The 5 most popular scientific papers of January 2021 in the Nature Index journals

A new approach to MS treatment based on COVID-19 vaccine tech and a sobering look at the fate of sharks and rays feature in these widely-discussed studies

interesting scientific papers 2021

Mobula rays seen from the air swimming in Nopapu, Vava, Tonga. Credit: Steve Woods Photography/Getty Images

A new approach to MS treatment based on COVID-19 vaccine tech and a sobering look at the fate of sharks and rays feature in these widely-discussed studies.

20 April 2021

interesting scientific papers 2021

Steve Woods Photography/Getty Images

Mobula rays seen from the air swimming in Nopapu, Vava, Tonga.

January’s most talked-about natural-sciences papers highlight evolving knowledge about COVID-19 and its impacts more than a year since the first signs of it appeared in Wuhan, China in late 2019.

Also described in this list are the results of a study on sharks and rays – a group that has declined dramatically over the past few decades due to overfishing.

Here is an Altmetric ranking of January’s most popular papers in the natural sciences, published in the 82 high-quality journals tracked by the Nature Index.

1. “Immunological memory to SARS-CoV-2 assessed for up to 8 months after infection”

According to this study, led by researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research (LJI) in California, COVID-19 survivors appear to carry protective immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus for at least eight months after the initial infection.

The finding is based on 254 samples from 188 COVID-19 cases across the United States, including 43 samples at six to eight months after infection. The majority of the cases were mild, but symptomatic.

Four major types of immune memory were tracked over an eight-month period after infection.

Virus-specific antibodies were found to persist in the bloodstream for months, declining moderately during this period. Memory B cells, a type of B lymphocyte known to circulate in the blood stream for many years after a viral infection, increased between one and eight months after infection.

Memory CD8+ T cells and memory CD4+ T cells were found to decline over the same period, but like the antibodies, were retained in large enough amounts to provide some level of protection against reinfection.

"The immune response decreases over time to a certain extent, but that's normal,” said Alessandro Sette from the LJI, who co-led the study with colleagues Shane Crotty and Daniela Weiskopf.

The paper has been covered by more than 300 online news outlets to date, and reached an estimated audience on Twitter of more than 28 million.

2. “A noninflammatory mRNA vaccine for treatment of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis”

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines rose to prominence in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They work by delivering snippets of RNA that code for coronavirus proteins, which prompts the body to mount an immune response.

One of the most widely distributed COVID-19 vaccinations is an mRNA vaccine produced by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer in New York City and BioNTech in Mainz, Germany.

Researchers from BioNTech are part of the team behind this widely discussed Science paper, which explores the potential of using mRNA vaccines as a new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) and similar conditions.

In patients with MS, immune cells enter the brain and spinal cord and break down the fatty protein that insulates the nerve cells, called myelin, as well as the cells that produce myelin.

MS and other autoimmune diseases can be very difficult to treat. Patients differ greatly in terms of the presentation, duration and progression of the symptoms, and rarely respond to treatment, which can involve a combination of medication, physical and occupational therapy, exercise and rest, in the same way.

This paper describes a different approach. Researchers in Germany injected mRNA into mice with an MS-like condition. The mRNA were engineered to instruct certain cells to produce a myelin-like substance in a way that is tolerated by the immune system, rather than attacked by it.

The treatment was found to delay the onset and reduced the severity of the MS-like disease in mice without showing symptoms of immune suppression.

The paper has been covered by 50 online news outlets to date, and reached an estimated audience on Twitter roughly 30 million. Audiences in the United States were the most highly engaged, according to Altmetric.

3. “Evolution of antibody immunity to SARS-CoV-2”

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is mutating . Variants such as D614G, a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which helps the virus particles to penetrate cells, have been closely monitored by researchers since last year, because they have the potential to make the virus more transmissible.

D614G has quickly become the dominant variant in the global COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers and healthcare providers are investigating whether the antibodies produced in people who have been infected with or vaccinated against this variant can impart some level of protection against future viral variants.

As explained in a later Nature report , antibody-producing B-cells can evolve through natural selection to make antibodies that bind more tightly to their target, a process known as maturation.

This paper, with Christian Gaebler from the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at the Rockefeller University in New York as lead author, found that 83% of these ‘mature’ antibodies showed an increased rate of recognizing and binding to proteins from new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

The paper has been covered by 171 news outlets to date, and has reached an audience on Twitter of more than 15 million. Its findings along with other studies’ have been interpreted as suggesting that vaccines might be effective against past and future coronavirus variants.

“Getting vaccines that will tackle the variants that are currently circulating is an eminently solvable problem,” Paul Bieniasz, co-author and virologist at the Rockefeller University, whose laboratory is studying variants, told Nature . “It might be that we already have that solution.”

4. “Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays”

Since 1970, open-ocean shark and ray populations have shrunk by 71 percent. According to this study, with Nathan Pacoureau from the Earth to Ocean Research Group at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada as lead author, this significant decline has resulted from overfishing.

Pacoureau and his colleagues used two biodiversity indicators for oceanic sharks and rays based on data tracking species’ population changes and relative extinction risk.

They estimated, for example, that in 1980, two-thirds of oceanic shark species fell into the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species category of least concern, and only nine were threatened. The basking shark ( Cetorhinus maximus ) was the only species that was retrospectively classified as endangered.

Today, more than three-quarters of these species are threatened, based on steep population reductions, the study reports, listing the oceanic whitetip shark ( Carcharhinus longimanus ), scalloped hammerhead ( Sphyrna lewini ) and great hammerhead ( Sphyrna mokarran ) as critically endangered.

The results are sobering enough, but may not reflect the full reality, according to David Sims, professor of marine ecology at the University of Southampton , UK, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s particularly worrying that unreported catches weren’t included in the study’s analyses,” Sims writes for The Conversation . “This means the number of sharks and rays killed by fishing boats is likely to be an underestimate and the actual declines of these species may be even worse.”

The paper has been covered by 307 online news outlets to date, and reached an estimated audience on Twitter of more than 7 million.

5. “Neuroinvasion of SARS-CoV-2 in human and mouse brain”

The Journal of Experimental Medicine

The possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can penetrate the brain is a topic of urgent focus for researchers .

This paper, with Eric Song from the Department of Immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut as lead author, used mouse brain tissue and human brain organoids – miniature brains, the size of sesame seeds , grown from human stem cells – to provide evidence that the virus can directly infect the central nervous system and replicate, a finding consistent with other recent high-profile papers .

The team also analyzed autopsies and brain samples from three patients who had died of COVID-19 and detected SARS-CoV-2 in the neurons of one of them.

One of the authors, Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology and molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale School of Medicine, said future studies are needed to investigate what might predispose some patients to infections of the central nervous system, and “the route of SARS-CoV-2 invasion into the brain and the sequence of infection in different cell types within the central nervous system”.

The paper has been mentioned by 30 news outlets to date and has reached an audience on Twitter of roughly 10 million.

The Ten Most Significant Science Stories of 2021

Thrilling discoveries, hurdles in the fight against Covid and advancements in space exploration defined the past year

Associate Editor, Science

Top ten science stories illustration

Covid-19 dominated science coverage again in 2021, and deservedly so. The disease garnered two entries on this list of our picks for the most important science stories of the year. But other key discoveries and achievements marked the year in science too, and they deserve more attention. NASA and private companies notched firsts in space. Scientists discovered more about the existence of early humans. And researchers documented how climate change has impacted everything from coral reefs to birds. Covid-19 will continue to garner even more attention next year as scientists work to deal with new variants and develop medical advances to battle the virus. But before you let stories about those topics dominate your reading in 2022, it’s worth it to take a look back at the biggest discoveries and accomplishments of this past year. To that end, here are our picks for the most important science stories of 2021.

The Covid Vaccine Rollout Encounters Hurdles

Covid Vaccine Being Administered

Last year the biggest science story of the year was that scientists developed two mRNA Covid vaccines in record time. This year the biggest Covid story is that the rollout of those vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, and one other by Johnson and Johnson, haven’t made their way into a large proportion of the United States population and a significant portion of the world. As of this writing on December 21 , roughly 73 percent of the U.S. population has received one dose, and roughly 61 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. An incomplete rollout allowed for a deadly summer surge, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant . Experts pointed out that vaccination rates lagged due to widespread disinformation and misinformation campaigns . It didn’t help that some popular public figures —like Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers , musician Nick Minaj , podcast host Joe Rogan and rapper Ice Cube —chose not to get vaccinated. Luckily, by November, U.S. health officials had approved the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as five, providing another barrier against the deadly disease’s spread, and Covid rates declined. But while the wall against the disease in the U.S. is growing, it is not finished. As cases surge as the Omicron variant spreads around the country, building that wall and reinforcing it with booster shots is critically important. In much of the rest of the world, the wall is severely lacking where populations haven’t been given decent access to the vaccine. Only 8 percent of individuals in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and a WHO Africa report from this fall said that on that continent, less than 10 percent of countries would hit the goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of their citizens by the end of the year. Globally, less than 60 percent of the population has been vaccinated. The holes in vaccination coverage will allow the virus to continue to kill a large number of individuals, and allow an environment where possibly other dangerous variants can emerge.

Perseverance Notches Firsts on Mars

Illustration of Perseverance Rover of Mars

NASA took a huge step forward in exploring the Red Planet after the rover Perseverance landed safely on Mars in February. Scientists outfitted the vehicle with an ultralight helicopter that successfully flew in the thin Martian atmosphere , a toaster-sized device called MOXIE that successfully converted carbon dioxide to oxygen , and sampling elements that successfully collected rocks from the planet’s floor. All of the achievements will lend themselves to a better understanding of Mars, and how to investigate it in the future. The flight success will give scientists clues on how to build larger helicopters, the oxygen creation will help scientists come up with grander plans for conversion devices, and the rocks will make their way back to Earth for analysis when they are picked up on a future mission. In addition to the rover’s triumphs, other countries notched major firsts too. The United Arab Emirates Hope space probe successfully entered orbit around the planet and is studying the Martian atmosphere and weather. China’s Zhurong rover landed on Mars in May and is exploring the planet’s geology and looking for signs of water. With these ongoing missions, scientists around the world are learning more and more about what the planet is like and how we might better explore it, maybe one day in person.

Is “Dragon Man” a New Species of Human?

Dragon Man Recreation

The backstory of the skull that scientists used to suggest there was a new species of later Pleistocene human—to join Homo sapiens and Neanderthals—garnered a lot of ink. After the fossil was discovered at a construction site in China nearly 90 years ago, a family hid it until a farmer gave it to a university museum in 2018. Since then, scientists in China pored over the skull—analyzing its features, conducting uranium series dating, and using X-ray fluorescence to compare it to other fossils—before declaring it a new species of archaic human. They dubbed the discovery Homo longi , or “Dragon Man.” The skull had a large cranium capable of holding a big brain, a thick brow and almost square eye sockets—details scientists used to differentiate it from other Homo species. Some scientists questioned whether the find warranted designation as a new species. “It’s exciting because it is a really interesting cranium, and it does have some things to say about human evolution and what’s going on in Asia. But it’s also disappointing that it’s 90 years out from discovery, and it is just an isolated cranium, and you’re not quite sure exactly how old it is or where it fits,” Michael Petraglia of the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Initiative told Smithsonian magazine back in June. Other scientists supported the new species designation, and so the debate continues, and likely will until more fossils are discovered that help to fill in the holes of human history.

