Online Editorials Archive - 2014

Last Christmas

Red(December 23rd, 2014) Did you know that one of the most famous Christmas songs is actually about a transgenic mouse? more

Creepy Encounters

Red(December 19th, 2014) A month ago, Swiss scientists scared the world with a ghost story. They had devised a robot that made healthy people feel a 'presence'. We talked to senior author Giulio Rognini to get more details. more

Faster and Cheaper

Red(December 16th, 2014) No money, little time but lots of ideas and DIY attitude. PhD student Adam Lynch constructed his very own microscope (using USB microscopes and kitchen unit legs) to be able to visualise primary hemocytes of a freshwater snail. more

"We're not Allowed to Demonstrate the Knowledge we Have"

Red(December 11th, 2014) Stefan Jansson is a plant physiologist at Umea University. He coordinated the open letter, which called attention to the precarious situation of scientists working with genetically modified plants in Europe. Isabel Torres spoke with him. more

Seeds of Change?

Red(December 4th, 2014) The GMO craze has put European plant science in danger for some time. An open letter has drawn public attention to the problem but is it already too late? more

The Appeal of 'Mars' Adds Some Glamour to Research

Red(December 3rd, 2014) A Research Letter by Jeremy Garwood from the corner of the planet Mars located in a greenhouse in the Netherlands. more

DIY Peer Review

Red(November 28th, 2014) Evaluating your own manuscript makes publishing so much faster but this does make it legitimate. Open Access publisher BioMed Central has recently been hit by a peer review scam. more

Dispatches from the US (3)

Red(November 25th, 2014) The month of November saw the announcement of the Breakthrough Science Award winners and the first anniversary of BioRxiv. In Washington, the 44th international Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting was held and the White House released its new immigration policy. more

The new COMPADRE for Plant Ecologists

Red(November 21st, 2014) Ecology has a new star: the COMPADRE Plant Matrix Database. The engine comprises demographic information on 598 plant species worldwide. It’s becoming an invaluable tool in analysing big amounts of data and decreasing redundancy between original research data. more

When Evidence becomes a Nuisance

Red(November 18th, 2014) The new European Commission is no longer interested in retaining a Chief Scientific Advisor, CSA. This not only silences Anne Glover’s plainly audible voice in Brussels, it also means there will be no successor. It’s a catastrophic loss, thinks Brynja Adam-Radmanic. more

Love is in the Air (or Water)

Red(November 14th, 2014) Not only human males put on the best perfumes if they want to impress the ladies, tilapia fish pursue the same strategy. Portuguese and German researchers identified and characterised one of the fish’s pheromones. more

Back to the Roots

Red(November 11th, 2014) History can be complicated, especially if it’s the evolutionary history of intracellular parasites. Studying a newly discovered parasite of water fleas, Swiss scientists found an answer to one of the notorious “what came first” riddles. more

Science on the Dance Floor

Red(November 7th, 2014) The popular “Dance your PhD” contest recently announced this year’s winner. But winning isn’t everything. We spoke with the two finalists in the biology category about the artistic side of research. more

Living in a Bubble of Work

Red(November 4th, 2014) What’s wrong with the life scientist profession? Science sociologist, Ruth Müller, studies professional culture in a highly competitive environment. more

Old Weapons Re-discovered

Red(October 31st, 2014) Antimicrobial peptides, AMPs, are ancient weapons activated by multicellular organisms against their single-celled bacterial enemies. Are they our glimmer of hope against the looming fears of antibiotic resistance? more

The Enemy Inside

Red(October 28th, 2014) War is a bad thing, no matter how you look at it. But recent research shows that in the trenches of World War I, soldiers had to fight not only against their human enemies on the other side but also against parasites infesting their guts. more

Cold Case Heating Up

Red(October 24th, 2014) Those who thought that after 126 years, modern science would finally reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper, will have to wait a little longer. A small error absolves a Polish emigrant from the brutish crimes, for now. more

Most Precious Things

Red(October 11nd, 2014) On October 1st, a new exhibition called Precious Things opened at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. How it all began with two kids digging up a dinosaur and ended with a gift from Charles Darwin – Lab Times reporter, Karin Lauschke, tells the story. more

Dispatches from the US (2)

Red(October 17th, 2014) Among the past month’s top stories are: The US declares war on Ebola; the White House invests in improved antibiotic testing; the NSF takes stock of postdoctoral unemployment rates and US universities install napping stations in libraries. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (21): When Research Throws a Curve Ball, Take Solace in Philanthropy

