January 2, 2020

Top Science Stories of 2019 – 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 20152016, 2017, and 2018. Here, I am reproducing that post and updating the list to some of the collections of top science news stories from 2019, not just as a reminder to us of what has happened in our field going as far back as two semesters, but as a suggested topic to kick off the Spring 2020 semester with students.

If you ask your students what were the major scientific accomplishments in 2019, 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 2020, 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 2019 – 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 2019?  Nature News had published What to expect in 2019: Science in the new year. Then there was NBC’s 19 bold predictions for science and technology in 2019, and Science Magazine’s What will be the big science stories of 2019? Here are our predictionsScience News had also added What will be the big science stories of 2019? Here are our predictions. 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 2019 or not, I encourage you to review these lists to see if there were any announcements that you may have missed!

There are video compilations as well, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s 2019 Year in Review video.

How about science in 2020? Nature News has published The science events to watch for in 2020. Then there is NBC’s Innovations 12 reasons why 2020 will be an awesome year, and Los Angeles Times Eight science stories to watch for in 2020.



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