World Malaria Day – A community effort to achieve ZERO

While tremendous progress has been made in fighting malaria, the disease still poses a significant threat to global human health. Especially in hard-to-reach remote and rural areas, fighting malaria remains a challenge. Therefore, this year’s WHO World Malaria Day emphasizes the need for innovative strategies and measurements to combat malaria in the Western Pacific Region with the overall goal of eliminating the burden of malaria worldwide. 

To emphasise the efforts made by the research community to achieve zero malaria, we are highlighting publications in PLOS ONE that strengthen our understanding of the disease and develop innovative strategies for controlling and eradicating malaria.

At PLOS ONE, we are excited to serve as a platform for the malaria research community by making cutting-edge research accessible to everyone. To further strive towards the WHO’s aim of zero malaria, we welcome research submissions that describe novel approaches to combat malaria, increase our understanding of the pathogen and its vector, and deliver epidemiological insights into malaria dynamics in hard-to-reach communities. 

Research Highlights

jplenio, Pixabay license

1 – Results from a malaria indicator survey highlight the importance of routine data capture in high-risk forest and farm transmission sites in Vietnam to tailor location-specific malaria elimination interventions

In this survey, Ngo and co-workers assess the knowledge about malaria and preventative measures in mobile human populations sleeping and working in forests or on farms in Vietnam. The survey highlights the importance of monitoring remote high-risk transmission areas to effectively tailor malaria interventions.

Shutterbug75, Pixabay license

2 – Cross-reactive inhibitory antibody and memory B cell responses to variant strains of Duffy Binding Protein II at post-Plasmodium vivax infection

Thawornpan and co-workers investigate the cross reactivity of antibodies against the Plasmodium vivax Duffy binding protein (DBP), a potential vaccine candidate. The authors investigate the immune response against DBP in mice, thus providing valuable insights for future design strategies for effective vaccines against Plasmodium vivax.


3 – Cross-sectional Survey of Asymptomatic Malaria in Dak Nong Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam for the Malaria Elimination Roadmap

Quang and colleagues investigate the prevalence of asymptomatic malaria in people living in three communes in Vietnam. The research highlights asymptomatic parasite carriers as undetected reservoirs for future malaria transmissions. This study concludes that knowledge about the prevalence and distribution of asymptomatic malaria will benefit future elimination efforts. 

jeanvdmeulen, Pixabay license

4 – Study protocol for development of an options assessment toolkit (OAT) for national malaria programs in Asia Pacific to determine best combinations of vivax radical cure for their given contexts 

To enable the most effective strategies for combating malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax in the Asia Pacific region, Manash Shrestha and co-workers are planning to identify various factors that determine the unique context of different transmission environments. Based on these factors, the help of experts will be employed to develop an adaptable tool kit that will help decision-makers to tailor their anti-malaria approaches.

AhmadArdity, Pixabay license

5 – A systematic review and meta-analysis of asymptomatic malaria infection in pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa: a challenge for malaria elimination efforts

This systematic review by Yonas Yimam and colleagues finds evidence in the existing literature that asymptomatic malaria infections, predominantly caused by P. falciparum, can cause anemia in pregnant women. The authors conclude that antenatal care should be adapted to take into consideration the possible effect of asymptomatic malaria infections on pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa.


1 – Ngo TD, Canavati SE, Dung DV, Vo TH, Tran DT, Tran LK, et al. (2021) Results from a malaria indicator survey highlight the importance of routine data capture in high-risk forest and farm transmission sites in Vietnam to tailor location-specific malaria elimination interventions. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0250045.

2- Thawornpan P, Changrob S, Kochayoo P, Wangriatisak K, Ntumngia FB, De SL, et al. (2022) Cross-reactive inhibitory antibody and memory B cell responses to variant strains of Duffy binding protein II at post-Plasmodium vivax infection. PLoS ONE 17(10): e0276335.

3 – Quang HH, Chavchich M, Trinh NTM, Manh ND, Edstein MD, Martin NJ, et al. (2021) Cross-sectional survey of asymptomatic malaria in Dak Nong province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam for the malaria elimination roadmap. PLoS ONE 16(10): e0258580.

4 – Shrestha M, Neukom J, Acharya S, Habib MN, Wini L, Duong TT, et al. (2023) Study protocol for development of an options assessment toolkit (OAT) for national malaria programs in Asia Pacific to determine best combinations of vivax radical cure for their given contexts. PLoS ONE 18(3): e0280950.

