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Worth It?

Responding to a JAMA paper in which Stanford University School of Medicine's John Ioannidis questions the purpose of attending conferences in person, ScienceNews' Janet Raloff examines the costs and benefits of making the trek to meetings.

Travel is, of course, a major cost consideration. But, Raloff says, "an equally important, if less tangible, issue [is] the quality of data shared at science meetings." Citing Ioannidis, she adds that "the contribution of large conferences to the dissemination and advancement of science 'is unclear.'"

But there are obvious benefits of conference attendance. "Meetings allow people in related — and often unrelated — fields to mix and discuss and sometimes engage in heated debates," Raloff says. "Their conversations may lead to the redesign of follow-up studies or reanalysis of data — long before the findings are ready to see the prime time of journal submission." Further, though it's tough to tell when, how, or why this could happen, "conference attendees might hear a talk that catalyzes an 'aha moment,'" she adds.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.