December 30, 2015

Top Science Stories of 2015 – what would our students say?

Posted by Laura Guertin

The end of the calendar year is a time when many lists are published with the best/worst of stories and events from the previous twelve months. The science world also engages in this practice, publishing the top science headlines from various outlets. I list some of the collections of top science news stories here, not just as a reminder to us of what has happened in our field (going as far back as two semesters, into the previous academic year!), but as a suggested topic to kick off the Spring 2016 semester with students.

If you ask your students what were the major scientific accomplishments in 2015, what would they say? Are they aware of what happened in the previous year, as well as the major concerns and challenges in the sciences? Depending upon the subject area you are teaching, how many (or how few) top stories are in the geosciences, marine sciences, palentology, etc.? An even bigger question… should students know about what is currently happening in our discipline, and does the answer to this question vary for science and non-science majors?

On the first day of class in 2016, I am going to give each of my students a blank scrap of paper and ask them to write down what they feel are the top five science stories were for 2015 – then I’ll ask them to list five significant stories that relate to our course (I have a course called “Environment Earth” and one titled “Water: Science and Society”). I’ll have them write their name on the paper and collect it so I can see what “current event literacy” my students have coming into the course. Since one of the goals of my courses is to highlight recent science news, it will be interesting to see how students answer this same question when I ask it again at the end of the semester for comparison.

But whether you decide to ask your students about the top science news stories for 2015 or not, I encourage you to review these lists to see if there were any announcements that you may have missed!

The following is the only geoscience-focused list I could find for 2015, thanks to the Arizona Geological Survey.

To end on a lighthearted note… for those in attendance at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting, this “communication exchange” was noted by many as a significant moment in science (thanks to Grant McKinney bringing his friend over to the NASA Hyperwall):


Don’t forget that Science News shared with us These truisms proved false in 2015. And keep an eye out for The science to look out for in 2016 (thanks to Nature), The Science to Look Out for in 2016 (thanks to Scientific American), and Twelve amazing science stories we can’t wait to follow in 2016 (thanks to the Los Angeles Times).

(please add any lists/links in the Comments section that I may have missed!)