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Science Stories of 2020 – Editorial Picks

Read time: 5 mins
Science Stories of 2020 –– Editorial Picks

The new year is almost here, and looking back at 2020, the editorial team at Research Matters has put together some of the most compelling stories published during its course. From mental health to nutrition to climate change and new species discovery, we have covered most of India’s best scientific work this year. Curated in no particular order, here are some stories that our team believes deserves another read. Dive in.

The series on mental health –– Disentangling India’s mental health distress

In this series of articles, Research Matters tries to shed some light on India’s mental health crisis and its different aspects, including the lack of awareness about mental health in general — through the lens of science.

[Image Credits: Dan Meyers via Unsplash]

Disentangling India’s mental health distress – All elephant and no more room

Disentangling India’s mental health distress – Mapping the spread of mental illnesses across India

Disentangling India’s mental health distress – Does India have the resources to control the impending mental health crisis?

Disentangling India’s mental health distress – Research on mental health: Is India catching up?

 

Lifting the fog over dementia diagnosis in India

This story talks about the translation of Addenbrooke’s cognitive examination III (ACE III) — a screening test for dementia — to seven Indian languages, involving an international team of researchers. The test involves a short questionnaire that can be conducted by clinical psychologists, physicians, or trained health care professionals.

 

Are you pro-environment? Perhaps not as much as you think, shows study

The story is about a fun study that shows that people tend to think of themselves as better than the average population when it comes to being a friend of the environment. The study examined if self-serving biases act as a barrier for undertaking pro-environmental behaviours. The researchers hypothesised that most people would perceive themselves as more pro-environment than the others and to test this, they conducted a series of experiments in three phases. The results showed that the percentage of people rating their pro-environmental engagement as high as 75.3%.

 

Decolonising climate change: The developed world is responsible for our planet’s climate crisis

Bringing into focus the accountability of the developed countries in the planet’s climate crisis, this article delves into who is responsible and what is the way ahead. It is based on a study that used the largest historical dataset of emissions, and showed that today’s economically developed countries of the world are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, amounting to as much as 92% of the historic emissions.

 

How do Indian farmers adapt to climate change amid socio-economic hurdles?

Wavering weather and unpredictable monsoons due to climate change have destabilised Indian agriculture and put our food security at risk. Although policies that cater to sustainable development have been introduced, only time will show their impact. In the meantime, farmers will have to find ways to cope with the temperamental monsoons to reduce crop failure, while also facing other challenges including poverty, malnutrition, debt, and illiteracy. In their study, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) have explored how farmers adapt to climate change alongside other social and infrastructural hurdles.

 

Farmers and Food Security

In a country where agriculture plays a direct role in the lives of a significant majority, it is no coincidence that it is also the focus of a number of scientific studies here. Food security is of course a major concern. Some of our top stories on the subject include studying and documenting indigenous foods and food habits and exploring the possibility of utilising this knowledge to address malnutrition in the tribal communities. We also talk about an interesting relationship between prawns, rice plants, and microbes, one that can help the Pokkali rice in parts of coastal Kerala thrive despite the high salt content. On the other, another study has shown that diversifying crop production in India to include cereals like millets and sorghum is a sustainable way forward. A study has shown that subsidised food can lead to imbalance nutrition, while a new ranking technique to understand malnutrition has been developed by researchers.

Mediated by Mold: Bengaluru researchers show how fungi can make rice crops tolerant to salinity
Cultivating millets could be a way forward for achieving food security in India
Subsidised foods may lead to complications in nutrition and growth
A new approach to understanding malnutrition in India

 

What does it take to discover geckos?

Identifying lizards is hard work. Often, it’s the presence of a certain number of scales or tiny differences in the DNA that can tell two species apart. An untrained eye can easily miss them all! So, how do scientists go about discovering new species of lizards? This story talks about the discovery of 13 new species of lizards in India and what it takes to discover one.

 

Making sense of sound - Digital Audio Processing Lab at IIT Bombay

Here is a narrative on Prof Preeti Rao (from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay) who is an expert in sound processing — an approach that helps us do various useful things, one of which is removing unwanted sounds (or noise) from an audio clip. With her team at the Digital Audio Processing Lab, Prof Rao has attempted to understand the nature of sound, reveal the information it may hold, and use it for, say, identifying tracks, melodies, or the raga of a song.

 

Using viruses to kill Tuberculosis bacteria

Tuberculosis, or TB, is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. It affected 10 million people and killed 1.4 million of them in 2019. India has the highest burden of TB worldwide, with nearly 4.5 lakh deaths reported in 2018. In this report, we have captured the story of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, who have found that a cocktail of bacteriophages could kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis –– the bacteria that causes TB –– and its cousin Mycobacterium smegmatis­.

 

Wading through an ‘infodemic’ amidst the pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic assuming control over all our everyday activities since early this year, in came a slew of conversations on social media each discussing causes, cures, and everything in between –– but mostly all false. How did we go about fighting misinformation, what steps were taken by whom…? This article looks into it all.