With research constantly evolving and many exciting discoveries yet to emerge in 2023, we’re taking a look at our most popular research stories from the past year. From sustainable city developments, engineered jumpers and Neanderthals to carbon dioxide, glaciers and breast cancer, our Research Communities showcase the amazing findings of international research teams. Here are the stories that our readers enjoyed in 2022, featuring some important research which tackles current environmental and societal issues.
Explore more of the latest research by joining the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Research Communities.
Barcelona’s superblock layout has been proposed as an urban planning strategy that could transform cities into more sustainable environments. In the Springer Nature Sustainability Community, Sven Eggimann describes a grid pattern, bounded by exterior roads, which allows inner city streets to be converted into bicycle routes, pedestrian zones and street gardens. If superblocks were created in cities around the world, the design could help to combat issues such as the lack of green space, climate change, urban heat, plus noise and air pollution.
Can robots be designed to jump higher? In a Nature Portfolio Engineering Community post, Charles Xiao shares the research team’s experiments which used engineered materials to create jumpers that reached heights of 32m - far greater than heights achieved by biological jumpers (those powered by muscle). This could pave the way for Disney’s attempts at creating stunt double robots.
How much have we inherited from our Neanderthal ancestors? Evonne McArthur shares her teams attempts to answer this in a Nature Portfolio Ecology and Evolution Community post. DNA analysis of fossils provides evidence of interbreeding between humans and Neanderthals approximately 50,000 years ago. New data has revealed Neanderthal genetic variants that contribute to several traits in modern Europeans, including bone density, menopause age, lung capacity, skin colour, immunity and circadian rhythms.
Mentoring matters more than most people think in the academic job market. In the Nature Portfolio Behavioural and Social Sciences Community, Diego Reinero asks whether an academic career really boils down to ‘publish or perish’? By analysing CVs of recent university hires in the US, the author found successful applicants were those who had already achieved academic positions, highlighting that getting that first permanent position is the hardest, particularly with the over-saturation of PhD candidates in academic institutions. Good mentors should provide careers support to their PhD students and post docs, recognising that their own success is linked to that of their students and helping early career researchers to reach their academic dreams.
In the Nature Portfolio Chemistry Community, Andrei Khodakov explores an efficient method of producing methanol from carbon dioxide. One hundred million tonnes of methanol are consumed every year due to this molecule being a feedstock for the manufacture of many chemical products. To meet demand, researchers have developed a process which reduces carbon dioxide into methanol at lower temperatures compared to current processes (which use heterogenous catalysts), leading to potentially more sustainable production methods in the future.
Senior Editor Nicole Rusk shares top tips for writing an effective rebuttal letter in a Springer Nature Protocols and Methods Community post. After the initial reaction to reviewers’ comments and an editor’s decision, the next stage in the resubmission process should be writing a rebuttal letter, allowing authors to directly reply to reviewers, announce their plans to improve the research paper, address any misunderstandings or defend aspects of their work. Following these tips to writing an effective rebuttal letter can make a difference to whether an appeal is granted and how reviewers judge the revision.
Resonating sound waves are used to image the Sun’s interior as turbulent convection in the near surface layers send sound waves towards the interior, which are observed on their return to the Sun’s surface. In the Nature Portfolio Astronomy Community, Chris Hanson and Shravan Hanasoge report on the discovery of high-frequency retrograde vorticity waves in the Sun, a new type of wave which hints at the internal structure of the Sun.
Bacteria and toxic substances from the inflamed gut of Irritable Bowel Disease patients may cause liver disease. In the Nature Portfolio Health Community, Mikal Hole and Johannes Hov describe the challenges of determining the causal factors of primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic disease where liver transplantation is the only treatment. Now the researchers are searching for ‘factor X’ which could be the trigger for the disease.
Geophysical techniques have unlocked the geological history of the seafloor ahead of Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier. In a Nature Portfolio Earth and Environment Community post, Ali Graham, Lauren Simkins and Anna Wåhlin describe their ocean voyage to collect data and identify the glacier’s response to forcing by atmospheric and oceanic factors over the past millennia. The data will help the team to understand how this ice sheet will respond to the warming ocean resulting from climate change.
In the United States, 1 in 8 women are affected by breast cancer. Peter Kuhn describes a new liquid biopsy technique to detect nano-size signs of breast cancer in a Nature Portfolio Cancer Community post. Within high-definition liquid biopsies of blood, researchers detected multiple cancer biomarkers, including some which may enrich the body to promote cancer growth. The researchers hope this technique could help identify cancer much earlier and therefore improve treatment and survival outcomes.
About the author: Charlotte is a Freelance Research Content Manager at Springer Nature and is based in Birmingham. Her main focus is spotlighting the research published by the Springer Nature Group through Behind the Paper blogs in the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Communities, and engaging with audiences through social media content creation.