Science research publications encompass advances across the biological, physical and social sciences, and news and analysis expand our understanding of the road to a Zika vaccine, Saudi Arabia’s push to prevent inherited diseases, and the role of science in election campaigns, among many other issues.

Jeremy Berg, associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and former director of the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences, became the twentieth editor-in-chief of Science in July.

Breakthrough of the Year

Science chose as its 2016 Breakthrough of the Year the discovery of tiny ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves — a finding that confirmed a century-old prediction by Albert Einstein and “shook the scientific world,” said Science News staff writer Adrian Cho.

2016 Breakthrough

Science chose as its 2016 Breakthrough of the Year the discovery of tiny ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves.

New Journals Science Immunology and Science Robotics Launch

In 2016, AAAS launched Science Immunology (July) and Science Robotics (December). Science Immunology features interdisciplinary research focused on understanding problems in cellular and clinical immunology, providing a broad platform for the most exciting findings in this growing field. Science Robotics highlights new advances in complex engineered systems for exploration of environments as diverse as the body, a factory, land, air, sea and space.

Special Issue and News Highlights

Science published 12 substantive special issues on a range of topics, from “Artificial Intelligence” to “The Microbiota at Work” to “Natural Hazards.” The 11 March “Forensics” special issue featured a series of stories from Science’s news department exploring topics such as how post-detonation forensics may help uncover a perpetrator in the event of a nuclear attack. On 29 April, an investigative news piece from Science contributing correspondent John Bohannon evaluated data from Sci-Hub, the world’s largest pirate website for scholarly literature, answering basic questions about its user base. 

2016 Research Highlights

Bacteria Break Down Problematic Plastic  Researchers identified a species of bacteria that uses just two enzymes to break down plastic, the accumulation of which in global ecosystems is increasingly problematic. (Science, 11 March)

Scientists Create a Minimal Cell  Researchers led by Craig Venter designed and synthesized a minimal bacterial genome, containing only the genes necessary for life. (Science, 25 March) 

How Zika Virus Targets the Brain  Zika virus preferentially kills developing brain cells, a new study reported, offering evidence for how the virus may cause brain defects in babies. (Science, 10 April)

Making a Microscopic Microscope  Scientists built a high-end optical lens on the nanoscale level that holds widespread applications in imaging, microscopy and spectroscopy. (Science, 3 June)

The Debut of a Robotic Stingray  Researchers created a robotic mimic of a stingray that’s powered and guided by light-sensitive rat heart cells. (Science, 8 July)

A New World Atlas of Artificial Brightness  More than 80% of the world lives under light-polluted skies, say researchers who quantified light pollution’s global impact.  (Science Advances, 10 June)

Virtually ‘Unwrapping’ an Ancient Hebrew Scroll  A digital analysis of the En-Gedi scroll revealed the ink-based writing hidden on its interior without opening it. (Science Advances, 21 September)

Megadrought Risk Increases During Climate Change  Megadroughts could become common in the American Southwest if climate change persists, researchers reported. (Science Advances, 5 October)

Galago-Inspired Bot Achieves Monumental Heights  Scientists designed a jumping robot that can continuously perform jumps to reach unprecedented heights. (Science Robotics, 6 December)

Robotic Surgery Gets More Autonomous   Researchers showed that a supervised autonomous robot can successfully perform soft tissue surgery. (Science Translational Medicine, 4 May)

Carbon Monoxide ‘Scavenger’ Offers Potential Antidote to Silent Killer   Scientists designed a scavenger molecule to trap and remove carbon monoxide from the bloodstream within minutes, protecting mice from this “silent killer.” (Science Translational Medicine, 7 December)

Lack of Sleep Stunts Processes Critical to Memory   Five hours of sleep loss in mice disrupted protein synthesis in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory and learning center. (Science Signaling, 26 April)

Progress on a Treatment for Crohn’s-Related Fibrosis   Scientists zeroed in on a population of cells that seems to drive Crohn’s disease-related fibrosis. (Science Immunology, 2 September)

Research Highlights

Megadroughts could become common in the American Southwest if climate change persists, researchers reported.