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Lots to Do

The new Canadian science minister, Kirsty Duncan, has her work cut out for her, Nature News writes.

Duncan, a medical geographer and member of the House of Commons, was appointed to the post last month as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. As Nature News notes, she "inherits a research community bruised by years of cuts to science programs and research jobs." The United Nations has noted that Canada is one of the few advance economies were R&D spending has decline relative to its GDP.

Duncan has been tapped to bolster the scientific enterprise in Canada, but whether she will be able to do so depends on the budget. "She's a great person for the job, but is it window dressing?" Kennedy Stewart, who tracks science issues for the New Democratic Party, tells Nature News. "The budget will tell."

In the mean time, Duncan will also be moving to improve Canada's science capacity by creating professorships in sustainable technologies as well as establishing a chief science officer post, as an alternative to the national science adviser post that was eliminated by the Harper government, Nature News adds.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.