Red(October 14th, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

An Almost Happy First Birthday

Red(October 10th, 2014) It hasn’t been an easy ride for the Human Brain Project in its first year of research. An open letter and the Swiss vote caused the ambitious project to totter. At the 4th Human Brain Project Annual Summit, Henry Markram and Co. talked about HBP’s current state of affairs. more

And the Nobel Prize goes to… (UPDATE)

Red(October 6th, 2014) Hurray for European neuroscience. John O’Keefe (UK) and Edvard and May-Britt Moser (Norway) won this year’s biggest prize – the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner won the Chemistry Prize. Lab Times salutes them. more

Sciences en Marche

Red(October 3rd, 2014) Researchers from all over France are marching on Paris (by bicycle) to call for urgently needed funding of their crumbling research system. Jeremy Garwood reports. more

All in one Place

Red(September 30th, 2014) So, you work with non-coding RNA and have been complaining about the lack of a centralised database for years? Your pleas have been answered. Recently, RNAcentral, a unified resource for all types of non-coding RNA data, was launched. more

Methods and Protocols (5): A New Coating Compound

Red(September 25th, 2014) Coating glass coverslips with fibronectin or poly-L-lysine can be expensive or uncomfortable for the cells. Italian researchers have synthesised a new, biocompatible “cell glue” and tested it on primary brain cells, with success. more

Who Really did it First? Nature or a Pharmacist?

Red(September 22nd, 2014) Remember the tramadol story from last year? French researchers found that African trees synthesise the popular painkiller all by themselves. Now, German scientists claim that very different reasons are behind the trees’ alleged chem lab. The French fervently beg to differ. more

Opportunities Under Horizon 2020 (2)

Red(September 19th, 2014) Just like Axelle Viré, also Laura De Vargas Roditi benefited from a Marie Curie Action. Originally from Brazil, she is now a postdoc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. more

Life Captured at its Best

Red(September 16th, 2014) "From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved", Charles Darwin once wrote. And as a proof of Nature’s beauty, BMC Ecology runs an annual image contest. Here are this year’s winners. more

Opportunities Under Horizon 2020 (1)

Red(September 12th, 2014) Axelle Viré has benefited from Marie Curie Actions twice throughout her career. Since November last year, she has been the vice chair of the Marie Curie Alumni Association, MCAA. Lab Times talked to her about her MC experiences and her role in shaping the MCAA. more

Pathogen Priority

Red(September 9th, 2014) Normally a measure for a researcher’s productivity and the impact of his published work, UK scientists found an alternative use for the Hirsch-index. With it, they determined the top 100 human and domestic animal pathogens in Europe. more

Dispatches from the US (1)

Red(September 5th, 2014) Science is not only done in Europe. Therefore, we thought it’s time to expand our focus to the big country across the Pond. In their new, monthly column, our US correspondents, Madhuvanthi Kannan and Ganesh Vasan, will bring you the latest science news from the US. more

Five Senses of Flavour

Red(September 4th, 2014) Want to make your next dinner a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Finnish researchers recently published a cookbook that appeals to all your senses. So, how does the culmination of food, sound and music taste? more

Flawed Happiness

Red(August 29th, 2014) It took one year and thousands of statistical re-analyses but now a headline-grabbing paper on functional genomics of human well-being has been debunked as nothing but “artifacts of dubious analyses and erroneous methodology”. more

Paid Educational Journey

Red(August 26th, 2014) Not only rock stars go on world tour. The British Orthopaedic Research Society recently gave three young researchers the chance to see the world and expand their knowledge at the same time. Lab Times reporter, Nicola Hunt, was one of the lucky fellowship winners. more

Shining Light on Cell Communication

Red(August 22nd, 2014) Since its inception, optogenetics has turned neuroscience research inside out. Researchers at the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology have now improved optogenetic tools further, to better understand and manipulate cell signalling and regeneration. more

Beer, Football and Science, a Winning Combination

Red(August 19th, 2014) Fortune-telling animals are a phenomenon whenever 22 men meet on a grass field during an international tournament. For this year’s World Cup, scientists in Dresden tested the prophetic ability of some of their research subjects, including, flies, yeast and zebrafish. more

Open-door Publishing

Red(August 14th, 2014) Open access publishing has broken the barricades in Science, allowing better access to invention and discoveries. The new journal Winnower gives a whole new dimension to transparency in academic publishing - all the way from submission to reviewing, rejection and retraction. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (20): Teamwork in Lab Work

Red(August 11th, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

ESOF2014: Genetic Privacy in the Genomic Era?