Climate Change Wreaks Havoc on Coral Reefs

Bleached Coral Reef

Increasing natural disasters—forest fires, droughts and heat waves—may be the most noticeable events spurred by climate change; a warming Earth has helped drive a five-fold uptick in such weather-related events over the last 50 years according the a 2021 report by the World Meteorological Organization . But one of the biggest impacts wrought by climate change over the past decade has occurred underwater. Warming temps cause coral reefs to discard the symbiotic algae that help them survive, and they bleach and die. This year a major report from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network announced that the oceans lost about 14 percent of their reefs in the decade after 2009, mostly because of climate change. In November, new research showed that less than 2 percent of the coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef—the world’s largest such feature—escaped bleaching since 1998. That news came just two months after a different study stated that half of coral reefs have been lost since the 1950s , in part due to climate change. The reef declines impact fisheries, local economies based on tourism and coastal developments—which lose the offshore buffer zone from storms the living structures provide. Scientists say if temperatures continue to rise, coral reefs are in serious danger. But not all hope is lost—if humans reduce carbon emissions rapidly now, more reefs will have a better chance of surviving .

The Space Tourism Race Heats Up

Blue Origen Rocket

This year the famous billionaires behind the space tourism race completed successful missions that boosted more than just their egos. They put a host of civilians in space. Early in July, billionaire Richard Branson and his employees flew just above the boundary of space—a suborbital flight—in Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed trip. (But Virgin Galactic did delay commercial missions until at least late next year.) Just over a week after Branson’s mission, the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, completed Blue Origin’s first crewed suborbital flight with the youngest and oldest travelers to reach space. In October, his company Blue Origin repeated the feat when it took Star Trek actor William Shatner up. A month before that, a crew of four became the first all-civilian crew to circle the Earth from space in Elon Musk’s SpaceX Dragon capsule Resilience. More ambitious firsts for civilians are in the works. In 2022, SpaceX plans to send a retired astronaut and three paying passengers to the International Space Station. And beyond that, Bezos announced Blue Origin hopes to deploy a private space station fit for ten—called “Orbital Reef”—sometime between 2025 and 2030.

WHO Approves First Vaccine Against Malaria

Malaria Vaccine Being Administered

In October, the World Health Organization approved the first vaccine against malaria. The approval was not only a first for that disease, but also for any parasitic disease. The moment was 30 years in the making, as Mosquirix—the brand name of the drug— cost more than $750 million since 1987 to develop and test. Malaria kills nearly a half million individuals a year, including 260,000 children under the age of five. Most of these victims live in sub-Saharan Africa. The new vaccine fights the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most prevalent in Africa, and is administered to children under five in a series of four injections. The vaccine is not a silver bullet; it prevents only about 30 percent of severe malaria cases. But one modeling study showed that still could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children under five each year. Experts say the vaccine is a valuable tool that should be used in conjunction with existing methods—such as drug combination treatments and insecticide-treated bed nets—to combat the deadly disease.

Discoveries Move Key Dates Back for Humans in the Americas

Fossilized Human Footprints at White Sands

Two very different papers in two of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals documented key moments of human habitation in the Americas. In September, a study in Science dated footprints found at White Sands National Park to between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago. Researchers estimated the age of the dried tracks known as “ghost prints” using radiocarbon dating of dried ditchgrass seeds found above and below the impressions. Previously, many archaeologists placed the start of human life in the Americas at around 13,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, based on tools found in New Mexico. The new paper, whose results have been debated , suggests humans actually lived on the continent at the height of the Ice Age. A month after that surprising find, a study in Nature published evidence showing that Vikings lived on North America earlier than previously thought. Researchers examined cut wood left by the explorers at a site in Newfoundland and found evidence in the samples of a cosmic ray event that happened in 993 C.E. The scientists then counted the rings out from that mark and discovered the wood had been cut in 1021 C.E. The find means that the Norse explorers completed the first known crossing of the Atlantic from Europe to the Americas.

Humans Are Affecting the Evolution of Animals

Bird in the Amazon

New research published this year shows that humans have both directly and indirectly affected how animals evolve. In probably the starkest example of humans impacting animal evolution, a Science study found a sharp increase in tuskless African elephants after years of poaching. During the Mozambican Civil War from 1977 to 1992, poachers killed so many of the giant mammals with tusks that those females without the long ivory teeth were more likely to pass on their genes. Before the war, 20 percent were tuskless. Now, roughly half of the female elephants are tuskless. Males who have the genetic make-up for tusklessness die , likely before they are born. And killing animals isn’t the only way humans are impacting evolution. A large study in Trends in Ecology and Evolution found that animals are changing shape to deal with rising temps. For example, over various time periods bats grew bigger wings and rabbits sprouted longer ears—both likely to dissipate more heat into the surrounding air. More evidence along those lines was published later in the year in Science Advances . A 40-year-study of birds in a remote, intact patch of Amazon rainforest showed 77 species weighed less on average, and many had longer wings, than they used to. Scientists said the changes likely occurred due to rising temperatures and changes in rainfall.

Antiviral Pills That Fight Covid Show Promising Results


Almost a year after scientists released tests showing the success of mRNA vaccines in fighting Covid, Merck released promising interim test results from a Phase III trial of an antiviral pill. On October 1, the pharmaceutical giant presented data that suggested molnupiravir could cut hospitalizations in half. Ten days later, the company submitted results to the FDA in hopes of gaining emergency use. In mid-November, the U.K. jumped ahead of the U.S. and granted approval for the treatment. By late November, advisers to the FDA recommended emergency authorization of the pill, though it was shown by this time to reduce death or disease by 30—not 50—percent. The drug should be taken —four pills a day for five days—starting within five days of the appearance of symptoms. It works by disrupting SARS-CoV-2’s ability to replicate effectively inside a human cell.

Molnupiravir isn’t the only viral drug with positive results. In November, Pfizer announced its antiviral pill, Paxlovid, was effective against severe Covid. By December, the pharmaceutical giant shared final results that it reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 88 percent in a key group. News about both pills was welcome , as they are expected to work against all versions of the virus, including Omicron. Though the drugs aren’t as big of a breakthrough as the vaccines, a doctor writing for the New Yorker called them “the most important pharmacologic advance of the pandemic.” Many wealthy countries have already agreed to contracts for molnupiravir, and the Gates Foundation pledged $120 million to help get the pill to poor countries. If approved and distributed fast enough, the oral antivirals can be prescribed in places, like Africa, where vaccines have been lacking. The pills represent another crucial tool, in addition to masks and vaccines, in the fight against Covid.

The James Webb Space Telescope May Finally Launch

James Webb Space Telescope

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Joe Spring is the associate digital science editor for Smithsonian magazine.

The Biggest Scientific Discoveries Of 2021

Science 2021 concept

2021 was full of COVID news. Vaccines, variants, infection rates, transmissibility — this is the science that dominated the news for most of the year. Meanwhile, though, behind all the COVID-y headlines, other science was happening. It's true! Scientific discovery and new research did not stall just because everyone else was preoccupied with the pandemic. Scientists were still discovering amazing things, making medical breakthroughs, and teaching monkeys how to play Pong with their minds while the rest of the world was busy arguing about vaccines and whether or not asking someone to wear a mask for five minutes goes against everything America stands for.

There was a lot of amazing research in 2021, way too much to put in one article, so this list includes the ones with the most "wow" power. "Wow" is a subjective measurement, though, and there were lots of runners-up, so if the scientific study that wowed you the most in 2021 doesn't appear on this list, know that it was almost certainly a reluctant decision.

A malaria vaccine

Merriam-Webster chose the word "vaccine" as the 2021 word of the year. It was really the COVID-19 vaccine that inspired this decision, even though the COVID vaccine was not technically a 2021 thing ( AP notes that the first COVID-19 shot was delivered in 2020, not 2021). Still, it's been big talk ever since, though sadly the talk is more about politics than acknowledging that an end to the pandemic might actually be possible, you know, if only.

The COVID vaccine wasn't the only big vaccine news in 2021, though. According to Nature , 2021 also saw the approval of a vaccine that prevents malaria, a disease that kills around 400,000 people every single year. The RTS,S vaccine is not super impressive on paper — in small children, it probably only prevents 30% of severe malaria cases and that's after four doses. Still, malaria is such an insidious disease that even a 30% efficacy rate adds up to about 23,000 lives saved every year. That's significant enough that the World Health Organization has backed the vaccine and recommended it for distribution in countries with high rates of malaria .

Intelligent life is probably rare

Sorry sci-fi fans and everyone who has one of those "I Want to Believe" posters tacked to the office wall, but intelligent life is probably not that common. Heck, we really should have guessed this already just based on the fact that intelligent life on Earth isn't that common, even amongst humans. In March of 2021, scientists published a buzz-killing study in Astrobiology wherein they analyzed the statistical probability of intelligent life evolving on other worlds. According to their model, which is all math-y and complicated, the odds of intelligent life developing within the average lifespan of a planet like Earth are roughly 1,000,000,000,000 to 1.

Note that this doesn't mean there's not much chance of life on other planets, just that there's not much chance of intelligent life . So that thing you saw in the sky when you were 16? Weather balloon. Sorry.

Still, if it helps you not want to tear down your "I Want to Believe" poster, it's worth remembering that the universe is a big place. The Seti Institute estimates there are 300,000,000 habitable planets in our galaxy alone, and since there are two trillion galaxies just in the observable universe there's probably someone else out there somewhere. Sadly, though, it's unlikely they're ever going to cross the vast emptiness of space in order to find us.

Mind controlled monkey plays pong

Just in case you've always suspected that Elon Musk might be sort of evil, well, here's more fuel for that fire.

In April of 2021, Neuralink, Elon Musk's bizarre brain machine company, released a video of a monkey supposedly playing Pong with his mind. According to the Verge , the monkey was using a brain implant to control the game, but the way the company made the announcement wasn't exactly model science. There was no peer-reviewed paper in an accredited journal, just a video played at a live Neuralink event, much like a video one might play of a new model Tesla or the pyramid scheme that will make you rich just so long as you can find three grand to put down as your initial investment.

Without any real science to back it up, we really have no way of being sure that the video wasn't filmed with Elon Musk off camera actually controlling the game while the monkey watched the ball bounce back and forth. Also, no one has really said what became of the monkey after this whole weird experiment. Will he have a pong-playing implant in his brain forever? Or will he eventually end up on the dissection table, like so many other lab animals before him? Ultimately, though, it's a monkey playing Pong with its brain so whatever.

