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Science Advances Special Collections

Honoring Mildred Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon: Mildred Dresselhaus, the first woman ranked Institute Professor at MIT, devoted her entire career to the study of carbon-based nanomaterials. This special collection is a gift from some of Millie’s former collaborators and colleagues to honor her and her ground-breaking accomplishments. The papers in the collection report on the design and controlled synthesis of carbon-based nano- and multi-functional materials, advanced characterization tools to unravel their intrinsic properties, and their integration into novel devices leading to new, enabling technologies from wearable sensors and health monitors to radiative cooling systems. Examples include graphene-based wearable devices that can noninvasively monitor health, carbon textiles that can detect several biomarkers at the same time, and sensing patches for wireless, on-body, real-time sweat analysis. As Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman remarked in his famous 1959 talk, “There's plenty of room at the bottom,” a statement as relevant today as it was 60 years ago.

Addiction: Advances in Treatment and Recovery: Substance use disorder (SUD)—also commonly referred to as addiction—is a medical illness associated with compulsive and repeated use of addictive substances.  SUDs affect the lives of millions of people worldwide and are among the leading causes of preventable deaths and life with disability. Social and economic costs related to SUDs are enormous. Although there are medications and other treatment methods, the effectiveness of SUDs treatment and of sustaining recovery remains a daunting challenge. Current resources and available scientific knowledge to help individuals with SUDs are both underutilized and insufficient. Successful treatment and recovery from SUDs requires not only the determination of affected individuals, but also concerted and continuous efforts from medical professionals, social and scientific communities, and governmental actions. This Special Collection on Addiction focuses on scientific advances in the treatment and recovery mechanisms of addiction related to four widely misused substances: alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and opioids.  It includes comprehensive review articles on each of these four substances along with ground-breaking research that present recent discoveries with clear translational impact on developing new treatment targets and effective intervention strategies.

Studying Heritage Art: This Special Collection on the Study of Heritage Art reflects the extraordinarily diverse set of technologies being used to deepen our understanding of the tools, materials, and processes used by artisans of all persuasions while advancing our understanding of basic scientific principles. The Collection covers a broad span of topics ranging from studies addressing fundamental questions about the chemistry of materials to the use of artificial intelligence to reveal human creative processes. The research herein reconstructs ancient texts, provides insight to early human history, and explains how other new tools can be used to better understand the creation of iconic pieces of a culture. As a whole, this collection sheds light on some of the most exciting new approaches that conservation scientists are using to study the artifacts of human culture and provides data that will inform and instruct conservators and art historians for years to come.  

Transformations in Climate and Biodiversity: Each year since 1995, participants in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet as a Conference of the Parties (COP) to determine how best to address the rapid changes currently occurring across our global climate. This Special Collection on Transformations in Climate and Biodiversity has been timed to coincide with the COP25 meeting to be held in Spain this year. The Collection presents comprehensive review articles and original research by leading authorities from a broad spectrum of scientific domains and documents advances in the scientific underpinnings of interactions between biodiversity and climate. As a whole, these studies deepen our understanding of current bioclimatic changes and provide guidance on how best to navigate through the rapid alterations we are seeing today. The evidence compiled here suggests that the negative impacts of climate change can be kept under control if we collectively act and, critically, use biodiversity as part of the solutions we invent. Together these research studies demonstrate how linking the management of biodiversity and climate might enable us to keep ongoing transformations in climate and biodiversity within safe operating boundaries.

Science of the High Seas: Today, researchers, enterprise owners, and policy makers are working together in haste to understand and manage human influence on resources of the high seas. The oceans represent one-and-a-half times the total land area on the planet and their dynamics play critical yet poorly understood roles in regulating climate and biogeochemical cycles, supporting biodiversity, and providing rare habitats to rare species. At the same time, development of ocean resources is moving forward at breakneck pace, putting the sustainable health of the high seas at risk. This Special Collection on the Science of the High Seas brings together a powerful set of ground-breaking research articles to help scientists and policymakers better understand ecological, geological, and other systems that underlie the functional health of global oceans, and inform those concerned with the exploration and use of living and mineral resources. The data and analyses in this collection highlight the challenges in balancing the long-term imperatives of preserving global ocean resources with shorter-term economic and political interests that seek to quickly and vigorously draw value from them.   

The Amazon: The Amazon region covers about 40 percent of South America and influences the many countries and cultures that it covers, from Bolivia to Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. The region holds among the world’s great riches in both plant and animal biodiversity and provides the planet with vital resources for sustained planetary health. This collection of research articles, and the overview provided by pre-eminent scholar and Amazonian expert Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, bring together powerful documentation of the threats to the region’s resources and the potential consequences of their loss.

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