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Read our COVID-19 research and news.

  • Largest ever research integrity survey flounders as universities refuse to cooperate

    conceptual illustration of scientist looking to a microscope at another scientist looking into another microscope at another scientist looking into a microscope

    The world’s largest multidisciplinary survey on research integrity is in danger of falling short of its goals after two-thirds of invited institutions declined to collaborate, citing the sensitivity of the subject and fearing negative publicity. That left researchers leading the Dutch National Survey on Research Integrity on their own to scrape many email addresses and solicit responses. The survey will close on 7 December, but the team has gathered responses from less than 15% of 40,000 targeted participants.

    “It was supposed to be a collaborative effort, but it ended up as a satellite on its own in the Solar System, trying to send out signals,” says Gowri Gopalakrishna, a postdoctoral researcher at the Amsterdam University Medical Center (AUMC) who is coordinating the €800,000 survey.

    Lex Bouter, who studies research methods and integrity at the Free University of Amsterdam (VU), began to plan the survey in 2016 to address a lack of data about questionable research practices and scientific misconduct. He wanted to ask all working academics in the Netherlands not just about how they conduct their research, but also about work habits, pressures, and other aspects of academic life. Bouter, a former VU president himself, assured the heads of other universities that the survey would not generate an institutional ranking of misbehavior.

  • After dosing mix-up, latest COVID-19 vaccine success comes with big question mark

    factory worker looks onto a production line of vaccine vials.
    VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

    Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    Enthusiasm and confusion greeted announcements this week about the efficacy of a vaccine candidate from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which is now the fourth to report preliminary results of success in press releases.

    “It’s very good to have positive results from different platforms,” says Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, who is leading an effort at the World Health Organization to stage COVID-19 trials that compare different vaccines’ efficacy. “That reaffirms our positive feelings that vaccines against this virus can be efficacious.”

  • India needs more transparency in its COVID-19 vaccine trials, critics say

    People wearing pink hooded suits work in a syringe factory

    Workers at a Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices factory in India. The nation hopes to begin to administer a COVID-19 vaccine later this year.

    SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    Last month, Anil Hebbar, a health entrepreneur, spoke to the media about his experience volunteering for a COVID-19 vaccine trial at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India. He says he wanted to demystify the process of volunteering in a trial. But the hospital’s dean, Hemant Deshmukh, responded with a threat, telling The Times of India the hospital may “be forced to not give this volunteer the second shot” in the study.

    Hebbar ultimately did receive his second dose. But the exchange highlighted ongoing concerns about the transparency of India’s COVID-19 vaccine trials. The nation now has five vaccine candidates in various stages of human testing. But the design, conduct, and regulation of these trials is often opaque, said researchers, bioethicists, journalists, lawyers, and others who participated in webinars hosted this month by the nonprofit Sama Resource Group for Women and Health.

  • With more data on its COVID-19 vaccine, Russian institute offers new evidence of success

    A nurse injects a syringe into a patient’s arm

    A nurse gives the Sputnik V experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which new data suggest can successfully protect most people from the disease, to a Moscow man in September.


    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    Joining the flood of press releases announcing positive results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine today reported 91.4% efficacy from a second interim analysis of more than 18,000 people, bolstering a claim the team made on 11 November with scant evidence.

    Whereas the initial report rested on a mere 20 cases of COVID-19, with no details on how they were split between vaccinated and placebo groups, the new analysis is based on 39 cases total, eight among the vaccinated group versus 31 in the much smaller placebo arm. “This is great news not just for Russia, but the world,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that is bankrolling the development of the candidate, announced at a virtual press conference this morning.

  • For scientists studying ‘disaster fatigue,’ this has been a year like no other

    A women wipes her eyes as she rides in the bed of a pick-up truck looking out at hurricane damage in a neighborhood.

    Linda Smoot, a resident of Lake Charles, Louisiana, returned from a shelter after Hurricane Laura in August to find storm damage at her niece’s home.

    AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    It’s been an unimaginable year for residents of Lake Charles, Louisiana. First came the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused at least 8700 cases in the community of 78,000 along the Gulf of Mexico. Then came two record-breaking hurricanes. In late August, Hurricane Laura made landfall nearby, ultimately killing 77 people and leaving 46,000 homes damaged or destroyed, including many in Lake Charles. Just 6 weeks later, in October, Hurricane Delta tore through the same area, leaving four dead. Residents of Lake Charles hadn’t even finished rebuilding from the first storm when the second arrived.

    Nobody hopes for such misfortune. But for social scientists, the disasters that have struck Lake Charles and other communities this year have provided a rare opportunity to study how people weigh and respond to different kinds of risks. In Lake Charles, for example, people twice had to weigh the perils of trying to ride out an oncoming hurricane against the risk of contracting COVID-19 if they evacuated to a packed emergency shelter. In California and other states, residents faced similar choices when confronted with several waves of massive wildfires.

  • For €9500, Nature journals will now make your paper free to read

    eye-glasses resting on a stack of scientific papers

    Some researchers wonder whether anyone but the best funded will be able to afford the cost of Natures top open-access fee.


