Viking saga. A story about a group of NASA researchers who dressed up as Vikings in an effort to promote space science, and in the process sparked an investigation by a U.S. Senator, was one of ScienceInsider's most-read stories of 2013.

Ved Chirayath

The Insider's Guide to 2013

ScienceInsider’s most read stories of 2013 make for an eclectic mix—Space Vikings and “invisible” drug trials, a fusion “breakthrough” that wasn’t, and a controversial effort to reshape grantmaking criteria at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Here’s the Top 10:

1. U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants: When Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chair of the House of Representatives science committee, suggested that NSF ensure its grants are in the national interest, researchers blew a gasket. The issue was also the topic of the year’s #8 story, NSF Peer Review Under Scrutiny by House Science Panel.

2. Unmasking 'Invisible' Drug Trials: Fed up by the fact that only about one-half of all clinical trials are published, a group of researchers in June launched an unusual initiative called RIAT, Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials.

3. Scientists Condemn Destruction of Golden Rice Field Trial: The August destruction of a field of experimental, genetically modified rice in the Philippines drew protests from scientists.

4. Desert Farming Experiment Yields First Results: A project to “green” desert areas with an innovative mix of technologies—producing food, biofuel, clean water, energy, and salt—reached a milestone in November in the Gulf state of Qatar.

5. Fusion “Breakthrough” at NIF? Uh, Not Really … : October media reports that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had passed a "nuclear fusion milestone" turned out to be a bit premature.

6. 'Space Vikings' Spark NASA Inquiry: NASA researchers dressed up as Vikings for a photo shoot designed to promote space science. But a senior U.S. senator questioned whether taxpayer dollars were wasted.

7. In 'Insurrection,' Scientists, Editors Call for Abandoning Journal Impact FactorsIn May, more than 150 prominent scientists and 75 scientific groups took a stand against using impact factors, a popular measure of how often a journal is cited, to gauge the quality of an individual’s work.

8. NSF Peer Review Under Scrutiny by House Science Panel: See #1.

9. U.S. House Passes Bill That Would Head Off Massive Helium Shortage: Whew! In April, lawmakers passed legislation that would ultimately prevent scientists from losing easy access to a crucial gas in many laboratories.

10. NIH Details Impact of 2013 Sequester Cuts: In May, officials at the National Institutes of Health began to tally how a 5% cut to their 2013 budget, triggered by a congressional mandate called sequestration, would affect grant numbers and research projects. The story added detail to a gloomy fiscal forecast.