5 – Yimam Y, Nateghpour M, Mohebali M, Abbaszadeh Afshar MJ (2021) A systematic review and meta-analysis of asymptomatic malaria infection in pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A challenge for malaria elimination efforts. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0248245.

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2022 Editor’s Picks – Staff Editor Highlights

As 2023 gets underway, the PLOS ONE Staff Editor team has looked back on some of our favorite papers published in 2022. The editorial team currently consists of 20 full-time editors, who spend their time assisting authors, Academic Editors, reviewers and readers throughout the publication process and beyond. Given the broad scope of PLOS ONE, both in terms of research areas and article types, we are fortunate to work on an incredible variety of manuscripts and topics each year. As a result, collating a list of our favorite or most memorable manuscripts from the past year is never easy. Below, we present you with a glimpse of highlights from 2022 hand-picked by our staff editors. We would like to thank all our authors, reviewers, Academic Editors and readers for a wonderful year, and we look forward to working together in 2023.

Behavioral and Social Sciences, Neuroscience, Mental Health Division

Authenticating coins of the ‘Roman emperor’ Sponsian

Pearson PN, Botticelli M, Ericsson J, Olender J, Spruženiece L (2022) Authenticating coins of the ‘Roman emperor’ Sponsian. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0274285.


Non-destructive imaging and spectroscopic techniques were used to authenticate coins depicting an obscure ‘Roman emperor’ named Sponsian. These coins were thought to be forgeries. The authentication forces a re-evaluation of Sponsian as a historical figure. Combining evidence from the coins with the historical record, the study proposes that Sponsian ruled the isolated Roman Province of Dacia during the military crisis of the 260s CE.

Prevalence of questionable research practices, research misconduct and their potential explanatory factors: A survey among academic researchers in The Netherlands

Gopalakrishna G, ter Riet G, Vink G, Stoop I, Wicherts JM, Bouter LM (2022) Prevalence of questionable research practices, research misconduct and their potential explanatory factors: A survey among academic researchers in The Netherlands. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263023.

This large survey by Gopalakrishna and colleagues of researchers in the Netherlands revealed the prevalence of questionable research practices and suggests ways to promote research integrity. It suggests that greater emphasis on scientific norm subscription, strengthening reviewers in their role as gatekeepers of research quality and curbing the “publish or perish” incentive system promotes research integrity.

Emotional responses in Papua New Guinea show negligible evidence for a universal effect of major versus minor music

Smit EA, Milne AJ, Sarvasy HS, Dean RT (2022) Emotional responses in Papua New Guinea show negligible evidence for a universal effect of major versus minor music. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0269597.

Image by Top_Notch_Vectors from Pixabay

In western cultures, emotions induced by music are strongly influenced by ‘major’ and ‘minor’ characteristics in harmonics, but is is unknown whether this effect exists universally. The authors examined whether non-Western cultures experience these typical emotive shifts in music in a sample of participants living in a remote region of Papua New Guinea with differing levels of exposure to Western-influenced music. The findings showed that emotive valence of major and minor was strongly associated with exposure to Western-influenced music and culture, indicating that culture is a strong mediator of people’s emotional responses to music. The study was also only one of a very few number of studies in this literature to study these effects in a non-industrialized context where participants have little exposure to a globalized music culture.

Do book consumers discriminate against Black, female, or young authors?

Weinberg DB, Kapelner A (2022) Do book consumers discriminate against Black, female, or young authors? PLoS ONE 17(6): e0267537.


There is evidence of race- and gender-based discrimination in the publishing industry. One possible explanation is the preferences of book consumers. Weinberg and Kapelner tested this hypothesis with a large-scale experiment in which they collected ratings of mocked-up books from over 9000 participants who were presented with book covers and descriptions from both fiction and non-fiction genres, with one of three possible titles per book randomly assigned. Race, gender, and age of the author were signaled via names and photographs. The authors found no support for any claim of consumer bias against black or females authors. In fact, participants were willing to pay approximately $0.50 more for books by Black writers. The authors conclude that there is no evidence of taste-based preferences by consumers that would rationalize the historic discriminatory treatment of Black or of female authors by publishers nor of discrimination based on an author’s age.

