. Two-thirds of research published in the poorest countries has some connection to the SDGs, compared with around 35% in high-income countries. (Nature | 5 min read)

See more of the week’s key infographics, selected by Nature’s news and art teams.

Quote of the day

“We've got to take climate change with us wherever we go — into the classrooms, into the boardrooms, into the voting booth, over the dinner table.”

Ahead of this year’s COP27 climate conference, UN Secretary General António Guterres says the world needs to re-focus on climate change or face catastrophe. (BBC News | 5 min read)