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The ScienceInsider’s guide to 2014

The most popular ScienceInsiders of 2014

Plagiarism, Ebola, and boring lectures don’t have much in common. But they were the topics of some of ScienceInsider’s most read stories of 2014. Here’s a full list the top 10:

1. Study of massive preprint archive hints at the geography of plagiarism. Analyses of hundreds of thousands of technical manuscripts submitted to arXiv, a massive repository of digital preprint articles, offered some intriguing insights into the consequences—and geography—of scientific plagiarism. It found that copying text from other papers is more common in some nations than others, but the outcome is generally the same for authors who copy extensively: Their papers don’t get cited much.

2. What does Ebola actually do? How Zaire ebolavirus and the family of filoviruses to which it belongs disarm the human immune response and then dismantle the vascular system.

3. Lectures aren't just boring, they're ineffective, too, study finds. Drone on before your undergraduate class, and your students are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods. “It’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data,” noted one researcher.

4. The 1% of scientific publishing. Very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year. But those busy scientists—about 150,000 in all—dominate the research journals, concluded a study published in July. Their names appeared on 41% of papers surveyed by the study. Among the most highly cited work, members of this elite group were co-authors of 87% of the papers.

5. Battle between NSF and House of Representatives science committee escalates: How did it get this bad? A long-running feud between a senior Republican lawmaker and the National Science Foundation (NSF) became especially heated earlier this year, as congressional staff began reviewing a select group of NSF grants that have drawn the ire of Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX).

6. Top U.S. scientific misconduct official quits in frustration with bureaucracy. “This has been at once the best and worst job I’ve ever had,” wrote David Wright, director of the Office of Research Integrity, in his letter of resignation.

7. Physicist who inspired Interstellar spills the backstory—and the scene that makes him cringe. The man who inspired the hit film and kept a close eye on its scientific fidelity is Kip Thorne, a renowned theoretical physicist and one of the world’s leading experts in the astrophysical predictions of general relativity.

8. Ebola's heavy toll on study authors. Five co-authors of an Ebola study appearing in Science died after being infected with the virus. Their heroic and heartbreaking stories.

9. Creationism conference at large U.S. research university stirs unease. Creationists organized a conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing, causing a stir among some of the school’s students and faculty, which includes several prominent evolutionary biologists. The story received more than 1200 online comments.

10. How does Ebola spread? Hard facts from key studies. Turns out researchers have collected precious little data on some practical questions: Which bodily fluids harbor the virus? Does it linger on objects touched by an infected person? But a few studies offer some hints.