Experiences of criticism in adults with ADHD: A qualitative study

Beaton DM, Sirois F, Milne E (2022) Experiences of criticism in adults with ADHD: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263366.

Image by Ohmydearlife from Pixabay

Individuals with mental health problems often face discrimination. Here, Beaton and colleagues analyse free text comments from adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on their experiences of criticism from family, friends and colleagues. Participants reported commonly criticised behaviours and traits, with many noting they felt consistently criticised and felt unable to succeed. The authors indicate that the findings highlight the importance of advocating for a more flexible society that is accepting of individuality and neurodiversity.

Life Sciences Division

Single-nucleus RNA-sequencing in pre-cellularization Drosophila melanogaster embryos

Albright AR, Stadler MR, Eisen MB (2022) Single-nucleus RNA-sequencing in pre-cellularization Drosophila melanogaster embryos. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0270471.


In an effort to establish the use of single-nucleus RNA-sequencing to detect local changes in gene expression for early Drosophila embryos, Albright and colleagues compared nuclei transcript abundance differences between wide type and dCTCF mutants and identified distinct clusters that corresponded to spatial regions of the embryo. A resource of candidate differentially expressed genes was provided to explore the subtle changes upon loss of dCTCF gene. The results highlighted the potential of this new technique as a means of understanding the regulation of gene expression in the early Drosophila embryo.

Diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction

Grandjean D, Elie C, Gallet C, Julien C, Roger V, Desquilbet L, et al. (2022) Diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0268382.


The development of efficient and early COVID-19 testing methods is a very timely subject and much work remains to advance from proofs of concepts to practical applications. In this popular article, Grandjean and colleagues conducted a double-blinded test of COVID-19 detection using trained dogs and suggest that the detection of COVID-19 by dogs could be an alternative to antigenic tests.

Physical Sciences and Engineering

A feather hydrogen (δ2H) isoscape for Brazil

Alquezar RD, Costa FJV, Sena-Souza JP, Nardoto GB, Hobson KA (2022) A feather hydrogen (δ2H) isoscape for Brazil. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0271573.

Gmagnago, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Alquezar and colleagues present the first feather hydrogen isoscape for Brazil. Isoscapes are essentially isotopic maps that model how isotopes vary in space and time. As such, isoscapes can be used in a variety of applications in order to understand animal origins, for instance within ecology and forensic sciences. The Brazil hydrogen isoscape was developed through collection of feathers from ornithological collections and field campaigns in National Parks around the country, focusing on tanager species belonging to the family Thraupidae. These data were analysed in conjunction with climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation and solar radiation, using machine learning in order to build a map of feather isotopes across Brazil. Although the model has limitations, including relatively low predictive power for this first iteration, isoscapes like these are increasingly deployable within forensic investigations, such as the illegal wildlife trade.

Analysis, identification and confirmation of synthetic opioids using chloroformate chemistry: Retrospective detection of fentanyl and acetylfentanyl in urine and plasma samples by EI-GC-MS and HR-LC-MS

Valdez CA, Leif RN, Corzett TH, Dreyer ML (2022) Analysis, identification and confirmation of synthetic opioids using chloroformate chemistry: Retrospective detection of fentanyl and acetylfentanyl in urine and plasma samples by EI-GC-MS and HR-LC-MS. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0275931.


Synthetic opiod fentanyl and its analogues have widespread use in anesthesia and pain management, but despite being highly controlled substances, their illicit use and unpredictable fatal dosage when combined with other substances have led to tragic consequences in many countries. This new method reported by Carlos A. Valdez and colleagues is effective at detecting fentanyl and acetylfentanyl at levels reflecting those reported in overdose victims, and the chemical reaction approach used in the method enables the detection and identification of unknown fentanyls, with potential implications for diagnosis and monitoring supply.

Programmable droplets: Leveraging digitally-responsive flow fields to actively tune liquid morphologies

Kay R, Katrycz CW, Heimlich EJ, Hatton BD (2022) Programmable droplets: Leveraging digitally-responsive flow fields to actively tune liquid morphologies. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0264141.


Kay and colleagues from The University of Toronto present a proof-of-concept method of tuning liquid droplet morphology. They do this by creating a modified version of a Hele-Shaw cell and allowing the boundary valves to be either open or closed to the atmosphere. This allows for control of the pressure, which means that droplet shape and position can be manipulated using the local flow fields. B adding a dye to the liquid, in this case carbon black to castor oil, they created droplet morphologies that can be switched between being optically transmissible and absorptive. This sort of liquid smart material can potentially be employed in a variety of applications, such as shading, camouflage and dynamic displays.

