Daily briefing: Europe reflects on a free open access editorial plan

HI Nature Readers, would you like to receive this Briefing free in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

A diver uses a suction tube to collect samples from a brain coral on a reef.

The samples were collected during around 3,000 dives by scientists aboard a research vessel Tare.Credit: Pete West/Tara Ocean Foundation

The largest-ever survey of Pacific Ocean corals has found that coral reefs are home to microbes with astonishing genetic diversity. Through some 5,000 samples, the researchers found more than half a million DNA markers that indicate genetic variation in bacteria, a fifth of the estimates for the diversity of all of Earth’s bacterial and archaeal communities. The data was collected during a two-year, 100,000-kilometer research trip that examined the genetic, chemical and microbial diversity of coral reefs at 249 locations.

Nature | 5 minute read

Reference: Nature communications paper

Colombia’s invasive hippo population is close to 200 individuals, significantly more than the 2021 estimate of 98. They are descendants of four hippos (Hippopotamus amphibious) illegally imported by drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar. After his death in 1993, the hippos fled. Now they are reproducing rapidly, eroding river banks and outclassing animals such as the West Indian manatee (Manatee walrus) and the neotropical otter (Otter longicaudis) for habitats and resources. Many researchers advocate culling hippos, but the idea is controversial.

Nature | 6 minutes of reading

Reference: Instituto Humboldt and Universidad Nacional de Colombia report

The Council of the European Union has recommended a model of unpaid academic publishing where neither readers nor authors are billed for academic papers. Critics say the plan could usher in a state-defined system that could curb academic freedom and abolish an industry regardless of who would pay for the alternative. Advocates, such as the German Research Federation, say the principles would lower barriers to participation in academic discourse. There is a recognition that we must go beyond the [article processing charge] APC, says editorial consultant Rob Johnson. The question is: how to do it?

Nature | 3 minute read

Reference: Conclusions of the Forum of the Council of the European Union

Features and opinion

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could grant accelerated approval to the first gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare and ultimately fatal genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle wasting in young boys. Those with DMD cannot make a protein called dystrophin. The therapy, developed by the American drug development company Sarepta Therapeutics, works by partially replacing the affected gene. But clinical trial results have been mixed and it has serious side effects. In the first major clinical trial, boys who received the drug had high levels of engineered dystrophin, but the drug didn’t improve their symptoms overall. What might convince FDA advisors is its effectiveness in children under six: their muscle function is significantly improved. It’s a vote for hope, says Donald Kohn, a stem cell researcher and FDA advisory board member.

Nature | 11 minutes of reading

Big genes in small packages: Graphic showing how a small version of a protein can be used in gene therapy to treat DMD.

AI chatbots, like ChatGPT, have impressive capabilities: they can debug and annotate code, translate software from one programming language to another, and perform standard tasks, such as data tracking. Yet for all their apparent sensitivity, chatbots aren’t intelligent and should be used with caution. Researchers who have become proficient with the tool offer advice to scientists on how to avoid the pitfalls. Bioinformatician Xijin Ge suggests treating this AI as a hard-working and eager-to-please, but also inexperienced and error-prone summer intern.

Nature | 8 minute read

Astrophysicist Frank Shu opened the door to astronomy to countless college students through his widely adopted textbook, The physical universe. He made award-winning contributions to the study of galactic structure and star formation, and later embarked on a second career studying climate-saving technologies such as reactors that could generate energy from nuclear waste. Shu died, aged 79. He was working on a new college textbook linking science to human progress, with lessons for tackling climate change. That book remains unfinished, but Shu’s place in the history of science is assured, write former colleagues Douglas Lin and Fred Adams.

Nature | 5 minute read

Social media can serve as a refuge and community for scientists or a source of terrible abuse. Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, a high-profile climate researcher in Texas, describes how changes to Twitter’s free speech policies have increased trolling to a deluge of hundreds of hateful comments. Geoscientist Chris Jackson has come under racist abuse online after he became the first black researcher to deliver a prestigious nationally televised public lecture at the Royal Institution in the UK. They join the Active scientist podcasts to discuss some strategies needed to address such harassment and how employers should respond.

Nature Career Podcast | 43 minutes listen

Picture of the week

A close up of hands releasing a platypus into the wild

Credit: Jaimi Joy/Reuters

Platypuses have been reintroduced to Australia’s oldest national park after disappearing more than half a century ago. Conservation scientists released four females into Sydney’s Royal National Park on May 12. Each animal will be monitored for the next two years to better understand how to intervene and relocate the species in the event of drought, fire or flood. Egg-laying mammals are solitary and rarely seen in the wild. Their numbers are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, river degradation, predators and extreme weather conditions.

See more of this month’s sharpest science snaps, selected by Natures photography team.

Quote of the day

Last week, astrophysicist David Spergel chaired the first public meeting of a panel of experts convened by NASA to study unidentified anomalous phenomena, a name chosen to cool the heated debate around the most commonly used unidentified flying objects, or UFO. (Sky | 3 min read)

#Daily #briefing #Europe #reflects #free #open #access #editorial #plan

Leave a Comment