    The elite Nature family of journals, including the flagship Nature, today announced it is taking the plunge into open access in scientific publishing. The journals will become among the first highly selective titles to allow any author to pay a publishing fee to make articles immediately free to read when published. Such open-access arrangements are being required by some European funders and foundations that seek to eliminate subscription paywalls in order to speed the flow of scientific information.

    Nature’s author fee, €9500, is thought to be the highest of any journal. But the Nature Research publishing group says it is necessary to cover the costs of the full-time editors and others who produce Nature and its 32 other primary research journals.

    The Nature group also announced a trial of a lower cost open-access option: when authors submit a manuscript to one of three journals—Nature Genetics, Nature Methods, and Nature Physics—they could pay €4790 or less per paper for open access, if they agree to participate in a process called “guided review.” In that process, if editors of the three journals and colleagues decide a manuscript is worthy enough to send out for peer review, they will ask authors to pay an initial fee of €2190 to cover review costs and then pay an additional fee if the paper is accepted.

  • Another COVID-19 vaccine success? Candidate may prevent further coronavirus transmission, too

    virus illustration

    Artist illustration of adenovirus used in a COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca and University of Oxford


    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    A third COVID-19 vaccine candidate has convincing evidence that it works, and it may be easier to distribute and cheaper than the two other vaccines already shown to protect people. Developed by the company AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford, the vaccine had an average efficacy of 70% in preventing the disease, the developers announce today in press releases. In one dosing scheme, its efficacy was 90%, according to results from the interim analysis of clinical trial data.

    AstraZeneca says about 3 billion doses of the vaccine could be ready in 2021. Whereas the apparently powerful COVID-19 vaccines recently announced by Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech collaboration rely on a snippet of messenger RNA coding for the spike surface protein of SARS-CoV-2, the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine stimulates immunity by using a crippled chimpanzee adenovirus as a “vector” to deliver the gene for spike. (A Russian team has also presented evidence its vaccine works, but noted too few COVID-19 cases at the time to persuade many outside scientists.)

  • After scalding critiques of study on gender and mentorship, journal says it is reviewing the work

     illustration of a woman standing between two large silhouettes, one dark and stormy the other bright and sunny.
    Robert Neubecker

    A massive study of mentoring, gender, and career outcomes released by Nature Communications has ignited a firestorm of criticism for its conclusions, which have been labeled as sexist by many scientists on social media. The study is a “black eye” for the popular open-access title, one bioengineer tweeted, adding that she will no longer review papers for the journal.

    In response to the uproar, the journal’s editorial team announced Thursday it is reviewing the study, which concludes that mentorship by women can damage the careers of female students and early-career scientists; it recommends encouraging male mentors for women instead.

    The study, published on 17 November by a trio of researchers at New York University, Abu Dhabi, used a data set of more than 200 million scientific papers published over the course of more than 100 years to identify several million mentor-mentee pairs. It then followed the career achievements of the mentees, based on citations to papers they authored during their first 7 years as “senior scientists”—determined here only by the time since a researcher’s first publication.

  • Worlds collide when three Science reporters—and parents—cover coronavirus and schools

    A teacher stands in front  of her students holding up personal dry-erase tablets.
    Xinhua/Serge Haouzi via Getty Images

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    Since March, Science has reported on the research—and lack thereof—guiding the hard decisions schools have faced in the coronavirus pandemic. After stories in the spring and summer, an article this week examines schools in countries with high viral transmission. The reporters and editor steering this coverage don’t leave it behind when the workday ends: All three have school-age children. In this conversation, they reflect on the intersection of the personal and the professional.

    Lila Guterman: Gretchen and Jennifer, I’m happy to have the chance to chat with you after editing your stories on this topic! All of our kids are close in age, ranging from eight to 13. But we’ve experienced three very different school environments: I’m in Washington, D.C., where public schools including my kids’ have been closed since March; Gretchen is in Berlin, where the public school her children attend opened this fall with full classes after a limited reopening in April; and Jennifer is in Philadelphia, with two children in private schools that reopened in September.

  • Should researchers shelve plans to deliberately infect people with the coronavirus?

    A male patient receives an injection up his nose

    U.K. scientists are moving ahead with plans to infect volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-19. Such experiments have been done with other pathogens, including flu viruses (pictured here).

    AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

    Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

    In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of young volunteers offered to risk their health by letting scientists intentionally infect them with the pandemic coronavirus, hoping to speed the hunt for a vaccine or treatment. Several research groups announced plans to run these so-called human challenge trials, even as some scientists questioned whether they could be conducted ethically.

    Now, with the recent news that conventional human trials have produced at least two very promising vaccines, scientists are debating whether planned challenge trials are still needed. In the United States, one nascent effort appears to be on hold. In the United Kingdom, however, researchers say they are moving ahead. “There are still many strong arguments for pursuing” human challenge trials, says Christopher Chiu, an immunologist at Imperial College in London and lead researcher for the proposed U.K. trial.

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