Public Health and Medicine Division

Robust and generalizable embryo selection based on artificial intelligence and time-lapse image sequences

Berntsen J, Rimestad J, Lassen JT, Tran D, Kragh MF (2022) Robust and generalizable embryo selection based on artificial intelligence and time-lapse image sequences. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0262661.

Image by Freepik

Artificial intelligence and deep learning approaches hold promise to revolutionize medical practice, including the assessment and selection of the most viable embryos for vitro fertilization (IVF). In this paper, Berntsen and colleagues developed a deep learning-based embryo selection model based on time-lapse microscopy images. They showed that their fully automated model performed better than state-of-the-art, manually annotated methods. In addition, using a large dataset from 18 IVF clinics, they showed that the model is generalizable across different subgroups of age and clinical conditions, and correlated with traditional embryo development and morphology parameters. This model will help establish efficient, reliable, and reproducible tools in IVF clinics to combat rising infertility rates worldwide.

Romantic partner embraces reduce cortisol release after acute stress induction in women but not in men

Berretz G, Cebula C, Wortelmann BM, Papadopoulou P, Wolf OT, Ocklenburg S, et al. (2022) Romantic partner embraces reduce cortisol release after acute stress induction in women but not in men. PLoS ONE 17(5): e0266887.

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Stress is an inevitable aspect of daily life, and it’s essential to find ways to manage it. One form of stress-relief that has been studied is social touch, such as massages. However, the impact of other forms of physical touch on stress have not been widely explored in literature . This study looked at the impact of a short-term embrace between romantic partners on stress levels. The results showed that women who embraced their partner before a stressful situation had a lower cortisol response compared to a control group. No similar stress-reducing effects were observed in men. The study suggests that a short-term embrace before a stressful situation can help reduce stress in women.

Modeling the spread of the Zika virus by sexual and mosquito transmission

Agudelo S, Ventresca M (2022) Modeling the spread of the Zika virus by sexual and mosquito transmission. PLoS ONE 17(12): e0270127.

Image by jcomp on Freepik

The Zika virus (ZIKV) infects humans via sexual contact or mosquito bites and presents a significant threat to newborns of mothers infected with the virus during pregnancy. In this article, Agudelo and Ventresca establish a mathematical model that analyzes the impact of the sexual and mosquito transmission on ZIKV spread within a population. They concluded that ZIKV spreads mostly via mosquito transmission, while sexual transmission alone appears negligible for viral dissemination. The model can serve as a powerful tool in combating viral spread by providing reliable information for the implementation of protective health policies.

Using wearable biological sensors to provide personalized feedback to motivate behavioral changes: Study protocol for a randomized controlled physical activity intervention in cancer survivors (Project KNOWN)

Liao Y, Schembre SM, Brannon GE, Pan Z, Wang J, Ali S, et al. (2022) Using wearable biological sensors to provide personalized feedback to motivate behavioral changes: Study protocol for a randomized controlled physical activity intervention in cancer survivors (Project KNOWN). PLoS ONE 17(9): e0274492.

Image by FitNishMedia from Pixabay

Evidence supports multiple health benefits of physical activity for cancer survivors, however, many cancer survivors are not sufficiently active to achieve these benefits. In this study protocol, Liao and colleagues describe a randomized pilot study to test the feasibility of a physical activity intervention in 50 cancer survivors. The novel intervention will demonstrate the immediate positive impact of physical activity to participants through the use of wearable devices. The authors hypothesize that “biofeedback” from wearable devices may help to motivate behavioral change.

Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis

Minadeo M, Pope L (2022) Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0267997.

TikTok is a popular social media platform amongst young people. Use of this platform for fitness and nutrition advice is very popular, however the quality of this content has not been well researched. This study investigated key themes in posts related to nutrition and weight-related content on this platform. From 1000 videos, each with over a billion views, the majority of posts were found to present weight-normative views, which may negatively impact young viewers with body image/eating disorders. This study indicates the importance of helping TikTok users discern credible information, and the ability to selectively remove triggering content from their feeds, which may help address the prevalence of weight-normative content and its potentially negative impact.

Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect

Swami V, Hochstöger S, Kargl E, Stieger S (2022) Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect. PLoS ONE 17(7): e0269629.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Conducting the first experience sampling study on the emotional outcomes of hunger, Swami and colleagues investigated the relationship between hunger and negative emotions, known to many as feeling “hangry”. The findings showed that greater levels of self-reported hunger were associated with greater feelings of anger and irritability, suggesting that feeling “hangry” is a real experience. The results of the study might facilitate the understanding of everyday experiences of emotions, support practitioners in ensuring productive individual behaviours and interpersonal relationships and could potentially help individuals to regulate certain emotions by putting feelings into words and labelling an emotion.

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Closing the Cancer Care Gap – Research Highlights from PLOS ONE

To celebrate World Cancer Day 2022, we are highlighting some of our favorite articles on this year’s theme, “Close the Care Gap”. Our Call for Papers on Cancer and Social Inequity also spotlights this topic, and is open for submission until February 22nd.

Gaps in cancer care may result from reduced availability, affordability, and access to healthcare services, including screening. These issues are felt particularly acutely in low-resource settings in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but can also be affected within countries by social factors including socioeconomic status, race, gender, disability, and more. Recent social movements and the COVID-19 pandemic have brought issues surrounding social inequity in healthcare to the forefront.

Research Highlights

The following PLOS ONE articles all describe research addressing this topic, either by identifying and highlighting gaps in cancer care, or assessing solutions to close care gaps and promote more equitable outcomes.

A close-up view of a catheter (a soft thin tube) placed in an African-American woman's arm to deliver chemotherapy.
Rhoda Baer, National Cancer Institute

Powell and colleagues estimate the impact of the Affordable Care Act on colorectal cancer outcomes and racial disparities in North Carolina (NC), a state that did not expand Medicaid. The study uses individual-based simulation models to explore population-level impacts of policy interventions.

A map of Brazil depicting the spatial distribution of adjusted mortality rates for breast cancer

In this ecological study, de Oliveira and colleagues analyze the spatial distribution of late stage diagnosis and mortality of breast cancer, and its correlation with socioeconomic indicators and health service availability

Ultra-low-dose computed tomography image of a pleural nodule

Sayani and colleagues explore the barriers and facilitators to lung cancer screening in low-income individuals living in Toronto. Using qualitative methods, researchers identified and analyzed three themes: pathways of disadvantage, lung cancer risk and early detection, and safe spaces of care.

Hands being washed in a sink
slavoljubovski, Pixabay

The impact of COVID-19 on cancer care has been significant. In this paper, Edge and colleagues explore patient, caregiver, and healthcare worker perspectives on the disruptions and reorganization of cancer services in Australia since the onset of COVID-19.

A mobile phone next to a stethoscope
StockSnap, Pixabay

In this Study Protocol, Baleydier and colleagues test a smartphone app designed to improve access to cervical cancer screening in Cameroon. The app uses computer-aided detection techniques to improve the objectiveness of triage of HPV-positive women. This is proposed as a low-cost screening tool suitable for LMICs.

Submit Your Research

We are very excited to be curating a Collection of papers for PLOS ONE on the topic of Cancer and Social Inequity, and we are still accepting submissions to this call.

We aim to highlight the negative impacts of social inequities on health, identify the effects of social and corporate policies on access to healthcare services, and propose solutions to promote more equitable cancer outcomes and ultimately, social justice. We’re also interested in data exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted cancer care.

Our Guest Editors Prof. Vesna Zadnik (Institute of Oncology, Ljubljana, Slovenia), Dr. Nixon Niyonzima (Uganda Cancer Institute, Kampala, Uganda), and Prof. Claudia Allemani (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK) share their thoughts on why this topic is important, and their motivations for conducting research in this area in a recent interview.

We welcome submissions to the Call for Papers reporting research in epidemiology, public health, clinical trials, implementation science, and health economics, including manuscripts reporting systematic reviews, qualitative studies, and research protocols.

Submit your papers here by February 22nd 2022.


Baleydier I, Vassilakos P, Viñals R, Wisniak A, Kenfack B, Tsuala Fouogue J, et al. (2021) Study protocol for a two-site clinical trial to validate a smartphone-based artificial intelligence classifier identifying cervical precancer and cancer in HPV-positive women in Cameroon. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0260776.

