Of Schemes and Memes Blog

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, beer supplies and more: the most popular science stories of 2018

Twenty-two of 2018’s papers in the Altmetric Top 100 were published in Nature Research journals: Nature, Nature Communications, Nature Plants, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Climate Change, Nature Human Behaviour, npj Science of Learning and Scientific Reports.

Launched today, the annual Altmetric Top 100 showcases the research published this year that has caught the public eye through international online attention. By tracking what people are saying about scholarly articles in the news, blogs, on social media networks, Wikipedia and many other sources, Altmetric calculates an Attention Score for each paper.

In this blog, the team in the Nature Research Press Office has picked some of their favourite studies, summarised their findings, and linked to coverage they received in the wider media. The full list is available at https://www.altmetric.com/top100/2018.

For articles from our subscription journals, we’ve included Springer Nature SharedIt links, which means anyone can read them. SharedIt, our free content-sharing initiative, was launched in October 2016.

#7 Scientific Reports — Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic

More than 79,000 tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a figure up to 16 times higher than previously estimated, reported a study published in Scientific Reports earlier this year.

The study proved popular with the press generating over 1,400 news stories. Outlets that covered the research included NPRBBC News, National Geographic, The Hindu and Spiegel.

#9 Nature — Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages

Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesStudies/ Gergely Torda

A paper in Nature reported that corals on the Great Barrier Reef experienced a catastrophic die-off following the extended marine heatwave of 2016, transforming the ecological functioning of almost one-third of the 3,863 reefs that comprise the world’s largest reef system. The paper generated over 1,000 news stories, including articles in The New York Times, NPR, The Financial Times and Le Monde.

#19 Nature Plants — Beer supply threatened by future weather extremes


Beer’s main ingredient, barley, will have substantially diminished yields as severe droughts and heat extremes become more frequent owing to climate change, reported a paper published in Nature Plants in October. Beer will become scarcer and more expensive to varying degrees depending on national economic status and culture. In Ireland, for example, beer prices could increase by between 43% and 338% by 2099 under the most severe climate scenario.

The Guardian, the Associated Press, Reuters, NPR, and BuzzFeed were among those to report on the findings.

#50 Nature — The genome of the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father

Credit: Bence Viola, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

A study in Nature reported the genome sequence of an ancient hominin bone fragment from Denisova Cave, Russia. The results suggested that the adolescent individual had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father and provided direct evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and Denisovans. Coverage in nearly 2,000 news outlets, including 35 target outlets and nearly 250 web stories in China. The story was covered by BBC News, El País, Science, People’s Daily and National Geographic.

#69 Nature Communications — Embryos and embryonic stem cells from the white rhinoceros

Assisted reproductive technologies have been used to create hybrid embryos of the endangered northern white rhinoceros and a closely related subspecies, according to a Nature Communications study in July. In vitro fertilization has been used before in large mammals such as horses, but this report was the first to successfully develop rhinoceros embryos to the blastocyst stage in cell culture — potentially ready for implantation. The findings raise the possibility of being able to preserve some of the genes of the northern white rhinoceros.

Media coverage of the findings included The New York Times, Nature, ABC Australia, The Financial Times and Die Zeit.

#83 Nature Human Behaviour — Evaluating the replicability of social science experiments in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015

Attempts to replicate 21 experimental social science studies published in Nature and Science between 2010 and 2015 found that one of the four Nature papers and seven of the seventeen Science papers evaluated did not replicate under the primary high-powered replication method used. The study was published in Nature Human Behaviour in August. The original studies likely contained false positives and inflated effect sizes, the authors suggested.

Reporting on the study included articles in The Washington Post, Times Higher Education, The Atlantic and BuzzFeed.


Comments are closed.