January 3, 2018

Top Science Stories of 2017 – 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 have generated similar blog posts for top science stories of 2015 and 2016. Here, I am reproducing that post and updating the list to some of the collections of top science news stories from 2017, 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 2018 semester with students.

If you ask your students what were the major scientific accomplishments in 2017, 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, paleontology, 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 2018, I am going to give each of my students a blank scrap of paper and ask them to write down what they remember as the top five science stories were for 2017 – then I’ll ask them to list any additional stories that relate to our course. 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.

This modification could be a fun way to start… what did scientists predict would be the big science stories for 2017? Nature gave us a 2017 sneak peek: What the new year holds for science, Science News shared What’s ahead for science in 2017, NBC News reported 11 Surprising Predictions for 2017 From Some of The Biggest Names In Science, and Ensia mentioned From electronic noses to invasive bees, 15 surprising trends for 2017. Did the science happen? Was it newsworthy in the end?

But whether you decide to ask your students about the top science news stories for 2016 or not, I encourage you to review these lists to see if there were any announcements that you may have missed!

Another list that may be of interest for what is included (and/or not included) is the Curator’s Picks: Top 10 TED Talks of 2017.

Note that NASA has a video for What’s Ahead for 2018?. Nature News has published What to expect in 2018: Science in the new year. Science has also published What’s coming up in 2018.

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