Edge R, Meyers J, Tiernan G, Li Z, Schiavuzzi A, Chan P, et al. (2021) Cancer care disruption and reorganisation during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia: A patient, carer and healthcare worker perspective. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0257420.

Oliveira NPDd, Cancela MdC, Martins LFL, de Souza DLB (2021) Spatial distribution of advanced stage diagnosis and mortality of breast cancer: Socioeconomic and health service offer inequalities in Brazil. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246333.

Powell W, Frerichs L, Townsley R, Mayorga M, Richmond J, Corbie-Smith G, et al. (2020) The potential impact of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion on reducing colorectal cancer screening disparities in African American males. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0226942. .

Sayani A, Vahabi M, O’Brien MA, Liu G, Hwang S, Selby P, et al. (2021) Advancing health equity in cancer care: The lived experiences of poverty and access to lung cancer screening. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0251264.

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PLOS ONE 15 Year Anniversary: Staff Editors’ Favorites

This year, PLOS ONE celebrates its 15 year anniversary. Over this period the journal has published over a quarter of a million articles. Here, staff editors from different subject area teams choose their favorites, including reports of 13,000 year-old footprints, declining insect populations, the impact of plastic pollution on the release of greenhouse gases, and the pathophysiology of celiac disease.

Behavioral and Social Sciences, Neuroscience, & Mental Health

Atlantios, Pixabay

Larivière and colleagues show that interdisciplinary research has greater impact in the long run, suggesting that it is greater than the sum of its disciplinary parts.

Pexels, Pixabay

Ritter and Ferguson show that listening to happy music elicits higher levels of creativity, linking positive affect and arousal to traits of persistence and flexibility that facilitate creative thinking.


McLaren and colleagues uncover 13,000 year-old footprints on the west coast of Canada. The discovery of these footprints adds to the growing body of evidence that humans inhabited the Pacific coast of Canada during late Pleistocene times.

Life Sciences


This study from Hallmann and colleagues demonstrated a 75% decline in insect biomass over 27 years in German nature areas. This paper became one of the most influential and highly-cited studies in Entomology in the last decade, attracting attention from hundreds of media outlets, and raising public awareness of insect declines. Since this publication many funding bodies have made allocations for projects related to insect declines and conservation.


Palm oil is the world’s most widely traded vegetable oil. As global demand grows, large areas of tropical forest are being converted into oil palm plantations. In this important work, Vijay and colleagues showed how palm oil expansion from Southeast Asia into new regions of the Americas and Africa increased greatly the risk of deforestation and threatened vulnerable biodiversity at risk of extinction. Since publication this work has gained over 100,000 views, has been cited in more than two hundred publications, and has been featured in multiple news outlets.

Sawayamr, Wikimedia commons

This study attempts to answer a fundamental biochemistry question — why all living organisms only need 20 amino acid residue types to carry out a repertoire of diverse functions. A combination of quantum chemical and chemoinformatic investigations suggest that this set of 20 suffices the need of incorporating molecular complexity while retaining important chemical functionalities and structural stability. Efforts to extend the repertoire of “amino acid structural space” led to no novel or useful functionalities, indicating that these 20 building blocks are selected on the principle of parsimony.

Physical Sciences and Engineering


This study from Daniel Vogt and co-workers shows how, by using 3D printing and soft robotic manipulators, we can manipulate fragile and often old deep-sea organisms such as sea stars without damaging them.

brownpau, Flickr

James Hansen and colleagues assess the climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data in this groundbreaking study from 2013. Their work served as an early warning on the continuing impact of fossil fuel emissions on Earth’s climate, and has been followed by countless related studies.

Twentyfirstidentity, Wikimedia Commons

Royer and colleagues show that plastic pollution in the environment releases two common greenhouse gases under normal solar irradiation, studying both virgin and weathered plastics, and that this release may persist during an item’s lifetime. This research extends the focus of the detrimental effects of plastic pollution in the environment to possible climate impacts, in addition to direct effects on living organisms through entanglement, ingestion and the sorption of toxic chemicals. This study called for further research assessing the contribution of hydrocarbon release from plastic pollution to the global carbon budget.

Public Health & Medicine


This study from Daniele Fanelli was the first meta-analysis to investigate the frequency in which scientists falsify or fabricate data. The study concluded that self-reported or observed rates of misconduct are high, and suggested that the actual rate is likely to be higher than this. It was widely publicized in the popular media, and has attracted over 300,000 views since publication. In light of the so-called “replication crisis” within many scientific disciplines, this study and others like it really serve to highlight the importance of encouraging robust publication ethics and scientific practices.


