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This Week in Nature: Jan 5, 2012

In Nature Reviews Genetics this week, the University of Montpellier's Robert Feil and the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología's Mario Fraga discuss emerging patterns in epigenetics and the environment. The duo says that though they remain largely unknown, mechanistic insights being made in model systems may help researchers elucidate human epigenetics.

Over in this week's Nature, Jerome Ravetz at the University of Oxford contemplates how the community's quality-assurance system — "peer review, publication and replication" — might keep up with changes to the social practice of science driven by, technological advances, among other things. Changes thus far have been evident, he says:

The rise of digital media has revolutionized the management of information and created opportunities for broader involvement in science's production. Collaborations are growing ever larger, transforming the concept of authorship. Prepublication discussions of research on blogs dilute a principal author's claim to discovery. And the public is increasingly involved.

Ravetz wonders whether in the future, as more scientists and non-scientists alike take part in research discussions online, quality might suffer. "Amid all the uncertainties of science in the digital age, if quality assurance is to be effective, this lesson of civility will need to be learned by us all," he writes.

Elsewhere in the issue, 10 researchers contribute their advice on how scientific plagiarism might be stopped. Harold Garner suggests that the community ought to flag plagiarized studies, while Yuehong Zhang and Ian McIntosh say repeat offenders should be blacklisted.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.