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Nature India’s most read in 2018

Nature India celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, making it a time to sit back and review what we have been doing right, and more importantly, not so right. Our swelling readership figures make us happy every passing year, and this year was no exception, with a more than 120 per cent increase in unique readers over 2017.

In our mission to deliver world class science coverage from India to a global readership, we hope to experiment with some new and exciting formats in 2019. To wrap up a happening year at Nature India, here’s a peek at the most engaging stories from 2018, the ones that our readers loved as much as we did.

Nature India‘s top ten most read articles in 2018 were:

1. India’s universities are feebling away

Shahid Jameel

The University way of life is in trouble in India, said Shahid Jameel, CEO of the Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance, in an analysis that pointed to the twin maladies of poor governance and trickle funding.

The commentary — an insightful analysis of the age-old ills plaguing India’s university system and recommending ways to stem the rot — topped our list of most read articles in 2017.

Read the article here.

2. Electrons travel faster than light in glass

Using ultrashort laser pulses, an international research team of physicists, including some from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Science in Mumbai, were able to generate hot electrons that travel faster than the speed of light in a piece of glass. The research opened a new avenue for understanding several areas of high-energy science, ranging from laser-driven fusion to developing advanced radiation sources that may have potential applications in the industrial and medical fields.

This exciting research — a significant step towards developing a method that will help understand hot-electron transport through solids — was not surprisingly on number two on Nature India’s most read list.

Read it here.

3. PhD researcher quits citing data forgery by seniors

Biplab Das & Subhra Priyadarshini

A disgruntled PhD scholar from the biochemistry laboratory of Calcutta University in Kolkata quit her research in infectious diseases alleging scientific malpractice by her PhD guide and other senior research fellows. Following her exit from the lab, biochemist Jayita Barua wrote a public post on Facebook detailing how she was forced for years to carry out malpractice, including ‘creating’ papers with forged data. The post created quite a stir on social media, as many researchers joined in revealing similar experiences from across research facilities in India.

Though Jayita Barua continues to seek redressal, her travails and fight for justice resonated with many, making this article the third most read this year. Here’s the reportage.

4. Microbial fuel cell degrades toxic dye, generates power

Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati developed a microbial fuel cell that can simultaneously break down a harmful organic colour dye in synthetic wastewater while generating power. The fuel cell could be potentially useful for treating dye-contaminated industrial wastewater.

The industrial application of the research contributed to its wide readership.  Here it is.

5. Inkless pen to protect secret documents

Scientists from CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science & Technology (NIIST) in Thiruvananthapuram, University of Calcutta in Kolkata, India, and New York University Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates  came together to make an interesting light-emitting organic material.

The material can be used to print patterns, write documents and even sneak in secret codes on a filter paper using just sunlight. Sunlight can also erase the printing and writing, visible only under ultraviolet light.

The mystery attached to detective-style secret coded messages perhaps got it more eyeballs. You can read the research highlight here.

6. Why extreme temperatures in South Asia should jolt governments into action

Subhra Priyadarshini

Extreme summer temperatures have become the new normal for much of South Asia, home to a fifth of the world’s population. Last year, the region saw more than 1,400 people succumbing to extreme heat alone.

The signs of a future malady are beginning to show – whether it’s in the muggy, sweltering heat of Delhi, where schools remained closed past summer holidays this year, or in the scorching daytime temperatures of Karachi, accentuated by massive power outages that left at least 65 people dead.

We analysed scientific evidence around predictions that major Asian cities will become unlivable within a couple of decades, and that the urban poor would be the worst sufferer. Read our analysis here.

7. Entry gates of Japanese encephalitis virus into brain identified

Scientists from the National Brain Research Centre in Haryana along with collaborators from Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar, University of Calcutta and Barasat State University in West Bengal identified the ‘entry gates’ that allow the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) to invade the brain and strike the neurons, resulting in crippling brain function.

Working for the first time on mouse models, the collaborative group identified these doorways in two protein receptors inside the rodents’ brain.

Here‘s the research highlight.

8. Indian scientists concerned over funding crisis

K. S. Jayaraman & Subhra Priyadarshini

An editorial in a Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy published by the apex peer body of Indian scientists raised an alarm over funds crunch hitting the Indian academia hard. The lament was, however, dismissed as a wrong perception among a section of scientists by the country’s leading science funding agency Department of Science and Technology (DST). DST claimed that research allocation has actually doubled in the last four years.

The editorial also rued that an increasing number of research proposals were being turned down by India’s science funding agencies, and money was not being released in time for current projects.

We took a look at the ground situation. Read the article here.

9. Spider silk helps generate electricity  

Biplab Das

An international research team led by Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur scientists used the inherent strength of spider silk to make tiny devices that can generate electricity with the help of simple pressure-inducing acts such as finger tapping, walking, swallowing, drinking or even gargling.

These devices can be used to turn on light-emitting diodes, power mobile displays and charge capacitors that run pacemakers.

Here‘s the research highlight about the wondrous material and its many potential uses.

10. Herbal drug to prevent antimicrobial resistance in cattle

When cattle are given antibiotics to treat mastitis – a bacterial inflammation of the mammary glands – their milk retains the antibiotics for a long time, increasing the probability of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Researchers at West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences (WBUAFS) reported how to overcome this problem with a known polyherbal drug.

Experimenting with Bengal goats, the researchers showed that the commercially available mammary protective drug fibrosin, when given alongside the antibiotics, can prevent antimicrobial resistance.

We leave you with the piece here and with a picture of the cutest possible goat you will have seen this year.

Suggested reading:

Nature India’s top 10 in 2017

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