This study from Lerner and co-workers demonstrated using cell culture and mouse models that flavoured electronic cigarettes used in vaping generate reactive oxygen species which cause inflammatory response, morphological changes and toxicity in lung tissue. This was one of the first studies to demonstrate the dangers of flavoured e-cigarettes.


In this study Chellappa and colleagues demonstrated that blue enriched light induces greater melatonin suppression, enhanced subjective alertness, faster cognitive reaction times (in attention focused tasks), in addition to improving well-being and visual comfort. This has important ramifications both for the workplace and in consideration of circadian rhythms


Using national data in the United States, Stanger-Hall and Hall demonstrate a correlation between abstinence-only sex education and increasing teenage pregnancy and birth rates


This study from Leonard and colleagues investigated the early steps in the pathophysiology of celiac disease (CD) by sc-RNA seq. The authors identified the upregulation of novel genes that are involved in the immune response machinery (IL-12RB1and IL-12RB2) and cell adhesion process in the mucosa (IGSF4 and ITGAM) and in the spliceosome pathway in subjects with active CD compared to those in remission, suggesting a potentil link between the microbiome, innate immune response, and the development of CD. The study also highlights novel possible targets for personalized therapies for disease intercetion (primary prevention) in genetically at-risk subjects.


Waqar, Asghar and Manzoor describe the use of liquid biopsy-based platelets mRNA signature for early diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma, and the use of mRNA as biomarkers for comparison of hepatic cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The study could also help to elucidate some of the signalling pathways involved in progression of cirrhosis towards hepatocellular carcinoma.

Dr. Frederick Murphy, CDC

Becquart and colleagues surveyed >10% of Gabon villagers for Zaire ebolavirus (ZEBOV)-specific IgG antibodies. They report overall seroprevalence of 15.3%, one of the highest reported at the time, and up to 33.8% in some villages. This is an interesting piece of epidemiology, published four years before the Western African Ebola virus epidemic shone a global spotlight on the virus. The study provides fascinating insights into human exposure to zoonotic diseases with epidemic potential.

jplenio, pixabay

In an attempt to bring the outdoors in, An and colleagues explore the impact of biophilic office designs on employee wellness. The authors found that sunlight exposure was positively associated with overall job satisfaction and organisational commitment.

ArthurHidden, Freepik

In this experimental study, Gillen and colleagues showed that sprint interval training among sedentary men achieved the same beneficial effects of traditional endurance training, despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. These effects included insulin sensitivity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and skeletal muscle mitochondrial content. This study could inform the design of time-efficient exercise interventions for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.


  1. Larivière V, Haustein S, Börner K (2015) Long-Distance Interdisciplinarity Leads to Higher Scientific Impact. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0122565.
  2. Ritter SM, Ferguson S (2017) Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0182210.
  3. McLaren D, Fedje D, Dyck A, Mackie Q, Gauvreau A, Cohen J (2018) Terminal Pleistocene epoch human footprints from the Pacific coast of Canada. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0193522.
  4. Hallmann CA, Sorg M, Jongejans E, Siepel H, Hofland N, Schwan H, et al. (2017) More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185809.
  5. Vijay V, Pimm SL, Jenkins CN, Smith SJ (2016) The Impacts of Oil Palm on Recent Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0159668.
  6. Bywater RP (2018) Why twenty amino acid residue types suffice(d) to support all living systems. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0204883.
  7. Vogt DM, Becker KP, Phillips BT, Graule MA, Rotjan RD, Shank TM, et al. (2018) Shipboard design and fabrication of custom 3D-printed soft robotic manipulators for the investigation of delicate deep-sea organisms. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0200386.
  8. Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F, Beerling DJ, et al. (2013) Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS ONE 8(12): e81648.
  9. Royer S-J, Ferrón S, Wilson ST, Karl DM (2018) Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment. PLoS ONE 13(8): e0200574.
  10. Fanelli D (2009) How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5738.
  11. Lerner CA, Sundar IK, Yao H, Gerloff J, Ossip DJ, McIntosh S, et al. (2015) Vapors Produced by Electronic Cigarettes and E-Juices with Flavorings Induce Toxicity, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammatory Response in Lung Epithelial Cells and in Mouse Lung. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0116732.
  12. Chellappa SL, Steiner R, Blattner P, Oelhafen P, Götz T, Cajochen C (2011) Non-Visual Effects of Light on Melatonin, Alertness and Cognitive Performance: Can Blue-Enriched Light Keep Us Alert? PLoS ONE 6(1): e16429.
  13. Stanger-Hall KF, Hall DW (2011) Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S. PLoS ONE 6(10): e24658.
  14. Leonard MM, Bai Y, Serena G, Nickerson KP, Camhi S, Sturgeon C, et al. (2019) RNA sequencing of intestinal mucosa reveals novel pathways functionally linked to celiac disease pathogenesis. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215132.
  15. Waqar W, Asghar S, Manzoor S (2021) Platelets’ RNA as biomarker trove for differentiation of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma from underlying cirrhotic nodules. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0256739.
  16. Becquart P, Wauquier N, Mahlakõiv T, Nkoghe D, Padilla C, Souris M, et al. (2010) High Prevalence of Both Humoral and Cellular Immunity to Zaire ebolavirus among Rural Populations in Gabon. PLoS ONE 5(2): e9126.
  17. An M, Colarelli SM, O’Brien K, Boyajian ME (2016) Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155614.
  18. Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ (2016) Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154075.

