The Daily Dose: Acknowledgment of past injustices in science; Denisovans in Asia confirmed.

It’s 2020, in case you’ve been living under a shell. It’s been a tumultuous year, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. One of the features of the past 10 months has been increased focus on racial equality and righting past injustices. The scientific community has been part of that paradigm. In another positive step, one of the largest private basic research funders, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has joined the movement. The organization has made a six-figure gift to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. “HHMI decided to make the donation after this year’s transformative protests over racial injustice in the United States, including the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May. The institution’s high profile as one of the world’s biggest private funders of basic biomedical research could set a precedent for other research organizations to take similar steps towards reckoning with racial injustice in the sciences, and making reparation for experiments conducted unethically on communities of colour.” Expect more organizations to follow suit.

An Associated Press article provides the latest installment of things-the-US-should-have-done-better-but-didn’t. The list continues to grow by the day. Is it worth the read? Yes. Will it make your day better? Not by a long shot.

Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), the country’s main science funding agency is making cuts to research funding thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you’d expect, the scientific community isn’t very happy about it. Per Science, “Unless they can find ways to pay for the memberships—a tall order given that some dues exceed $100,000—the move could lead to a withdrawal from the global science scene that scientists warn will isolate Mexico scientifically and deprive it of opportunities. ‘There will be no new ideas, there will be no new technology and therefore there will be no new developments, no innovation,’ Matos says.” The trend is not exclusive to Mexico. Governments around the world are yanking funding from scientific research… In the middle of a pandemic… Unreal.

Genetic traces of the mysterious proto-humans known as Denisovans have been confirmed in an Asian cave. Per Science, “Zhang’s team reports the first Denisovan ancient DNA found outside Denisova Cave: mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) gleaned not from fossils, but from the cave sediments themselves. Precise dates show the Denisovans took shelter in the cave 100,000 years and 60,000 years ago, and possibly as recently as 45,000 years ago, when modern humans were flowing into eastern Asia.” The finding establishes that Denisovans were much more widespread than once believed.

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