Girl condors don't need boy condors

The most obviously stupid thing about Jurassic Park was the whole "life finds a way" thing. You know, the idea that the scientists smart enough to recreate dinosaurs didn't realize that the frog DNA they were adding to the genetic mix might allow their reborn dinos the power of unisexual reproduction. Or, even the idea that unisexual reproduction could be a thing in a large, complex animal.

But guess what, unisexual reproduction is apparently a thing in a large, complex animal. Who knew. Well, according to National Geographic , science knew. This kind of reproduction — called parthenogenesis — mostly happens in insects and other invertebrates. But it does happen in other animals, too, in fact, 80 different vertebrates have been known to do it, including sharks, snakes, and lizards. It's not even unheard of in birds — evidently, chickens, turkeys, pigeons, quail, and finches have been known to do it, too, with varying levels of success. And now, condors. In October of 2021, researchers announced that two condors in a zoo breeding program had no DNA from the male condors that were thought to be their fathers. The only way to explain that finding is parthenogenesis.

Scientists think the phenomena might be more common than we think. After all, it's not like we go around DNA testing every offspring of every animal, so we're almost sure to be missing other examples of this happening.

The world's whitest paint could replace air conditioning

Everyone loves white whites, which is why we wash them separately from darks and use bleach even though we know that bleach is terrible for the planet. But extra-white whites are more than just a laundry preference. They can be immensely useful for other things, too, like ending the need for air conditioning.

In April of 2021, ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces  announced that engineers at Purdue University had created the world's whitest paint. This stuff is so white that it reflects 98.1% of the sunlight that hits it. This is significant because if you painted a rooftop with the stuff, it would actually function as air conditioning. That's pretty awesome when you consider that air conditioning is responsible for about 12% of all home energy use , so if you painted a whole city with super white paint you'd cut back on an awful lot of emissions.

What no one is really talking about, though, is what super-white paint might do to human eyes if you covered a whole city with it. Snow only reflects like 80% of the sunlight that hits it, and we all know what happens to your eyes if you look at snow without sunglasses. While it would probably only be roofs covered with this paint, it's kind of hard not to wonder how many unfortunate people would be blinded after accidentally looking down from a helicopter or something.

Planet X might exist

In the 19th century, a crazy whackadoo self-proclaimed astronomer named Percival Lowell initiated a desperate and expensive search for the rogue planet he thought was orbiting the sun somewhere in the outer extremes of the solar system. Lowell also believed that there was a civilization on Mars and that Venus had spokes like a coronavirus, so no one really took him seriously. The theory of Planet X was based on the fact that Neptune has kind of a funky orbit , which some people thought could potentially be attributed to the gravitational pull of a much larger, distant planet. This was before anyone knew about Pluto, by the way.

Today, the idea that Planet X (also called Planet 9 ) exists is still kind of controversial. In 2016, researchers at Caltech published a study they said confirmed its existence. Some other scientists, though, went, "no, that's just observation bias." So the researchers tried again and in September of 2021, announced that their findings were not observation bias, and even went so far as to provide an educated guess about where we might actually be able to find the ninth planet.

The new study didn't convince everyone, though. There are still people who don't think there's a ninth planet out there, and we won't really know for sure if they're right until someone actually sees the elusive Planet X.

Scientists sequenced the DNA of a million-year-old mammoth

Another stupid thing about "Jurassic Park" was the idea that you could bring back an animal that went extinct millions of years ago using DNA you pulled out of a piece of amber. But alas, it does kind of seem like it might be kind-of-sort-of theoretically possible.

According to Nature , scientists were able to retrieve DNA from mammoth teeth they found in Siberian permafrost. The owner of these particular teeth lived around 1.6 million years ago, which makes the DNA the oldest to have ever been successfully sequenced.

Before you get excited about the future opening of Pleistocene Park, researchers don't plan to use the information to resurrect a mammoth. Not these researchers, anyway. Geneticists at Harvard Medical School have different ideas. In September of 2021, they got a $15 million grant to resurrect the woolly mammoth, which they claim could have a bunch of real-world benefits like helping restore the Arctic ecosystem and saving the endangered Asian elephant. Frankly, that all just sounds like a bunch of dumb excuses for doing something mind-bogglingly cool, but whatever.

A pan-coronavirus vaccine

Wait, isn't there already one of those? Nope ... the key part of the word here is "pan," which means that scientists have developed a vaccine that works not just on COVID-19 but on multiple other coronaviruses, too. This means science might be able to end new coronavirus pandemics before they start, and it may even be able to end ... wait for it ... the common cold. Or at least some of them ( not all colds are caused by coronaviruses).

According to Technology Networks , scientists tried their new vaccine on mice and monkeys and found that it protected them from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and also from SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that causes SARS) and a bunch of similar bat coronaviruses.

The vaccine targets the part of the coronavirus that lets it stick to cell receptors inside the host. Because that part of the virus is common to a lot of different coronaviruses, targeting it makes it possible to create a vaccine that isn't just one shot for one disease. Since coronaviruses appear to be especially pandemic-causing, this is great news. And this technology may even have broader implications, like preventing you from ever again having an excuse to stay home from work because you "came down with a cold."

Synthetic coffee

Everyone loves coffee, except people who are weird. In fact, according to New Atlas , coffee is a huge industry — globally, coffee growers produce and distribute nearly 22 billion pounds of morning joe every single year. And demand is only expected to increase as more and more people devote substantial portions of their paychecks to overpriced pumpkin spice lattes and nonfat mochas.

This is great news for coffee growers, but it's not so great for the Earth. Coffee plants love the sun, so growers will need to deforest land in order to increase production. There are also questions about how sustainable coffee is — it uses a lot of water, it has to be transported long distances, and as the climate changes it's not going to be easy to find new places to grow it.

In September of 2021, scientists in Finland announced that they'd created coffee in a lab. And what's more, it "tasted similar" to actual coffee, which frankly isn't really that great of an endorsement (come back when it tastes "exactly" like actual coffee). The technology scientists developed to create their fake coffee uses cells from real coffee plants, but it also uses 94% less water and creates 93% less carbon emissions than coffee that comes from traditionally grown beans. And you may be able to find this "tastes similar to coffee" product on store shelves in about four years.

Probiotics might save coral reefs

The slow-motion death of the world's coral reefs is one of the greatest tragedies of climate change. Besides, you know, entire cultures losing their oceanside homes and eventual worldwide famine. Still, everyone agrees that coral reefs are a treasure, and as the climate warms it's become clear that the reefs will be one of the first major casualties.

In August of 2021, though, scientists announced that probiotics might help protect coral during a heatwave, much like they can help protect your large intestine after you eat sushi that sat around in the deli section for a couple of days more than it should have. According to Science News , researchers bathed aquarium coral in a bacterial soup and then exposed them to an artificial heatwave. The coral that got the probiotics survived the heatwave. Meanwhile, 40% of the unfortunate coral that got bathed in a useless saline solution died.

Unfortunately, this method of preserving species is really just damage control ... it doesn't do anything to address climate change, it just stops climate change from inflicting some small part of the horrible damage it's expected to inflict. Sadly, if other scientists don't come up with a way to reverse the bad things that are already happening to the Earth's climate, future scientific breakthroughs will all have to be about damage control.

Biodegradable packaging made from vegan spider silk

Biodegradable plastics have been a thing for a while, but a lot of consumers don't realize that the biodegradable cup or plastic bag they just tossed in the garbage can isn't going to biodegrade in a landfill. According to , many of these products need to be composted in an industrial composting plant, and there isn't exactly one of those in every neighborhood.

In order to really make a dent in the world's ginormous plastics problem, manufacturers need to produce a product that's home compostable, so people aren't left wondering where they're supposed to send their biodegradable plastics or worse, just throwing them in the trash because it's all just too much trouble. Well, in June of 2021, scientists at the University of Cambridge announced they'd developed a polymer film that is basically artificial or "vegan" spider silk. They say the material is as strong as regular plastic and will break down in "most natural environments," like your backyard. Note that does not say if these products will break down in a landfill — stuff that gets buried under mountains of other trash and has no exposure to sunlight or oxygen does not tend to break down as well as the stuff in a compost pile, biodegradable or not. So if this new vegan spider silk plastic does ever hit the shelves, you may not be able to toss it the way you toss the rest of your household waste.

Old people have better genes

Humans and Captain Jack Sparrow have been searching for the Fountain of Youth for almost as long as we've been capable of understanding our own mortality. As it turns out, the Fountain of Youth may have been inside us all along — in some of us, anyway.

In May of 2021, researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy compared the DNA of people older than 105 to the DNA of healthy people in their 60s. According to eLife , they found that people who made it into their 100s tended to have certain genetic changes that cause increased activity in a gene responsible for maintaining healthy cells. In other words, supercentenarians are just better at repairing their own cells and getting rid of damaged cells than the rest of us are. This ability can help fend off a host of age-related diseases, especially cancer, which happens partly because damaged cells don't die like they're supposed to. The research also found that supercentenarians had fewer mutations in certain genes than us ordinary humans, which may also help protect them from things like heart disease.

So it's not luck that lets you live to be 100, it's genetics, and possibly also avoiding stupid, risky behavior as a youngster. What does this mean for the rest of us? Nothing, really. If you've got the right genetics, you might live to be 100. If not, well, try to make the best use of the time you have.

Doctors successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human

If you're going to get a new kidney, a whole bunch of things have to line up. First, you can try finding a live person who likes you enough to give up a kidney for you. Failing that, you can get a kidney from an anonymous donor. Sadly, many people who need a kidney die before they are able to get one because neither of those two scenarios happens often enough. Hence, science's hope that we can one day find a way to make animal kidneys work inside human beings.

According to Science News , we're a lot closer to that goal today than we were in 2020. In October of 2021, scientists announced they'd successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human. The organ not only worked the way it was supposed to, but the patient's body showed no signs of rejecting it. They were able to achieve this by using a genetically engineered pig kidney that lacked a certain sugar molecule responsible for triggering an immune response in the organ recipient. Typical immune-suppressing drugs were also given to the patient, but as an extra precaution surgeons also transplanted the pig's thymus gland, which helped the patient's body recognize and accept the new organ.

The procedure was purely experimental — the patient was a brain-dead organ donor so she was never meant to keep the organ permanently. After 54 hours it was removed and she was taken off life support.

Life on Enceladus (maybe)

Over the years, there have been a number of studies and observations that some scientists think might point to life in other parts of our own solar system. Phosphine in the clouds of Venus . Methane on Mars. Mostly, these observations are inconclusive. Scientists keep looking though, because finding life elsewhere in the solar system would A) be super cool B) make them famous and C) be one of the greatest scientific discoveries in the history of ever. But alas, real proof remains elusive.

In July of 2021, we did get one step closer. According to New Atlas , Enceladus — one of Saturn's moons — sometimes emits plumes containing methane gas. The methane could be explained by the presence of hydrothermal vents under the moon's icy oceans, except that in this case, the levels are much higher than what you might expect from volcanic activity. Instead, they are similar to what you might see if there were microorganisms living next to those vents. Researchers confirmed this by running some computer models that considered variables like temperature and potential food sources, and then compared the methane levels that came from their hypothetical vent-dwellers to the actual methane levels detected in the plumes. Incredibly, the numbers were a match.

This doesn't necessarily mean there's life on Enceladus. The results could also be explained by some heretofore unknown chemical phenomena. But it's yet another intriguing bit of evidence in the ongoing search for alien life.

3D printed meat

Lab-grown coffee isn't so scary, probably because coffee comes from a plant, and growing a plant in a petri dish seems like it's maybe one step removed from growing it in a pot. Lab-grown meat, though, that's a pretty big ick hurdle to try to get over from a mental perspective. Science can do it, though. In fact not only can they lab-grow a piece of meat, but they can also 3-D print it, too, which is all kinds of bizarre. According to New Atlas , in August of 2021, scientists announced that they'd successfully used the stem cells of a Wagyu cow to build what basically amounts to a living 3D model of the world's most expensive piece of steak. Sort of.

To achieve this, researchers had to grow the various types of fat, muscle, and blood vessel tissues and then carefully arrange them so the finished product had the right amount of marbling. Or so they say. Not gonna lie, the photos of this stuff just look like clumps of bright pink meat jelly, so it may be a while before you can order 3D printed Wagyu beef at Outback Steakhouse.

Notably, no one has said anything about the taste and texture of 3D-printed beef, probably because researchers looked at their creation and went, "Yeah, maybe it's too soon."

Rotifer resurrection

Hollywood has made several incredibly stupid movies about human beings and other monsters who get frozen in ice and are then resurrected. Sometimes, these stories end with murderous bloody rampages, because Hollywood likes to caution us about the dangers of things that will never actually happen. In this case, though, there are some shades of truth. It is actually possible to resurrect creatures that have been frozen in ice for thousands of years, just not usually large, complex animals like dinosaurs and cavemen.

In June of 2021, researchers announced they'd successfully unfrozen and revived 24,000-year-old bdelloid rotifers, which are multicellular creatures though they are not large enough to be visible to the naked eye. According to Current Biology , the rotifers were found in Siberian permafrost and were evidently healthy enough that they could not only swim around, they could also have baby rotifers.

You may wonder what this has to do with murderous, bloody rampages and the answer is, not much on its own. But melting permafrost is a big concern for climate scientists, who think there may be previously unknown pathogens living in formerly frozen places that might unleash themselves upon the world as the climate changes and the ice melts away. Happy 2022 (and beyond) everyone. Wear a mask.

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HBR’s Most-Read Research Articles of 2021

  • Dagny Dukach

interesting scientific papers 2021

A look back at the insights that resonated most with our readers.

What will it take to make work better? Over the past year, HBR has published a wide array of research-backed articles that explore topics ranging from retaining employees to overcoming meeting overload to fostering gender equity in the workplace. In this end-of-year roundup, we share key insights and trends from our most-read research articles of 2021.

As the workplace rapidly transforms in the wake of the pandemic, social movements, and more, a fundamental question remains: How can we ensure we’re making work better — for employees, organizations, and society at large?

Over the past year, HBR has published a wide array of research-backed articles exploring that question, looking at everything from retaining employees to overcoming meeting overload to fostering gender equity in the workplace. With the year coming to an end, we decided to take a look at what resonated most with our readers in 2021. Our most visited articles include a broad range of ideas, but several distinct trends emerged:

Managing Through the Great Resignation

Our two most-read research articles from the past year both focus on one of the biggest issues on all our minds: the Great Resignation. In Who Is Driving the Great Resignation? , data from nine million employees at 4,000 companies around the world sheds light on which segments of the global economy have experienced the most resignations. It turns out that rates have been highest among mid-career employees, and among those in the health care and tech sectors. The article recommends that firms take a data-driven approach to boosting retention by quantifying the problem, identifying the root causes that are driving employees to leave, and developing tailored retention programs.

A related piece, Research: Why Rejected Internal Candidates End Up Quitting , explores a common driver of resignations: If an internal candidate is passed up for a new opportunity, research shows that they are more than twice as likely to quit shortly thereafter. Of course, not every internal candidate is the right fit for the job, so what can organizations do to encourage internal applicants while still making the necessary hiring decisions? The authors found that rejected internal candidates were half as likely to quit if they interviewed with a hiring manager, or if they were passed over for another internal candidate, since these signals suggested that even though they didn’t get the promotion this time, their candidacy was taken seriously. In other words, even if an employee is rejected today, they are more likely to stick around if they feel they have a good chance of advancing tomorrow.

What Employees Want (and Need) to Thrive

Of course, convincing people not to quit is really just the bare minimum. Three of this year’s most read research-based articles explore what it takes for employees to not just stick around, but to thrive at work. What Your Future Employees Want Most discusses survey data suggesting that people want flexibility, diversity, and success metrics that prioritize value over volume. Another piece looks at what employees really mean when they say they want flexibility and suggests that especially in the hybrid era, what they’re often talking about is autonomy. To offer employees the autonomy they need, the authors argue that firms must establish principles, not policies; invest in developing employees and fostering a sense of belonging; and provide employees with the tools they need to succeed.

Similarly, the authors of Research: What Do People Need to Perform at a High Level? leveraged survey data from more than 14,000 U.S. workers to determine the practices and cultural norms that help organizations best support their employees. Their analysis revealed that people perform best when firms provide clear expectations, are open to questions, don’t have too many rules, support creative problem solving, reward strong performance, acknowledge employees’ emotions, and provide a clear sense of purpose.

Tips and Tricks to Improve the Workplace

Our readers also showed a strong interest in tactical, research-backed tips and tricks that both managers and employees can use to improve life at work. The Psychology Behind Meeting Overload describes six psychological pitfalls that lead us to schedule and attend too many meetings, and offers strategies to help us overcome them. For example, a phenomenon known as “Pluralistic Ignorance” often leads people to assume that they’re the only ones who feel that a meeting is a waste of time, even if everyone secretly agrees it’s useless. To address this bias, the authors suggest that leaders should proactively encourage feedback, and that they should use that feedback to regularly identify and eliminate unproductive meetings.

While meeting overload is a perennial problem, there are many workplace challenges that have been particularly amplified by the pandemic. For instance, organizations that have taken a financial hit may be searching for ways to motivate their employees without breaking the bank. In Research: A Little Recognition Can Provide a Big Morale Boost , the authors find that symbolic rewards such as thank-you notes, small gifts, or public recognition can be an effective complement to monetary compensation. They suggest that to maximize impact, firms should consider the best messenger and timing, make it public, pay attention to details, and remember that a small gesture can make a big difference.  

Limited resources and new modes of working have also forced many employees to take on additional informal leadership responsibilities. While these duties can be a valuable form of professional development, Research: Informal Leadership Comes at a Cost suggests that without effective support, informal leadership can be energy-depleting and harm employees’ performance. To minimize these downsides, the authors argue that managers should provide leadership coaching, clear expectations, and a healthy pipeline of informal leaders to minimize the burden on any individual employee. At the same time, they recommend that informal leaders themselves should proactively monitor and protect their own energy levels in order to recognize and prevent burnout before it becomes a serious problem.

Gender at Work

The last trend we identified was a consistent interest in research-backed insights around gender in the workplace — both the myriad benefits of gender equity, and the ways in which systemic inequity continues to hold women back. Interestingly, the two top-performing pieces described below also both leverage machine learning to analyze large, qualitative datasets and glean insights that might otherwise be inaccessible, highlighting the growing role of AI tools in management research.

First, Research: Adding Women to the C-Suite Changes How Companies Think describes the results of an in-depth study of 163 companies that looked at M&A activity, R&D investment rates, and an automated linguistic analysis of corporate documents over 13 years. The study found that after women join the C-suite, companies become more open to change and less open to risk, leading them to shift their focus from M&A to R&D. Researchers further found these effects were strongest when women were well-integrated into the top management team, which was more likely if there were already women in the C-suite and if there were fewer total new appointees.

Finally, while it’s been established that male employees tend to advance faster than female employees, quantifying the root factors driving this disparity can be challenging. In Research: Men Get More Actionable Feedback Than Women , researchers share the results of a machine learning analysis conducted on more than a thousand pieces of open-ended feedback given to employees. The analysis found that men were encouraged to set a vision, leverage politics, assert their space, and display more confidence, while women were encouraged to focus on execution, cope with politics, get along with others, and be more confident. This suggests that even if it is ostensibly positive, feedback provided to women tends to be less actionable and less useful for leadership progression than feedback given to men.

Ultimately, the blessing and the curse of research is its specificity. While we may seek clear, cut-and-dry answers, a research-backed approach forces us to acknowledge the nuance and limitations of our own understanding. But as we look towards a new and hopefully brighter year, it’s reassuring to remember that there’s no shortage of data-driven insights to guide our policies, strategies, and choices — if only we’re patient and openminded enough to consider them.

interesting scientific papers 2021

  • Dagny Dukach is a former associate editor at Harvard Business Review.

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The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021

From reframing our notion of “good” schools to mining the magic of expert teachers, here’s a curated list of must-read research from 2021.

It was a year of unprecedented hardship for teachers and school leaders. We pored through hundreds of studies to see if we could follow the trail of exactly what happened: The research revealed a complex portrait of a grueling year during which persistent issues of burnout and mental and physical health impacted millions of educators. Meanwhile, many of the old debates continued: Does paper beat digital? Is project-based learning as effective as direct instruction? How do you define what a “good” school is?

Other studies grabbed our attention, and in a few cases, made headlines. Researchers from the University of Chicago and Columbia University turned artificial intelligence loose on some 1,130 award-winning children’s books in search of invisible patterns of bias. (Spoiler alert: They found some.) Another study revealed why many parents are reluctant to support social and emotional learning in schools—and provided hints about how educators can flip the script.

1. What Parents Fear About SEL (and How to Change Their Minds)

When researchers at the Fordham Institute asked parents to rank phrases associated with social and emotional learning , nothing seemed to add up. The term “social-emotional learning” was very unpopular; parents wanted to steer their kids clear of it. But when the researchers added a simple clause, forming a new phrase—”social-emotional & academic learning”—the program shot all the way up to No. 2 in the rankings.

What gives?

Parents were picking up subtle cues in the list of SEL-related terms that irked or worried them, the researchers suggest. Phrases like “soft skills” and “growth mindset” felt “nebulous” and devoid of academic content. For some, the language felt suspiciously like “code for liberal indoctrination.”

But the study suggests that parents might need the simplest of reassurances to break through the political noise. Removing the jargon, focusing on productive phrases like “life skills,” and relentlessly connecting SEL to academic progress puts parents at ease—and seems to save social and emotional learning in the process.

2. The Secret Management Techniques of Expert Teachers

In the hands of experienced teachers, classroom management can seem almost invisible: Subtle techniques are quietly at work behind the scenes, with students falling into orderly routines and engaging in rigorous academic tasks almost as if by magic. 

That’s no accident, according to new research . While outbursts are inevitable in school settings, expert teachers seed their classrooms with proactive, relationship-building strategies that often prevent misbehavior before it erupts. They also approach discipline more holistically than their less-experienced counterparts, consistently reframing misbehavior in the broader context of how lessons can be more engaging, or how clearly they communicate expectations.

Focusing on the underlying dynamics of classroom behavior—and not on surface-level disruptions—means that expert teachers often look the other way at all the right times, too. Rather than rise to the bait of a minor breach in etiquette, a common mistake of new teachers, they tend to play the long game, asking questions about the origins of misbehavior, deftly navigating the terrain between discipline and student autonomy, and opting to confront misconduct privately when possible.

3. The Surprising Power of Pretesting

Asking students to take a practice test before they’ve even encountered the material may seem like a waste of time—after all, they’d just be guessing.

But new research concludes that the approach, called pretesting, is actually more effective than other typical study strategies. Surprisingly, pretesting even beat out taking practice tests after learning the material, a proven strategy endorsed by cognitive scientists and educators alike. In the study, students who took a practice test before learning the material outperformed their peers who studied more traditionally by 49 percent on a follow-up test, while outperforming students who took practice tests after studying the material by 27 percent.

The researchers hypothesize that the “generation of errors” was a key to the strategy’s success, spurring student curiosity and priming them to “search for the correct answers” when they finally explored the new material—and adding grist to a 2018 study that found that making educated guesses helped students connect background knowledge to new material.

Learning is more durable when students do the hard work of correcting misconceptions, the research suggests, reminding us yet again that being wrong is an important milestone on the road to being right.

4. Confronting an Old Myth About Immigrant Students

Immigrant students are sometimes portrayed as a costly expense to the education system, but new research is systematically dismantling that myth.

In a 2021 study , researchers analyzed over 1.3 million academic and birth records for students in Florida communities, and concluded that the presence of immigrant students actually has “a positive effect on the academic achievement of U.S.-born students,” raising test scores as the size of the immigrant school population increases. The benefits were especially powerful for low-income students.

While immigrants initially “face challenges in assimilation that may require additional school resources,” the researchers concluded, hard work and resilience may allow them to excel and thus “positively affect exposed U.S.-born students’ attitudes and behavior.” But according to teacher Larry Ferlazzo, the improvements might stem from the fact that having English language learners in classes improves pedagogy , pushing teachers to consider “issues like prior knowledge, scaffolding, and maximizing accessibility.”

5. A Fuller Picture of What a ‘Good’ School Is

It’s time to rethink our definition of what a “good school” is, researchers assert in a study published in late 2020.⁣ That’s because typical measures of school quality like test scores often provide an incomplete and misleading picture, the researchers found.

The study looked at over 150,000 ninth-grade students who attended Chicago public schools and concluded that emphasizing the social and emotional dimensions of learning—relationship-building, a sense of belonging, and resilience, for example—improves high school graduation and college matriculation rates for both high- and low-income students, beating out schools that focus primarily on improving test scores.⁣

“Schools that promote socio-emotional development actually have a really big positive impact on kids,” said lead researcher C. Kirabo Jackson in an interview with Edutopia . “And these impacts are particularly large for vulnerable student populations who don’t tend to do very well in the education system.”

The findings reinforce the importance of a holistic approach to measuring student progress, and are a reminder that schools—and teachers—can influence students in ways that are difficult to measure, and may only materialize well into the future.⁣

6. Teaching Is Learning

One of the best ways to learn a concept is to teach it to someone else. But do you actually have to step into the shoes of a teacher, or does the mere expectation of teaching do the trick?

In a 2021 study , researchers split students into two groups and gave them each a science passage about the Doppler effect—a phenomenon associated with sound and light waves that explains the gradual change in tone and pitch as a car races off into the distance, for example. One group studied the text as preparation for a test; the other was told that they’d be teaching the material to another student.

The researchers never carried out the second half of the activity—students read the passages but never taught the lesson. All of the participants were then tested on their factual recall of the Doppler effect, and their ability to draw deeper conclusions from the reading.

The upshot? Students who prepared to teach outperformed their counterparts in both duration and depth of learning, scoring 9 percent higher on factual recall a week after the lessons concluded, and 24 percent higher on their ability to make inferences. The research suggests that asking students to prepare to teach something—or encouraging them to think “could I teach this to someone else?”—can significantly alter their learning trajectories.

7. A Disturbing Strain of Bias in Kids’ Books

Some of the most popular and well-regarded children’s books—Caldecott and Newbery honorees among them—persistently depict Black, Asian, and Hispanic characters with lighter skin, according to new research .

Using artificial intelligence, researchers combed through 1,130 children’s books written in the last century, comparing two sets of diverse children’s books—one a collection of popular books that garnered major literary awards, the other favored by identity-based awards. The software analyzed data on skin tone, race, age, and gender.

Among the findings: While more characters with darker skin color begin to appear over time, the most popular books—those most frequently checked out of libraries and lining classroom bookshelves—continue to depict people of color in lighter skin tones. More insidiously, when adult characters are “moral or upstanding,” their skin color tends to appear lighter, the study’s lead author, Anjali Aduki,  told The 74 , with some books converting “Martin Luther King Jr.’s chocolate complexion to a light brown or beige.” Female characters, meanwhile, are often seen but not heard.

Cultural representations are a reflection of our values, the researchers conclude: “Inequality in representation, therefore, constitutes an explicit statement of inequality of value.”

8. The Never-Ending ‘Paper Versus Digital’ War

The argument goes like this: Digital screens turn reading into a cold and impersonal task; they’re good for information foraging, and not much more. “Real” books, meanwhile, have a heft and “tactility”  that make them intimate, enchanting—and irreplaceable.

But researchers have often found weak or equivocal evidence for the superiority of reading on paper. While a recent study concluded that paper books yielded better comprehension than e-books when many of the digital tools had been removed, the effect sizes were small. A 2021 meta-analysis further muddies the water: When digital and paper books are “mostly similar,” kids comprehend the print version more readily—but when enhancements like motion and sound “target the story content,” e-books generally have the edge.

Nostalgia is a force that every new technology must eventually confront. There’s plenty of evidence that writing with pen and paper encodes learning more deeply than typing. But new digital book formats come preloaded with powerful tools that allow readers to annotate, look up words, answer embedded questions, and share their thinking with other readers.

We may not be ready to admit it, but these are precisely the kinds of activities that drive deeper engagement, enhance comprehension, and leave us with a lasting memory of what we’ve read. The future of e-reading, despite the naysayers, remains promising.

9. New Research Makes a Powerful Case for PBL

Many classrooms today still look like they did 100 years ago, when students were preparing for factory jobs. But the world’s moved on: Modern careers demand a more sophisticated set of skills—collaboration, advanced problem-solving, and creativity, for example—and those can be difficult to teach in classrooms that rarely give students the time and space to develop those competencies.

Project-based learning (PBL) would seem like an ideal solution. But critics say PBL places too much responsibility on novice learners, ignoring the evidence about the effectiveness of direct instruction and ultimately undermining subject fluency. Advocates counter that student-centered learning and direct instruction can and should coexist in classrooms.

Now two new large-scale studies —encompassing over 6,000 students in 114 diverse schools across the nation—provide evidence that a well-structured, project-based approach boosts learning for a wide range of students.

In the studies, which were funded by Lucas Education Research, a sister division of Edutopia , elementary and high school students engaged in challenging projects that had them designing water systems for local farms, or creating toys using simple household objects to learn about gravity, friction, and force. Subsequent testing revealed notable learning gains—well above those experienced by students in traditional classrooms—and those gains seemed to raise all boats, persisting across socioeconomic class, race, and reading levels.

10. Tracking a Tumultuous Year for Teachers

The Covid-19 pandemic cast a long shadow over the lives of educators in 2021, according to a year’s worth of research.

The average teacher’s workload suddenly “spiked last spring,” wrote the Center for Reinventing Public Education in its January 2021 report, and then—in defiance of the laws of motion—simply never let up. By the fall, a RAND study recorded an astonishing shift in work habits: 24 percent of teachers reported that they were working 56 hours or more per week, compared to 5 percent pre-pandemic.

The vaccine was the promised land, but when it arrived nothing seemed to change. In an April 2021 survey  conducted four months after the first vaccine was administered in New York City, 92 percent of teachers said their jobs were more stressful than prior to the pandemic, up from 81 percent in an earlier survey.

It wasn’t just the length of the work days; a close look at the research reveals that the school system’s failure to adjust expectations was ruinous. It seemed to start with the obligations of hybrid teaching, which surfaced in Edutopia ’s coverage of overseas school reopenings. In June 2020, well before many U.S. schools reopened, we reported that hybrid teaching was an emerging problem internationally, and warned that if the “model is to work well for any period of time,” schools must “recognize and seek to reduce the workload for teachers.” Almost eight months later, a 2021 RAND study identified hybrid teaching as a primary source of teacher stress in the U.S., easily outpacing factors like the health of a high-risk loved one.

New and ever-increasing demands for tech solutions put teachers on a knife’s edge. In several important 2021 studies, researchers concluded that teachers were being pushed to adopt new technology without the “resources and equipment necessary for its correct didactic use.” Consequently, they were spending more than 20 hours a week adapting lessons for online use, and experiencing an unprecedented erosion of the boundaries between their work and home lives, leading to an unsustainable “always on” mentality. When it seemed like nothing more could be piled on—when all of the lights were blinking red—the federal government restarted standardized testing .

Change will be hard; many of the pathologies that exist in the system now predate the pandemic. But creating strict school policies that separate work from rest, eliminating the adoption of new tech tools without proper supports, distributing surveys regularly to gauge teacher well-being, and above all listening to educators to identify and confront emerging problems might be a good place to start, if the research can be believed.

Science & research news | Frontiers

Top 10 Research Topics from 2021

Posted on January 17, 2022 by Frontiers Communications in Research topics , Sustainability , Top News // 0 Comments

interesting scientific papers 2021

Find the answers to your biggest research questions from 2021. With collective views of over 3.7 million, researchers explored topics spanning from nutritional immunology and political misinformation to sustainable agriculture and the human-dog bond .

Research Topics:

interesting scientific papers 2021

1. Infectious disease

29 articles | 1,643,000 views

Uncovering the many ethical, legal, and social issues that have arisen during the pandemic

interesting scientific papers 2021

2. Nutritional immunology

29 articles | 768,000 views

How specific foods and nutrients affect COVID-19 severity and outcomes

interesting scientific papers 2021

3. Music therapy

44 articles | 268,000 views

Examining the ability of music to create and maintain social bonds during the pandemic

interesting scientific papers 2021

4. Political misinformation

11 articles | 219,000 views

Understanding how to halt the spread of false news while increasing the circulation of information from credible sources during the pandemic

interesting scientific papers 2021

5. Plant science

15 articles | 198,000 views

The enormous potential of plants to contribute effectively to fighting pandemics

interesting scientific papers 2021

6. Sustainable agriculture

49 articles | 168,000 views

Demonstrating the potential of various microbes to enhance plant productivity and yield in cropping systems

interesting scientific papers 2021

7. Mental health

22 articles | 136,000 views

Discovering insights from altered states of consciousness through psychedelic therapies

interesting scientific papers 2021

8. Aging brains

18 articles | 134,000 views

Evaluating factors that predispose aging Covid patients to more severe complications

interesting scientific papers 2021

9. Canine connection

13 articles | 118,000 views

Exploring the human-dog bond and how interactions between the two benefits us medically, psychologically, and through service as working dogs

interesting scientific papers 2021

10. Mood disorders

12 articles | 102,000 views

New insights into the mechanisms underlying mood disorders at the genetic and neurobiological level

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1 Cite Share In Vivo Study on Site of Action of Sinapine Thiocyanate following Acupoint Herbal Patching. Chen S, Jin YT, Zhu ZY, Wu LT, Yang P, Jin P, Xuan LH. Chen S, et al. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Mar 14;2018:9502902. doi: 10.1155/2018/9502902. eCollection 2018. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018. PMID: 29725357 Free PMC article. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

2 Cite Share An enhanced care package to improve asthma management in Malawian children: a randomised controlled trial. Rylance S, Chinoko B, Mnesa B, Jewell C, Grigg J, Mortimer K. Rylance S, et al. Thorax. 2021 May;76(5):434-440. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-216065. Epub 2021 Jan 21. Thorax. 2021. PMID: 33479040 Free PMC article. Clinical Trial. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

3 Cite Share Treatment options for impacted teeth. Frank CA. Frank CA. J Am Dent Assoc. 2000 May;131(5):623-32. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2000.0236. J Am Dent Assoc. 2000. PMID: 10832256 Review. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

4 Cite Share A missense mutation in gamma-glutamyl carboxylase gene causes combined deficiency of all vitamin K-dependent blood coagulation factors. Brenner B, Sánchez-Vega B, Wu SM, Lanir N, Stafford DW, Solera J. Brenner B, et al. Blood. 1998 Dec 15;92(12):4554-9. Blood. 1998. PMID: 9845520 Free article. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

5 Cite Share Magnitude and direction of mechanical stress at the osseointegrated interface of the microthread implant. Hudieb MI, Wakabayashi N, Kasugai S. Hudieb MI, et al. J Periodontol. 2011 Jul;82(7):1061-70. doi: 10.1902/jop.2010.100237. Epub 2010 Dec 28. J Periodontol. 2011. PMID: 21189091 Cite Share Item in Clipboard

6 Cite Share Flower development under drought stress: morphological and transcriptomic analyses reveal acute responses and long-term acclimation in Arabidopsis. Su Z, Ma X, Guo H, Sukiran NL, Guo B, Assmann SM, Ma H. Su Z, et al. Plant Cell. 2013 Oct;25(10):3785-807. doi: 10.1105/tpc.113.115428. Epub 2013 Oct 31. Plant Cell. 2013. PMID: 24179129 Free PMC article. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

7 Cite Share Plant genetics. Getting to the root of drought responses. Pennisi E. Pennisi E. Science. 2008 Apr 11;320(5873):173. doi: 10.1126/science.320.5873.173. Science. 2008. PMID: 18403687 No abstract available. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

8 Cite Share IMAC capture of recombinant protein from unclarified mammalian cell feed streams. Kinna A, Tolner B, Rota EM, Titchener-Hooker N, Nesbeth D, Chester K. Kinna A, et al. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2016 Jan;113(1):130-40. doi: 10.1002/bit.25705. Epub 2015 Sep 3. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2016. PMID: 26174988 Free PMC article. Cite Share Item in Clipboard

9 Cite Share Evolution of the posterior petrosal approach. Gross BA, Tavanaiepour D, Du R, Al-Mefty O, Dunn IF. Gross BA, et al. Neurosurg Focus. 2012 Aug;33(2):E7. doi: 10.3171/2012.6.FOCUS12133. Neurosurg Focus. 2012. PMID: 22853838 Cite Share Item in Clipboard

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Most Influential NATURE Papers (2022-02)

Nature is a British weekly scientific journal founded and based in London, England. As a multidisciplinary publication, Nature features peer-reviewed research from a variety of academic disciplines, mainly in science, technology, and the natural sciences. Paper Digest Team analyze all papers published on NATURE in the past years, and presents the 10 most influential papers for each year (based on when the paper became available online). This ranking list is automatically constructed based upon citations from both research papers and granted patents, and will be frequently updated to reflect the most recent changes. To find the most influential papers from other conferences/journals, visit Best Paper Digest page. Note: the most influential papers may or may not include the papers that won the best paper awards. (Last updated on: 2022-02-05)

If you do not want to miss any interesting academic paper, you are welcome to sign up our free daily paper digest service to get updates on new papers published in your area every day. To search for papers with highlights, related papers, patents, grants, experts and organizations, please visit our search console . You are also welcome to follow us on Twitter and Linkedin to get updated with new conference digests.

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TABLE 1: Most Influential NATURE Papers (2022-02)

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The Morning Newsletter

The Year’s Most Read

The stories you read, clicked and spent the most time with.

interesting scientific papers 2021

By the staff of The Morning

The most-read New York Times story of 2021 captured the ennui that many people felt during the second year of the pandemic. “There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling,” as the article’s headline put it. “It’s called languishing.”

In the article , Adam Grant, a psychologist and author, described languishing as “the neglected middle child of mental health” and “the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.” He concluded: “By acknowledging that so many of us are languishing, we can start giving voice to quiet despair and lighting a path out of the void.”

This year was not an easy one, and you’ll be reminded of that as you look through our lists of the most popular Times stories of 2021. But we think there is value in looking back — and we expect that you will also find some moments of joy.

We’re adding a couple of twists to this year’s rankings. First, you’ll find the classic most-read list — the 10 Times articles with the largest number of page views. (The list does not include election-result pages, Covid-19 maps and some other standing features.)

Next you’ll see a list of 10 articles that people spent a particularly long time reading.

Finally, you’ll find a list of the 10 most-clicked articles from this newsletter.

The most-read

1. There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling: languishing . (April 19)

2. Alec Baldwin was told his gun was safe . (Oct. 21)

3. Mike Pence reached his limit with Donald Trump. (Jan. 12)

4. Oakland Raiders coach resigns after emails . (Oct. 11)

5. “A Total Failure”: The Proud Boys now mock Trump . (Jan. 20)

6. Long before divorce, Bill Gates had a questionable reputation . (May 16)

7. Harry Brant is dead at 24 . (Jan. 18)

8. Outage shakes Facebook . (Oct. 4)

9. J. & J. vaccinations were paused after rare clotting cases. (April 13)

10. His lights stayed on during Texas’ storm. Now he owes $16,752 . (Feb. 20)

Deep engagement

The following articles were among those with which readers spent the most time this year:

Martina Navratilova has plenty to say . (June 6)

Katie Couric’s memoir includes family skeletons . (Oct. 14)

When Dasani left home . (Sept. 28)

Four secrets about “ Raiders of the Lost Ark .” (June 11)

Maureen Dowd interviews Cindy Adams, gossip’s G.O.A.T. (Aug. 7)

A Madonna who shows the beauty in going overboard . (Aug. 13)

How to survive a bear attack . (Aug. 28)

Fifty reasons to love Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” (June 20)

David Sedaris knows what you’ll laugh at when no one is judging. (Oct. 24)

What happens when elemental forces clash in Chicago ? (July 7)

What you clicked

These were the 10 articles that Morning readers visited the most in 2021:

1. Coronavirus in the U.S.: Maps and case counts .

2. How vaccinations are going in your county and state .

3. How safe are you from Covid when you fly ?

4. Masks, travel, hugs? Advice for the vaccinated .

5. Fifty-two places to love in 2021.

6. The 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results.

7. Girl, wash your timeline .

8. Which Covid vaccine should you get? Answers from experts .

9. This is how you get the best scrambled eggs .

10. Do we still need to keep wearing masks outdoors ?


New York City schools will reopen on Jan. 3 with ramped-up testing. Several universities have delayed the start of classes .

Average daily new cases in the U.S. topped 267,000, a record. Hospitalizations and deaths are up, but they remain below the peaks of early 2021.

Hospitalizations among children have increased, but Omicron does not seem to be more severe for young people.

Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde have racked up more than $100,000 in fines for not wearing masks on the House floor.

Harry Reid died at 82 . The Nevada senator led a Democratic majority during Barack Obama’s presidency and steered the Affordable Care Act into law.

“The world is better cause of what you’ve done,” Obama wrote in a letter to Reid . “Not bad for a skinny, poor kid from Searchlight.”

In 2019, The Times spoke with Reid about Washington, Trump and fighting dirty .


Record flooding in northeastern Brazil killed at least 20 people .

How do you rewrite a constitution for the climate change era? Chile is the first country to try .

Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of a human rights group that chronicled persecutions in Stalin-era labor camps.

Hong Kong police arrested seven people connected to a pro-democracy news website , another crackdown on the city’s once-vibrant independent press.

Other Big Stories

John Madden, who coached the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl title and became one of football’s great broadcasters, died at 85 .

How “stacking” — piling tax breaks on top of one another — allows rich families to avoid paying millions .

Historians hoped to find a century-old photo of Abraham Lincoln in a time capsule in Virginia. (Spoiler: It wasn’t to be.)

Homelessness isn’t just traumatic, it’s also expensive , Lori Teresa Yearwood writes.

Poland’s government has co-opted the courts, muzzled the media and restricted women’s rights. It could be a vision of Europe’s future , Karolina Wigura and Jaroslaw Kuisz write.


Games: The world’s best Tetris player is 14 years old .

Drumroll, please: The Times asked readers to pick the best book of the past 125 years. We’ve got a winner .

Icons: Nicole Kidman on playing Lucille Ball : “I’ve got to be funny, and funny’s hard.”

Science: From thieving birds to dexterous elephants, these were the year’s best animal discoveries .

Ask an ethicist: What to do if you’re invited to a wedding at a plantation .

Lives Lived: Thomas Lovejoy spent decades trying to preserve the Amazon rainforest. He also helped create the public TV series “Nature” and popularized the term “biological diversity.” Lovejoy died at 80 .


The n.f.l. playoff picture.

With two weeks left in the N.F.L. season, fans may be wondering whether their teams can make the playoffs. Wonder no more: The Upshot has once again rolled out its N.F.L. Playoff Simulator, which simulates the season thousands of times to figure out each team’s odds of making the postseason.

A few takeaways:

Six teams are officially in the postseason. But several others can probably start celebrating early: The Bills, Patriots, Titans and Colts all have a greater than 90 percent chance of getting in.

A few other teams are on the cusp — the Dolphins and Raiders in the A.F.C., the Eagles and 49ers in the N.F.C. For each of them, the path is clear: Win both remaining games and their playoff odds shoot up to 100 percent.

The Falcons and the Saints play in the same division, and they have the same record (7-8). But the simulator gives the Saints a 34 percent chance of making the playoffs, and the Falcons a lowly 2 percent.

Try the tool for yourself . Each team has its own page where you can choose who wins the remaining games and see how it changes the odds. — Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning editor


What to cook.

These skillet poached eggs aren’t perfect. ( And that’s OK .)

A Coco Chanel ballet slipper, Beethoven’s hair, Andy Warhol’s painted ticket: See delightful objects at the New York Public Library.

What to Read

“Brown Girls” by Daphne Palasi Andreades is a “brash and talky first novel.”

Now Time to Play

The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were gyrating and tarrying . Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online .

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword , and a clue: “Looks ___ everything” (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here .

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.

P.S. Jack Nicas, who has covered tech for The Times, will be the next Brazil bureau chief .

Here’s today’s front page .

Today’s episode of “ The Daily ” revisits a conversation with a Dogecoin millionaire.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected] .

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox .


A new replication crisis: Research that is less likely to be true is cited more

Papers that cannot be replicated are cited 153 times more because their findings are interesting.

Papers in leading psychology, economic and science journals that fail to replicate and therefore are less likely to be true are often the most cited papers in academic research, according to a new study by the University of California San Diego's Rady School of Management.

Published in Science Advances , the paper explores the ongoing "replication crisis" in which researchers have discovered that many findings in the fields of social sciences and medicine don't hold up when other researchers try to repeat the experiments.

The paper reveals that findings from studies that cannot be verified when the experiments are repeated have a bigger influence over time. The unreliable research tends to be cited as if the results were true long after the publication failed to replicate.

"We also know that experts can predict well which papers will be replicated," write the authors Marta Serra-Garcia, assistant professor of economics and strategy at the Rady School and Uri Gneezy, professor of behavioral economics also at the Rady School. "Given this prediction, we ask 'why are non-replicable papers accepted for publication in the first place?'"

Their possible answer is that review teams of academic journals face a trade-off. When the results are more "interesting," they apply lower standards regarding their reproducibility.

The link between interesting findings and nonreplicable research also can explain why it is cited at a much higher rate -- the authors found that papers that successfully replicate are cited 153 times less than those that failed.

"Interesting or appealing findings are also covered more by media or shared on platforms like Twitter, generating a lot of attention, but that does not make them true," Gneezy said.

Serra-Garcia and Gneezy analyzed data from three influential replication projects which tried to systematically replicate the findings in top psychology, economic and general science journals (Nature and Science). In psychology, only 39 percent of the 100 experiments successfully replicated. In economics, 61 percent of the 18 studies replicated as did 62 percent of the 21 studies published in Nature/Science.

With the findings from these three replication projects, the authors used Google Scholar to test whether papers that failed to replicate are cited significantly more often than those that were successfully replicated, both before and after the replication projects were published. The largest gap was in papers published in Nature/Science: non-replicable papers were cited 300 times more than replicable ones.

When the authors took into account several characteristics of the studies replicated -- such as the number of authors, the rate of male authors, the details of the experiment (location, language and online implementation) and the field in which the paper was published -- the relationship between replicability and citations was unchanged.

They also show the impact of such citations grows over time. Yearly citation counts reveal a pronounced gap between papers that replicated and those that did not. On average, papers that failed to replicate are cited 16 times more per year. This gap remains even after the replication project is published.

"Remarkably, only 12 percent of post-replication citations of non-replicable findings acknowledge the replication failure," the authors write.

The influence of an inaccurate paper published in a prestigious journal can have repercussions for decades. For example, the study Andrew Wakefield published in The Lancet in 1998 turned tens of thousands of parents around the world against the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine because of an implied link between vaccinations and autism. The incorrect findings were retracted by The Lancet 12 years later, but the claims that autism is linked to vaccines continue.

The authors added that journals may feel pressure to publish interesting findings, and so do academics. For example, in promotion decisions, most academic institutions use citations as an important metric in the decision of whether to promote a faculty member.

This may be the source of the "replication crisis," first discovered the early 2010s.

"We hope our research encourages readers to be cautious if they read something that is interesting and appealing," Serra-Garcia said. "Whenever researchers cite work that is more interesting or has been cited a lot, we hope they will check if replication data is available and what those findings suggest."

Gneezy added, "We care about the field and producing quality research and we want to it to be true."

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Materials provided by University of California - San Diego . Original written by Christine Clark. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Marta Serra-Garcia, Uri Gneezy. Nonreplicable publications are cited more than replicable ones . Science Advances , 2021; 7 (21): eabd1705 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1705

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180 Best Science Research Paper Topics and Ideas

Table of Contents

While pursuing a degree program in science, to obtain graduation, you must submit a high-quality science research paper as per your university guidelines. Mainly, for writing a science dissertation, a good topic is needed the most. In case, you are unsure of what topic to choose for your science research paper, take a look at this blog post. For your convenience, here, we have shared a list of outstanding science research paper topics and ideas on different themes involved in the subject. In addition to that, we have also explained how to choose an ideal topic and draft a brilliant science research paper. Keep reading to know more about science research paper writing.

Science Research Paper Topics

Science Research Paper Topic Selection

Unfortunately, many of us don’t understand how relevant science research topics are and we ought to select them carefully. Moreover, in reality, if we don’t select good topics, perhaps our research paper will not hold much value. Hence, select your science research paper topics carefully, as you might want to excel in your assignments.

Let’s explore a few conditions that might help you choose good science research paper topics:

  • Firstly, identify your research direction, identify your goals, and the areas you might want to explore. Also, ensure to identify your research type and the method you may have decided to use.
  • Secondly, choose a narrow research direction that you may use to explore a specific concept. Also, ensure to brainstorm your ideas and identify what you want to study. Perhaps, avoid choosing complex topics as you might face issues in finding a large sample group. For instance, exploring a location sounds tough because it’s difficult to find data on it.
  • Thirdly, avoid choosing famous science research paper topics . Though we may find significant information on it, chances exist that other researchers might also work on it. Perhaps, you will not draw any new conclusions and your research will get lost among many others. Hence, don’t just prove your hypothesis, instead find something exclusive.

Consequently, if you select a broad topic, ensure to explore it from a particular angle. For instance, studying the impact of video games on children doesn’t seem an appropriate topic. Instead, you choose to write about the impact of video games on the cognitive skills of children. Moreover, ensure to have a backup plan in place, because while writing on it, you may discover its popularity. Perhaps, talking to your professor might help you choose a good direction for your science research paper help topics.

Science Research Paper Writing

Subsequently, if you want to write exemplary science research papers, possibly you will have to adhere to the following points:

Vision Statement- Specifically, ensure to write the key message of your science research in just one sentence. Perhaps, you will have to use it multiple times in your paper.

  • Don’t begin at the start- Simultaneously, it’s not advisable to start your science paper through an abstract or an introduction. Perhaps, it sounds better to write it in the end, otherwise, you may tell an altogether different story.
  • Storyboard the figures- Since, figures serve as the backbone of your paper, consider applying them at the beginning of the paper only.
  • Methodology Section- Besides, the methodology is the simplest and the most important section that you may prefer to write accurately. Perhaps, your research paper will replicate your methodology section and thereby apply the same setup.
  • Results and Discussion Section- Generally, science research papers, merge results and discussions. Possibly, it is the largest section of your paper, hence you ought to storyboard your outlined figures. Also, you may write a few paragraphs on each figure and consider explaining their results.
  • Conclusion- Finally, wrap up your science research paper topics, stating your significant findings and restating your thesis statement or even objectives.

List of Science Research Topics and Ideas

Here we have presented a list of the 150+ best science research paper topics and ideas. Explore them all and pick one topic that is convenient for you to research and write about.

Interesting Science Research Topics

  • Covid-19 vaccinations and the steps to develop them.
  • Hand washing strategies and infection control.
  • Does an aging man pass their genetic abnormalities to their children?
  • Stem cell treatment and its relevance.
  • What is the age of the universe?
  • Big Bang- Elaborate on the event.
  • Asteroid Belt and its causes.
  • Discuss Dark Matter and its relevance.
  • Covid-19 and high risks of complication- Discuss its impact on the people.
  • Raw material shortages and their causes- Microbial factories.

Excellent Science Research Ideas

  • Herd immunity and how it can be created for a virus?
  • Protease inhibitor and its functions.
  • Covid-19 and other human viruses- MERS, SARS, and Corona Virus.
  • Why do some people resist taking Covid-19 vaccines? How can you persuade them?
  • When and where did Covid-19 begin to infect people?
  • Low flu incidents in 2020- Analyze the causes.
  • Discuss the antiviral drugs with examples
  • Differences between antiviral drugs, antibiotics, and vaccine
  • How does the coronavirus ‘spike protein’ binds to the human cell receptors?
  • Impact of COVID-19 on People with underlying comorbidities

Best Science Research Paper Topics

  • Impact of pandemics such as the Plague, Flu, and The Black Death on the global economy
  • Why do some people not want the COVID vaccine? How can we convince them to get it?
  • What is the best way to distribute the COVID vaccine equally across the globe?
  • What were the steps for developing a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Do lockdowns help reduce coronavirus transmission?
  • Why was the percentage of people of color dying from COVID-19 higher than the percentage in the general population?
  • How lockdown reduces the impact of Covid-19 transmission?
  • Covid-19 patients and the neurological impact on them.
  • Flattening curve- Origin and Definition.
  • Covid-19 versus Seasonal Influenza- Compare and Contrast.
  • Cancer survivors and poor resistance to Covid-19- Discuss their poor response to Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Digestive problems as a symptom of Covid-19.
  • Prehistoric people and how they embraced the paleo diet?
  • Personalized medicines and our genome- Future wave.
  • Humans interbreeding with Neanderthals- Discuss the molecular evidence.

High-quality Science Research Paper Topics

  • Antiviral drugs and how it is different from the vaccines.
  • Positive and negative impacts of men’s exercise on the DNA they pass on to their children.
  • Genetically modified crops about economics or science- Europe’s opposition.
  • Dark Energy- What do we know about the Universe in which we live?
  • Current promising developments in cancer treatment and its validity.
  • Discuss the most likely consequences on health after recovering from the COVID-19 disease
  • Features, complications, evaluation, and Treatment of the COVID-19 Disease
  • Recent groundbreaking developments in medical science
  • Stem cell therapy and its impact on health
  • CD24Protein – a recent development in cancer research

Top-Notch Science Research Paper Topics

  • Next generation of mRNA vaccinology
  • Discuss the recent development in Type 2 diabetes treatment and medications
  • Why do scientists not know if people who have had coronavirus will have immunity? What do we know about the differences between immunity in other viruses?
  • What is an antiviral drug, and how does it differ from a vaccine?
  • What is a protease inhibitor, and how does it work?
  • How is the effort to find treatments against COVID-19 changing the way drugs are developed and used?
  • Why does hand washing prevent infections?
  • Broad-scale recycling techniques and their efficiency in waste minimization.
  • Recommended thorium nuclear reactor designs- Pros and Cons.
  • Genetic Modifications- Advantages and Disadvantages.
  • Cloning and its impact on humanity.
  • NASA and its future.
  • The impact of global warming- Is it reversible?
  • Echolocation and deafness.
  • Nuclear energy and its adverse impact.

Outstanding Science Research Ideas

  • Endangered Species- Causes and Issues.
  • Pain feeling process- Relevance of pain reliever and treatment in the future.
  • The impact of nanotechnology on modern science.
  • Toxic waste disposal- Key problems and potential solutions.
  • Nuclear Weapons- No country has undertaken this responsibility.
  • How uranium isotopes will precipitate the next scientific revolution.
  • Analyze the prospects of space resources and the technology used to extract them.
  • Will mask-wearing be the new norm for fighting other diseases, along with Covid-19?
  • Equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe.
  • PSMA-Targeted Therapy
  • Discuss the HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) symptoms and their treatment
  • Postpartum Depression – Causes, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatments
  • Use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in early detection of HIV/AIDS and Sepsis
  • Predictive Analytics and Hypertension
  • Forensic science technology.

Captivating Science Research Paper Topics

  • Stem cell research- Discuss.
  • Breaking the sound barriers- Issues faced by the scientists.
  • Genetic engineers- Present capabilities and future objectives.
  • Alchemy and how it was attempted?
  • Life on Mars- Discuss your viewpoints.
  • Pluto is a planet or not- Elaborate on your viewpoint.
  • How can people live on any other planet?
  • International Space Station- State its most significant discovery.
  • Should the United States go back to the moon and try to go to other planets?
  • Black Holes- Explain the phenomenon.

Unique Science Research Topics

  • The impact of sunspots on the Earth.
  • Will Higgs Boson destroy the universe?
  • How have the meteorites changed our viewpoints of the Universe?
  • Space Junk-How to solve the issue?
  • Commercial space flight and its future.
  • The impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on our view of the Universe?
  • Non-hormonal medication for the treatment of menopausal hot flashes
  • Impact of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) on heart and liver
  • Treatment for reducing LDL
  • Best practices to control and reduce high blood pressure and blood sugar

Impressive Science Research Topics

  • Influence of private spaceship companies on space resources development.
  • Discuss finding ways to live in space or on any other planet.
  • Explore the increasing case of Breast cancer in women.
  • Skin cancer and its causes.
  • Leukemia and its most efficient treatment.
  • Stem Cell Research- Pros and Cons.
  • Gene therapy and its relevance.
  • West Nile Virus- Discuss the phenomenon.
  • Dementia and Memory Loss- Discuss the prevention strategies.
  • Role of the cells to protect a body from diseases.
  • Poultry Farming and the best strategies to prevent bird flu.
  • Small rice farms and the best planting strategies.
  • Nano-materials and the reduction of carbon emission.
  • Nanotechnology and its use in the medical field.
  • Climate change legislation and its relevance.

Informative Science Research Ideas

  • Recycling metals and their relevance.
  • Offshore drilling and its safety.
  • Green buildings and their importance for the environment.
  • Disposal products- Should they be banned or restricted?
  • Significance of government subsidies for alternative energy companies.
  • Discuss the top five career opportunities in chemistry.
  • Identify the chemicals that trigger energy- Role of the chemists in preventing such allergies.
  • Best strategies to use and capture carbon dioxide.
  • Microbrewing Beer- Discuss the chemical phenomenon involved.
  • Role of metal oxides in enhancing mobile phones.
  • Relevance of big data and Biocomputing for the future of chemical research.
  • Biomacromolecules and their importance.
  • Sugar chemistry behind producing candies- What is your viewpoint?
  • Medical chemistry research in India- Discuss the significant trends.
  • Miniature Robots model- Roleplay by the insects.

Innovative Science Research Paper Topics

  • Relevance of science museums in teaching science.
  • Beautifully colored feathers of the birds- Elaborate on your viewpoint.
  • Animal hibernation.
  • Select the latest science-fictional move and analyze its depiction of science.
  • Practical applications of boron nitride and hard crystals.
  • Chemistry of adhesives and its latest developments.
  • Relevance of nanotechnology in feeding yourself.
  • Nanotechnology and its use to work with DNA.
  • Nanomaterials and Nano Designs- Discuss the challenges.
  • Relevance of Smart clothes for medical patients.
  • Discuss the microelectronics of contact lenses and how it helps to control blood sugar.
  • Pharmaceutical chemicals and their presence in our water supply.
  • Coronavirus and Epidemiology.
  • Genetic engineering and CRISPR.
  • Prions- How it causes acute wasting disease, mad cow disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Trending Science Research Paper Topics

  • Climate Change and the science behind it.
  • Astrobiology.
  • Role of atom-thick graphene- New technology development.
  • Role of killer mosquitoes to fight diseases- Has the US approved it?
  • Nuclear Fusion- Discuss its prospects.
  • Manufacturing plastics from non-petroleum products- Discuss the most promising experiments.
  • Benefits of nanotechnology for cancer patients.
  • Application of nanobots to manufacture and deliver drugs to human patients.
  • Role of microelectronics in helping patients having critical diseases.
  • Desktop nanofabrication tool- Discuss its viability for low-cost and simple nanotechnology.
  • Research study on animal-related diseases in a human being  
  • Nanomaterial regulations.
  • Research on plant-related diseases in human beings
  • Research on stem cells and their effectiveness to protect human beings from several critical diseases.  
  • Impacts of climate change on the plants and animals  
  • Discuss the novel scientific approaches to balance the efficacy and safety of the vaccine
  • Uncover the molecular virology, pathogenesis, and countermeasures of emerging and re-emerging viruses
  • “It has been claimed that going into space is important for scientific development” – Is that true?
  • Discuss the recent scientific breakthroughs that have come about through space programs
  • Discuss the formation of Quaternary fossil accumulations and recognize the impact of taphonomic processes on the paleoecological and paleobiological information

Latest Science research paper topics

  • Impacts of water populations on sea animals.
  • Omicron, the new variant of Coronavirus
  • Impacts of industrial waste on the ecological balance of the Planet
  • Impact of rust on the steel pipelines and process to shield the pipes from rust
  • Procedures for developing vaccines for the critical diseases
  • Difference between bacterial infection and viral infection      
  • Procedure to protect from viral diseases
  • Why did persons of color die from COVID-19 at greater rates than they did in the general population?
  • What COVID-19 self-treatment works best for mild instances that remain at home?
  • What connections does COVID-19 have to SARS, MERS, and other coronaviruses in humans?
  • How can human cell receptors attach to the coronavirus “spike protein”?
  • When did COVID-19 begin to infect humans, and where?
  • Will using masks in the battle against other illnesses become standard procedure?
  • How are medication development and usage being altered by the search for therapies for COVID-19?
  • Will genetic research actually be able to extend our lives and improve our health?
  • Should the US aim to reach other planets as well as the moon again?
  • How likely is it that a comet will hit the planet? What is the most effective strategy to spot this and stop it?
  • Examine the impact of bioactive compounds, diet, and lifestyle factors on the phenotypes of neurodegenerative disease
  • Psychedelic therapy: Discuss how the relational and social effects of psychedelic use influence therapeutic outcomes
  • Discuss the new insights, current challenges, latest discoveries, novel developments, recent advances, and future perspectives in the field of COVID-19

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the research topics and ideas suggested in this blog will aid you in preparing a brilliant science research paper as per your educator’s instructions. In case, you need some other unique ideas for writing your research paper, contact us immediately. To offer you science research paper help online, we have several skilled Ph.D. Dissertation Helpers on our platform. As per your needs, our experts will help you in completing your research paper in advance of the deadline and achieve top grades.

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News | August 17, 2023

Super blue moons: your questions answered.

By Tracy Vogel and Ernie Wright

At twilight, a full moon rises over a broad river with vegetated banks. The Moon appears peach-colored in a dim pink-and-blue sky.

A trifecta of labels is being applied to the Moon of Aug. 30-31, 2023. It’s a full moon , a supermoon , and finally a blue moon. You may hear it referred to as a super blue moon as a result. It sounds exciting, but what does that really mean? We’ve got you covered.

What is a supermoon?

The Moon travels around our planet in an elliptical orbit, or an elongated circle, with Earth closer to one side of the ellipse. Each month, the Moon passes through the point closest to Earth (perigee) and the point farthest from Earth (apogee). When the Moon is at or near its closest point to Earth at the same time as it is full, it is called a “supermoon.” During this event, because the full moon is a little bit closer to us than usual , it appears especially large and bright in the sky.

OK, so what is a blue moon?

A blue moon is the term for when we see the full moon twice in a single month. The Moon's cycle is 29.5 days, so just a bit shorter than the average length of a calendar month. Eventually that gap results in a full moon happening at the beginning of a month with enough days still remaining for another full cycle ― so a second full moon in the same month. In other words, a full moon that happens on the 1st or 2nd of a month will probably be followed by a second full moon on the 30th or 31st. This happens every two to three years.

People sometimes refer to two types of blue moons: monthly and seasonal. This upcoming moon is a monthly blue moon. Seasonal blue moons occur when there are four full moons in a single season (spring, summer, fall and winter) instead of the usual three.

Will the Moon be blue?

No, that’s just the term for two full moons in a month.

Is the Moon ever blue?

On rare occasions, tiny particles in the air ― typically of smoke or dust ― can scatter away red wavelengths of light, causing the Moon to appear blue.

Will this Moon be bigger and more “super?”

You probably won’t notice a big difference in size. When the Moon is closest to Earth (a “supermoon”), it looks about 14 percent bigger than when it’s farthest from Earth. This is similar to the size difference between a quarter and a nickel. Because the Moon will be close to us in its orbit, it will appear a bit brighter than usual.

' src=

Not-So-Super Moon vs. Supermoon

Credit: nasa’s scientific visualization studio, do blue moons and supermoons always occur together.

No. The term “supermoon” is used to describe a full Moon that occurs within a day or so of perigee, so they happen three to four times a year. About 25 percent of all full moons are supermoons, but only 3 percent of full moons are blue moons. The time between super blue moons is quite irregular ― it can be as much as 20 years ― but in general, 10 years is the average. The next super blue moons will occur in a pair, in January and March 2037.

So if it’s not blue and not super-sized, is this worth checking out?

Hey, it’s always a good time to look at the Moon! Try our Daily Moon Guide to see if you can locate some of our recommended daily Moon sights.

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Diagram of the Moon's phases



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  12. Top Science News -- ScienceDaily

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  16. Our top essays by scientists in 2021

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