December 31, 2020
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, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Here, I am reproducing that post and updating the list to some of the collections of top science news stories from 2020, 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 2021 semester with students.
To say that 2020 was challenging is an understatement. https://t.co/kAk8yEQ4MJ
— Science News (@ScienceNews) December 27, 2020
If you ask your students what were the major scientific accomplishments in 2020, what would they say? Are they aware of what happened in the previous year (beyond COVID), 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?
— Live Science (@LiveScience) December 27, 2020
One idea is that on the first day of class in the semester, you could provide each of my students a blank scrap of paper (or ask them to enter in a Google Form, Doc, or Jamboard) and ask them to write down what they remember as the top five science stories were for 2020 – then ask them to list any additional stories that relate to your course. Have the students write their name on the paper and collect it so you can see what “current event literacy” students have coming into the course. Since one of the goals of my courses is to highlight recent science news, I’m always interested in seeing 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 2020? Nature News had published The science events to watch for in 2020. Then there was NBC’s Innovations 12 reasons why 2020 will be an awesome year, and Los Angeles Times Eight science stories to watch for in 2020. Did the science happen? Was it newsworthy in the end? Something tells me the really big stories may not have been predicted – and it will be interesting to see what the future science news headlines will be.
The coronavirus pandemic may have been the biggest science news story of 2020, but it wasn’t the only story.
Discover three of the greatest space developments of the year and what 2021 may bring. 🛰️ https://t.co/gOEAM2esSl
— NOVA | PBS (@novapbs) December 29, 2020
But whether you decide to ask your students about the top science news stories for 2020 or not, I encourage you to review these lists to see if there were any announcements that you may have missed!
- BBC News – Climate change: Extreme weather causes huge losses in 2020
- Covering Climate Now – That Was *This* Year?! A Look Back at 2020’s Worst Climate Impacts
- Discover Magazine – The Worst Year in History: Is 2020 a Contender?
- Eos – The Best of Eos in 2020
- NASA – A Year in Review: New Earth Discoveries in 2020
- Nature – Nature’s 10: the human stories behind an extraordinary year in science, Nature’s 10: ten people who helped shape science in 2020, The best science images of 2020, 2020 beyond COVID: the other science events that shaped the year
- NOAA – NOAA Research’s top 5 stories from 2020, and NOAA Fisheries 20 Memorable Marine Stories, Videos, and Photos of 2020
- Science – Our favorite science news stories of 2020 (non–COVID-19 edition)
- Science Friday – The Best of Science Friday 2020, and 2020: The Year In Science, With Wendy Zukerman, with all articles available in their Best of 2020 series
- Science News – The science stories that defined 2020: coronavirus, diversity movements and more, and These science claims from 2020 could be big news if confirmed
- Scientific American – The Top Five Climate Stories of 2020, and From Rapping Robots to Glowing Frogs: Our Favorite Fun Stories of 2020
- Smithsonian Magazine – Ten Scientific Discoveries from 2020 That May Lead to New Inventions, along with The Top 10 Ocean Stories of 2020, and The Ten Best Science Books of 2020
- Stanford University, Inside Stanford Earth – Editor’s Picks: Top 10 Stories of 2020
- The Atlantic – The 5 Biggest Climate Stories in 2020
- The New York Times – Rocket Launches, Trips to Mars and More 2020 Space and Astronomy Events, and 2020: The Year in Climate
- Yale Climate Connections – The top 10 weather and climate events of a record-setting year
It’s your weekly NYT Climate FWD: newsletter, with items on the stories we’ll be watching in the coming year, and our readers’ green New Year’s resolutions. Why not subscribe? https://t.co/cEmU6iTuOe
— NYT Climate (@nytclimate) December 30, 2020
Science has also published The science stories likely to make headlines in 2021.
(please add any lists/links in the Comments section that I may have missed!)