Red(August 6th, 2014) Public databases are full of genomic data from mice, worms but also human patients. Jan Korbel and Ewan Birney share their opinion on anonymisation and handling of the new wave of big data. more

ESOF2014: Young Scientists Fighting Age-related Disease

Red(July 30th, 2014) The ineffectiveness of antibiotics and the spread of infectious diseases are to some extent manageable but there’s one health threat that cannot be escaped: Aging. George Garinis, Björn Schumacher, Lene Rasmussen and Gerald de Haan spoke about their projects for a healthy long life. more

ESOF2014: From Pathogens to Pandemics: Can we Handle the Risk?

Red(July 25th, 2014) Wouldn't it be great to be one step ahead of vicious viruses causing influenza, Aids and West Nile fever? Italian physicist, Vittoria Colizza, uses computational epidemiology to understand and stop epidemic outbreaks. She told us all about it during ESOF2014. more

ESOF2014: Antibiotic Resistance: A Ticking Time Bomb?

Red(July 23rd, 2014) Our weapons against pathogenic bacteria are becoming increasingly blunt. It’s time to talk openly about how to avert this threat to human health. During the ESOF conference, Anne Glover, Henrik Wegener and Birgitta Normark shared their opinions and ideas. more

ESOF2014: Europe - The Science Place to Be?

Red(July 8th, 2014) Every two years, researchers from all areas of science get together to share their knowledge, ideas and experience at the EuroScience Open Forum, ESOF. This year, meeting participants travelled to beautiful Copenhagen. LT reporter, Karin Lauschke, was on-site. more

Vienna Calling

Red(July 3rd, 2014) Last month, the International Vienna Biocenter Summer School commenced for the fifth year. 20 lucky undergraduate students from around the world were selected out of nearly 2000 applicants to spend ten weeks at the school and gain valuable research experience and skills. more

EU Scientists Head for the Cold

Red(July 1st, 2014) While most of their colleagues will be spending their summer walking around in flip-flops and eating ice cream, three researchers from the Czech Republic, Poland and Belgium will be ditching their beachwear and going North to study life in the Arctic. more

A Never-Ending Story

Red(June 27th, 2014) Whenever you think it’s finally over, the notorious Séralini study on GM-fed rats surfaces again. Just a few days ago, a new chapter started. Environmental Sciences Europe re-published the paper. more

Good Value for Money

Red(June 24th, 2014) Some governmental spending seems more like a massive waste of money than a good investment into a country’s future. A recent study suggests that every pound given to cancer research is money well spent. more

Robotics from the Roots

Red(June 20th, 2014) Closely mimicking the intricate designs created by nature have greatly benefited technological advancements. Now, the EU-funded project PLANTOID plans to take it to the grass roots, creating robotic systems based on the energy efficient and adaptive models found in plants. more

To be or not to be Independent, that is the Question!

Red(June 17th, 2014) In September, Scotland will decide about its future. However, a possible independence from the UK will not only lead to changes in the country’s economy but also in science and research. For the better or the worse, no-one can know for sure. more

Antibody Logbook 2.0

Red(June 13th, 2014) To keep their peers from wasting time and money on finding a working antibody, three life scientists from Liège, Belgium, invented the Antibody-Adviser - a simple, fast and effective way to search, rate and share antibody experiments online. more

(Re)cycled Internet Data does not Make 'Attractive' Science

Red(June 11th, 2014) We just received a new Research Letter from Switzerland by our corresponding author, Albern Räder (a.k.a. Jeremy Garwood). more

Lunch is Served ... on a Petri Dish!

Red(June 6th, 2014) Since last year, when a lab-grown hamburger was publicly chomped, in vitro meat is no longer so science fiction-y phenomenon. Turning the technology into an everyday reality is, however, an enormous challenge - but two Dutch researchers have an idea. more

Don't Go by Numbers

Red(June 3rd, 2014) Most global university rankings are based on debatable criteria. Such a system not only fails to capture the diversity in institutional profiles, it also tends to favour American universities. Thus, the European Commission came up with a more personalised approach. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (19): The Things we Choose to Believe

Red(May 30th, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

National Differences

Red(May 27th, 2014) Plagiarism and duplicate publication are the reason for quite a number of research paper retractions. But are these unethical practices more prevalent in certain countries than in others? more

Who will get Custody?

