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Sweeping COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai are causing food shortages, health struggles and other difficulties for residents — including many researchers and scientists. For conservation biologist Fang Wang, fieldwork is cancelled for now. “For us, missing out on a season’s data is like losing a year of data,” he says. His tough new task: trying to secure groceries to feed his young family. For sociologist Jia Miao, who studied community resilience during the 2020 lockdown in Wuhan, the research has come to her. “Although the lockdown is a misfortune for the city, for us sociologists, it’s a huge social experiment,” she says.
Nature | 6 min read
The results are in from the first open-air study of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the United States. The British biotechnology company Oxitec, which ran the experiment, reported in a webinar that its insects behaved as planned: bioengineered male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes hatched, spread and mated with the wild population. A survey of more than 20,000 mosquito eggs laid in the area confirmed that all the females that inherited a deadly gene from a bioengineered dad died before they reached adulthood. More research is needed to discover whether the method successfully suppresses the wild population or achieves its ultimate goal of reducing the transmission of diseases carried by the mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
Nature | 5 min read
Reference: Oxitec webinar (not peer reviewed)
Features & opinion
A new book, The Uncaged Sky, by anthropologist Kylie Moore-Gilbert lays bare the mental and physical abuse being endured by the growing list of scientists jailed for spying in Iran. Among them is Morad Tahbaz, co-founder of a wildlife conservation charity, and his seven colleagues (the charity’s other co-founder, sociologist Kavous Seyed Emami, died in prison). Governments with citizens in Iranian jails tend to urge quiet diplomacy, but Moore-Gilbert’s account shows that public pressure plays a key part in securing releases, argues a Nature editorial. “Statements, letters — and even mentioning Iran’s imprisoned researchers at conferences and events — are ways to tell Iranian scholars that global science stands with them.”
Nature | 4 min read
For students who are the first in their families to pursue that graduate school, the difficulties can start at home. “It’s tough to help my family understand the long journey of getting a PhD,” says polar researcher Jisub Hwang. The cost of graduate education is another significant barrier. Programmes that support first-generation students to succeed can benefit everyone. “If you make institutional navigation easier, if you make policies and procedures more clear, if you make jargon less complicated, every graduate student is going to benefit,” says Sarah Whitley, assistant vice-president of the Center for First-generation Student Success.
Nature | 11 min read
2 in 3
The proportion of university graduates in the United Kingdom who are the first in their family to do so.
Evidence is building that immune cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 can trigger a massive inflammatory response that could cause severe COVID-19. In this episode of Coronapod, Nature journalists Noah Baker and Smriti Mallapaty dig into the research.
Nature Coronapod Podcast | 11 min listen
Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
Where I work
Above, plant scientist Liang Lin pulls deep-frozen seeds from a cryopreservation tank to test whether they have survived. His work is part of efforts at the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species of China, which aims to preserve the country’s rich flora. “The idea is that if we plant these seeds again in hundreds of years, a plant will grow,” he says. “We’ve collected seeds from nearly 11,000 plant species, but that’s only one-third of what grows in China.” (Nature | 3 min read)
Today I’m thinking about helpful feedback after learning that people tend to underestimate others’ desire for constructive criticism. People should “remind themselves that providing feedback is often the most caring option, all things considered”, says management researcher Lauren Simon — but “don’t make it personal”.
As someone who is inured to the lashings of the editor’s red pen — and basking in the fact that I got the Briefing inbox to zero over the long weekend — I’d be grateful to hear what you think of this newsletter. Your feedback is always welcome at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading,
Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing