First Scientific Results from Flyby of Pluto In the first published results from the flyby of the Pluto-Charon system in 2015, researchers reported that the surface of the dwarf planet is marked by plains, troughs, and peaks that appear to have been carved out by geological processes that have been active for a very long period and continue to the present. (Stern et al., Science, 16 October)
Fast, Continuous, 3D-Printing Out of Liquid Bath Researchers developed a method for growing detailed solids out of a liquid bath at rates that dwarf three-dimensional (3D) print speeds. Their method makes it possible to convert 3D designs into parts in minutes instead of hours. (Tumbleston et al., Science, 20 March)
A Global Look at Plastic in the Oceans Using comprehensive data from 192 coastal countries, researchers estimated that between five and 13 million tons of plastic waste wind up in the world’s oceans every year. Based on their projections, this amount could increase tenfold in the next decade, the researchers said. (Jambeck et al., Science, 13 February)
Personalized Vaccines Target Skin Cancer’s Mutations Researchers who tailored vaccines for different melanoma patients expanded the number and the reach of these patients’ cancer-fighting T cells—providing a shot in the arm for cancer immunotherapy. (Carreno et al., Science, 15 May)
The Oldest Fossil of the Homo Genus This analysis of a partial hominin mandible found in Ethiopia with five of its teeth still intact suggests that the Homo genus arose by about 2.8 million years ago—almost half a million years earlier than previous evidence had indicated. (Villmoare et al., Science, 20 March)
DNA from Illegal Ivory Points to Poaching Hotspots New genetic tools helped researchers trace illegal ivory back to the African elephant populations from which it came, creating a mechanism by which to assist law-enforcement officials in cracking down on poaching in the future. (Wasser et al., Science, 3 July)
Measles Risk in Countries Hit by Ebola Researchers uncovered how healthcare services in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were disrupted by the Ebola outbreak, adversely affecting routine vaccination of children against measles—an infection that often follows such humanitarian crises. (Takahashi et al., Science, 13 March)
Virally Cleansing the Pig Genome with CRISPR In an effort to enable organ transplants into humans, researchers used the CRISPR gene-editing technique to inactivate all 62 copies of a retrovirus in a pig cell line, a significant step on the road to generating pig organs for possible xenotransplantation. (Yang et al., Science, 27 November)
New England Cod Collapse Linked to Warming Waters Scientists revealed how rapid warming in the Gulf of Maine correlated to the near collapse of New England’s cod stocks, despite cuts to fishery activity. The results reveal how a warming climate complicates fisheries management. (Pershing et al., Science, 13 November)
Sequencing Tumor Alone May Misidentify Mutations In perhaps the largest-scale evaluation of its kind, a study of 815 patients across 15 cancer types revealed that compared to genomic analysis of tumors alone, analysis of both tumor and normal tissue from the same patient more accurately identified cancer-causing mutations. (Jones et al., Science Translational Medicine, 15 April)
“Designer Cell” Implants Detect and Treat Psoriasis Designer cells programmed to serve as miniature disease-sensors and drug factories showed promise against psoriasis. Researchers built and implanted into mice synthetic cells capable of detecting psoriasis, automatically producing therapeutic proteins, and effectively treating the condition. (Schukur et al., Science Translational Medicine, 16 December)
Infants Lacking “Good” Bacteria at Greater Asthma Risk Infants with low levels of four protective bugs in their gut microbiome are more likely to develop asthma, this study of 300 children showed. The findings pave the way to designing a diagnostic screen and probiotic therapy to prevent at-risk babies from developing asthma. (Arrieta et al., Science Translational Medicine, 30 September)
Burning All Fossil Fuels Could Eliminate Antarctic Ice Sheet Researchers who performed a long-term modeling study estimated that if all of the currently available carbon resources were burned, the Antarctic Ice Sheet would melt entirely and trigger a global sea-level rise of more than 50 meters. (Winkelmann et al., Science Advances, 11 September)
Uncontacted Amerindians Exhibit Extremely Diverse Microbiomes The microbiome of Amerindian villagers from the Venezuelan Amazon with no documented contact with Western peoples contains perhaps the highest levels of bacterial diversity ever reported in a human group, researchers reported. (Dominguez-Bello et al., Science Advances, 30 September)
More Than Half of All Amazonian Tree Species Threatened More than half of all tree species in the Amazon may be at risk for extinction, this study revealed. The results increase the number of threatened plant species on Earth by approximately 22%, and could have implications for land-use policy. (ter Steege et al., Science Advances, 20 November)
Methylation Takes Signaling Down a Notch Researchers showed that chemically tagging the Notch protein with a methyl group helped curb Notch signaling activity, which controls many developmental processes. The finding offers a potential strategy for turning off the pathway and sheds light on why Notch—when defective—drives many cancers and developmental disorders. (Hein et al., Science Signaling, 24 March)
OTHER SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS
Powerful Special Issues: Science published 14 substantive special issues on a range of topics, from “The End of Privacy,” to “General Relativity at 100,” to “Isolated Tribes in the Amazon.” On 4 September, a special issue, “Science in Iran,” explored the scientific challenges and triumphs of a country that has experienced international isolation in recent years. As Science International News Editor Richard Stone explained, though decades of economic sanctions have deprived Iranian scientists of critical scientific resources and collaboration, these researchers have persevered, using homespun ingenuity to create their own resources from scratch.
February marked the launch of AAAS’s first open-access journal, Science Advances. Scientific reports published in the journal during its first year described the creation of electronic plants that could be used to speed up plant-based drug development, a smartphone system for early earthquake and tsunami warnings, and how exposure to space radiation may put astronauts at risk for cognitive problems. A 2015 Science Advances study on the sixth mass extinction made its way into the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked on Altmetric.com, a metrics-reporting site for scholarly content.
In 2015, AAAS also laid the foundation for the publication of Science Immunology and Science Robotics, both set to launch in 2016. Science Immunology will feature interdisciplinary research focused on the understanding of problems in cellular and clinical immunology, including links to microbiology. Science Robotics will highlight new advances in complex engineered systems for exploration of and intervention in environments as diverse as the body, a factory, land, air, sea, and space.
The blog, In the Pipeline, an editorially independent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry by medicinal chemist Derek Lowe, moved to the Science Translational Medicine website, attracting a wide readership.
Finally, Science in the Classroom, a program launched in October 2011 with support from the National Science Foundation, received a considerable boost in funding. The program continues to help students across the country better understand core science concepts through a freely available site that features specially developed learning exercises and Science research articles annotated by student volunteers.
Honors we brought in
Judges of the D.C. Science Writers Association Newsbrief Award for short journalism recognized Science staff writer Emily Underwood with honorable mention for her story, “Rats forsake chocolate to save a drowning companion.”
Honors we gave out
The Grand Prize winner of the international competition for the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists was Allison Clearly of Pennsylvania State University, recognized for her research on how breast cancer cells cooperate to enable tumor growth. Established in 2013, the $25,000 prize is awarded annually to one young scientist for outstanding life science research. Cleary’s winning essay, “Teamwork: The tumor cell edition” describes how her team’s innovative approach unraveled a mysterious feature of human breast cancer biology—the interactive relationship between tumor cell subpopulations within single tumors, which is needed for tumors to grow. The prize is a coordinated effort of Science/AAAS and four Swedish universities comprising the Science for Life Laboratory, a Swedish national center for molecular biosciences with a focus on health and environmental research.
On July 31, AAAS and the journal Science Translational Medicine honored Nicholas Navin, an assistant professor of genetics and bioinformatics at MD Anderson Cancer Center, with the AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award, now in its third year. This $25,000 prize recognizes outstanding work by young scientists performing breakthrough cancer research. Navin created the first method for sequencing the genome of an individual cell, which has given scientists a new view into the inner workings of tumors.
The 2014-2015 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize was awarded to Eric Betzig and colleagues for the report, “Lattice light-sheet microscopy: Imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution,” published in Science on 24 October 2014. This microscopy advance provides an unprecedented understanding of the inner workings of live cells. According to Science Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt, “There are several criteria that the selection committee looks for in an outstanding Newcomb Cleveland awardee, and this year’s winner had it all: a major advance in the field, a well-communicated contribution, and broad potential application beyond a narrow sub-discipline.” The association’s oldest award, the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize was established in 1923. Now supported by The Fodor Family Trust, it acknowledges an outstanding paper published in Science’s Articles, Research Articles, or Reports sections.