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Balancing Act


For a virology course my junior year of college, two classmates and I put together a presentation on the 1918 influenza pandemic. We devoured journal articles, searched through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention archives, and tried to contact a leading virologist. It was one of the few projects from which I truly did learn a lot, as I still remember it vividly (though pictures of blackened feet do tend to make an impression). That same year, I had another project for an organic chemistry class that I would have rather done on my own — one of the other project members insisted that we give our presentation dressed up as characters from Captain America.

A balance is needed between working together and on your own, as our cover story in this issue points out. Consortia can take on huge tasks and develop vast resources that would otherwise take individuals their whole working lives to create. But, as Duke's David Goldstein says, there's the threat of groupthink that could, well, find you standing in front of 60 people with a mask on. Individual researchers are an antidote, he says, and can provide fresh perspective to the larger group. Both are necessary, as current funding policy shows. Furthermore, large-scale projects also develop new tools that individual investigators can then avail themselves of, says Eric Green, the new NHGRI director.

Also in this issue, Matthew Dublin looks into the world of evolutionary biology to see how genomics tools are being deployed. He writes that one of the hurdles there, as in other areas of research, is the mass of data.

It's also the first issue of a new year, so you'll see a few changes in our pages. Matt kicks off our new section on collaborative research and there's a new journal round-up section to catch those of you who haven't had a free moment up on the latest papers.

We also need to set the record straight. The profile of Dongliang Ge last month misstated his educational background. Ge received his PhD in 2004 from Peking Union Medical College and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

The Scan

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek Full Vaccine Approval

According to the New York Times, Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking full US Food and Drug Administration approval for their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Viral Integration Study Critiqued

Science writes that a paper reporting that SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally integrate into the host genome is drawing criticism.

Giraffe Species Debate

The Scientist reports that a new analysis aiming to end the discussion of how many giraffe species there are has only continued it.

Science Papers Examine Factors Shaping SARS-CoV-2 Spread, Give Insight Into Bacterial Evolution

In Science this week: genomic analysis points to role of human behavior in SARS-CoV-2 spread, and more.