Daily briefing: The five best science books of 2019


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This photo, taken on 4 June 2019 ,shows police officers patrolling in Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang region.

Police officers patrolling in Kashgar, a city in China’s western Xinjiang region. Credit: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty

Springer Nature and Wiley are reviewing the ethics of publishing DNA or facial-recognition research involving scientists backed by China’s government to check that study participants gave informed consent. Under scrutiny are papers and conference proceedings that focus on the Muslim Uyghur population and other minority ethnic groups who are subject to mass detentions in China’s Xinjiang province. Springer Nature (which publishes Nature) said that this week it would add notes of concern about consent to two papers that relied on DNA from Uyghur people.

Nature | 6 min read

(Nature’s news team — including this Briefing — is editorially independent of its publisher, Springer Nature.)

Ahead of Thursday’s election, researchers have welcomed pledges from the United Kingdom’s three main political parties to increase spending on science. But some question how realistic the promises are in light of the country’s halting exit from the European Union. Analysts say that Brexit’s changes to freedom of movement and participation in European funding programmes threaten to stall scientific collaboration and recruitment.

Nature | 5 min read

There’s plenty of evidence documenting the barriers that women face in scientific careers — but what, exactly, should institutions and funding agencies do about it? A panel of 21 scientists offers answers by outlining specific policy changes that build on existing mechanisms for research funding and governance. Among their recommendations are that funders should cut off grant money to researchers who have been found guilty of sexual misconduct.

Nature Index | 5 min read

Reference: Science policy forum paper

Features & opinion

Molecular biologist Margarita Salas transformed the process of amplifying DNA from very small samples, pioneered her field in Spain and was a courageous role model for female scientists. “She created a true school, teaching molecular biologists from different places and of different origins how to conduct — and take joy in — research,” write three colleagues in a tribute to Salas, who died on 7 November, aged 80.

Nature | 4 min read

After a successful bone-marrow transplant, the DNA of computer engineer Chris Long mingles harmlessly in his body with that of his donor. Long’s treatment offered his colleagues at a forensic crime lab the opportunity to study the phenomenon of chimerism, which has misled investigators in the past by muddling the DNA evidence of crimes.

The New York Times | 7 min read

A privately funded non-profit organization is buying up ranches in Montana to create the largest wildlife sanctuary in the United States outside of Alaska. Launched with Silicon Valley money, American Prairie Reserve aims to rewild the area with wolves, grizzly bears and the continent’s largest herd of genetically pure bison.

NPR | 9 min read

Barbara Kiser’s pick of the top five science books of the year includes a beguiling cultural and scientific history of the Moon, an engaging account of the decades-long quest for an ‘impossible’ material and a sizzling analysis of gender and the brain.

Five Books | 15 min read

Quote of the day

Hyper-competitive, short-term academic contracts are bad for science and incompatible with family life, says an anonymous scientist in The Guardian.

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