Red(May 3rd, 2014) Many scientists believe CRISPR, a new gene editing tool, will revolutionise the way we think about treating many human diseases. However, its commercial value has not gone unnoticed, and an interesting duel is developing between two rival companies. more

Gilded Base

Red(May 20th, 2014) The list of past winners of the EMBO Gold Medal reads like a who-is-who in molecular biology. Recently, a new name has been added: Sophie Martin from the University of Lausanne. more

Let's Talk about et al.

Red(May 16th, 2014) Collaboration is key to success in science. However, if many groups are working together, the list of authors on the resulting paper is sometimes longer than the paper itself. A new author taxonomy system wants to give every author the credit he or she deserves. more

Sneaky Bacteria "Impersonate" as Humans

Red(May 13th, 2014) Mycoplasma contamination is a familiar headache to molecular biologists but a new study found that these tiny bacteria have also managed to jump out of the lab and into a well-known database: The 1000 Genomes Project. more

Foreign Attraction

Red(May 9th, 2014) Copenhagen, Aarhus or Odense – ever thought about working in Denmark? To increase the number of highly qualified university graduates, the Danish government has started to give out some appetising treats. But will this bait really lure the best talents? more

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Souvenir

Red(May 6th, 2014) Ok, so, it’s only May but did you make plans for your summer holiday already? Are you considering a trip to India or Greece, perhaps? Some recent studies show that you could take home more than nice memories of a beautiful sunset over the sea. more

The Art of "Skim-Reading"

Red(May 2nd, 2014) If you ever feel bogged down by an ever increasing pile of articles you need to read, researchers based in Ireland may have the answer to your problem: a way to "skim-read" a large amount of information and find exactly what you are looking for. more

Feverish Fight to Stop Disease

Red(April 28th, 2014) Dengue fever might mostly sicken people in Asia and Latin America but Europe can help out, keeping infections at bay or prevent them altogether. DengueTools, hosted at Umeå University, develops and identifies methods to monitor and diagnose the disease. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (18): Confidence is Key

Red(April 23rd, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

The Bunny Colour Code

Red(April 17th, 2014) On Easter, children all over Europe shall begin to keenly search their neighbourhood for gifts, chocolate eggs, and the ever-elusive Easter Rabbit. Timed to perfection, scientists have identified the genetic basis for colour variations in rabbits. more


Red(April 15th, 2014) When it comes to sex, people living in the southern states of the US are more conservative than their northern fellow citizens. Funnily, the same is true for a certain fruit fly species. What’s behind this opposing fly behaviour? more

Research Ruled by Heart not Head

Red(April 11th, 2014) A recent study by the Zoological Society London shows that researchers are biased in the choice of their research subjects. Will this human perspective put some species even closer to extinction? more

Public or Private

Red(April 7th, 2014) How should alleged cases of research misconduct be handled? A new study shows that discussing fraudulent papers in public has a big impact on final, corrective actions. more

Sustainable Fashion: Would you Wear Birch?

Red(April 4th, 2014) Besides food, clothing our ever-increasing human population is going to be a major challenge in the near future. The need for sustainable clothing is felt today, more than ever. Finnish scientists developed a cool solution to this problem: birch cellulose-based fabric. more

Improbable Fun in Copenhagen

Red(April 1st, 2014) On its annual tour through Europe, the Ig Nobel show stopped over at Copenhagen University last week. Together with acting and past winners, Marc Abrahams did what he does best – first make people laugh, then think. Karin Lauschke reports. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (17): Dealing with Stress - The Unavoidable Consequence of Life

Red(March 28th, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Shitty Treasure Chests

Red(March 25th, 2014) Despite its rather disgusting nature, poop holds a wealth of secrets and is the source of a myriad of research projects. And you don’t even need a fresh sample. French researchers found that coprolites, fossilised faecal matter, reveal just as much. more

Red Wine, Painkillers and Cancer

Red(March 21st, 2014) Mixing alcohol and painkillers has never been touted as a good idea. However, that didn’t stop a team of French scientists from investigating the effect of Aspirin and red wine on cancerous cells. Want to know what they found out? Read on! more

Defend your Values

Red(March 18th, 2014) Swiss university officials complain about their exclusion from Erasmus and Horizon 2020 after the Swiss vote to control immigration. They have woken up too late. Now they should learn their lesson, says Florian Fisch. more

The Crack of Doom for STAP Cells (updated)

Red(March 12th, 2014) The latest news on the mysterious STAP cells come as a real bombshell. One of the co-authors requests the papers to be retracted. Leonid Schneider has the lowdown. more

Teaching the Next Generation

Red(March 11th, 2014) The best stories are written by life, as they say. A group of evolutionary biologists, thus, gathered to think up a book explaining evolution to children. Through crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, they now collected enough money to publish it. more

A Patented Solution to Resistance

Red(March 7th, 2014) A few years ago, Jørn Bolstad Christensen, a chemist at the University of Copenhagen, found and patented a compound against multidrug resistant tuberculosis. Now he’s ready for the next stage: clinical trials. If only an investor could be found. more

Toxic wrappers?

Red(March 4th, 2014) Swiss scientists alert epidemiologists and toxicologists to a new and as-yet poorly studied topic – the health threat of food packaging materials. But is the outcry for more intensive research perhaps too loud? more

5 Questions for Evolutionary Biologist Wouter Halfwerk

Red(March 28th, 2014) Born in the Netherlands, Wouter Halfwerk currently spends most of his time studying the predator-prey relationship between bats and frogs in the South American jungle. He recently discovered that bats have even keener senses than previously thought. more

Extraterrestrial Equipment

Red(February 25th, 2014) Space… the final frontier! Not for cell biologists from Durham University. Their novel 3D cell culture system will soon begin its journey to the International Space Station. more

Orcs, Eat More Fish!

Red(February 21st, 2014) British researchers had fun performing a 'systematic textual analysis' of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ to find a reason why good always seems to triumph over evil. The answer is more obvious than you think. more

The Clock is Ticking

Red(February 14th, 2014) Things don't look good for the Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency, short STAP cells. And evidence against Haruko Obokata and her 'findings' is piling up and up, as our resident stem cell expert and cartoonist Leonid Schneider reports. more

Careers in China II

Red(February 7th, 2014) Canadian-born Monica Sleumer has been living and working in China since 2010. We asked her about her experience in the East and the differences between Vancouver and Beijing. more

Alchemy Vindicated

Red(February 4th, 2014) Text Since January 29th, 2014, biology has to be split into before and after the discoveries of Haruko Obokata. Because, if it is true what the Guardian and many other science channels report, her work is much more than just a new method for cell reprogramming to pluripotency. more

Beauty Lies in the Eyes of Fruit Flies

Red(January 31st, 2014) There are already plenty of scientific image competitions out there. Since last year, SVI, a Dutch company selling image processing software launched its own – the Huygens Image Contest. This year’s winner comes from Austria and the world of diptera. more

Neuroscientists Reach Out

Red(January 28th, 2014) For most researchers, communicating their work to a non-specialist audience doesn't come naturally. This skill, however, will become more and more important for researchers. Neuroscientist Gareth Hathway suggests a new way to approach science communication. more

A Rare Look into the Past

Red(January 24th, 2014) Do you like gardens? How about hanging gardens? If your answer to both questions is "yes", Polish researchers might have something for you: a snapshot at a 380 million years old fossil garden. more

The Stressful Life of an Academic

Red(January 21st, 2014) University life is viewed by many as stress-free. Historically, perhaps, this was true, but not any more according to new research from Estonia and France showing that 40% of academics suffer occupational stress. more

Methods and Protocols to Make Your Life Easier (4): Single Cell Sequencing

Red(January 17th, 2014) According to Nature Methods the sequencing of DNA and RNA of single cells is the hottest technique at the moment. Steven Buckingham tells you all you need to know about the Method of the Year 2013. more

Home Sweet Home

Red(January 14th, 2014) Not all European nations are blessed with great research infrastructure. No problem! With an EMBO Installation Grant, Polish, Czech, Portuguese or Turkish researchers, working abroad, can go back home and blithely set up their own lab. We talked to this year’s winners. more

A Visionary Approach

Red(January 10th, 2014) Blindness caused by retinal degeneration is untreatable, but new research from Tübingen University, Germany, suggests that neuroscience's current favourite method, optogenetics, may one day help blind people see again. more

New Year's Eve Talk

Red(January 7th, 2014) It's a brand new year filled with lots of plans and expectations. The first few days are perfect to meet family and friends and talk a bit about everything. In case your relatives are a bit science-savvy, here are some interesting findings about booze and fireworks to entertain them. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (16): Musings About Family, Friends and a Trip Back Home

Red(January 2nd, 2014) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more