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Editors’ Picks 2020

This year has seen the scientific community at large come together to better understand and tackle the ongoing pandemic. Along with other PLOS journals, PLOS ONE has been committed to disseminating the resulting research outputs as quickly possible and have collected all published studies in our COVID-19 pandemic (2019-2020) Collection. Alongside this important work on COVID-19, PLOS ONE has continued to publish research from all areas of science. Here, PLOS ONE Staff Editors from the different subject teams reflect on the past year choosing some of their favorite research. From research on plastic pollution to improving prognosis predictions for patients with cancer, we hope that these selections will have something of interest for everyone.  

Behavioral and Social Sciences, Neuroscience, Mental Health


Meta-analyses are often conducted to increase the generalizability of results from individual studies and can shed light of the reproducibility of a given effect. However, in an article published in January this year, Maassen and collaborators [1] note concerns about the reproducibility of these meta-analytic methods. They find that almost half of 500 primary study effect sizes drawn from 33 published psychological meta-analyses could not be reproduced. One of the tools often used to assess reproducibility may not be as reproducible as hoped.


Craig-Atkins and colleagues [2] use data from human remains, pottery shards, and animal bones to track dietary changes after the Norman conquest of England. They find that short-term food insecurity was followed by changes in preferences and intensification of the economy.


Gabriel Schwartz and Jaquelyn Jahn [3] analyzed data from Fatal Encounters—the most comprehensive database tracking police-involved deaths in the United States—and uncovered vast differences across metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the overall rates of persons killed by police officers, regional differences (West and South v. Midwest and Northeast), as well as racial inequities in those rates, between 2013 and 2017, for 5,494 police-related fatalities. A formal comment by Nix [4] on this article emphasized the difficulties inherent in such research, such as limitations in the database, and the challenges in interpreting these results.


In this Registered Report Protocol, one of the first ones published at PLOS ONE, Jaffé and Douneva [5] describe three proposed studies to determine how sharing secrets affects the way individuals think about each other. We already know that closeness can make secret-sharing more likely, but these authors plan to investigate whether secret-sharing might in turn increase perceptions of closeness. These studies are expected to be conducted on online platforms and in person with students over this academic year.

Cancer and Medicine


Deep learning is emerging as a potential tool for a range of applications in cancer. Predicting patient prognosis can help to inform monitoring and treatment strategies. In their study, Wulczyn and colleagues [6] demonstrate the feasibility of deep learning systems for predicting survival in multiple cancer types, using histopatholgy images.


When it comes to fighting the global spread of COVID-19, the implementation of preventative measures such as social distancing are paramount. However, it can be challenging to estimate how much of a difference these measures make and how this varies depending on when these measures are put in place or lifted. In their study, Ohsawa and Tsubokura [7] simulate the spread of virus infection using artificial human networks and test how contact between people in different clusters effects the timing and intensity of viral spread. The authors find that releasing a previously imposed constraint too early can lead to a “second wave” of infection that is more intense than the previous wave, and caution against lifting restrictions on social contact too soon.


Ageism’s effects on health may be compounded by individual and structural biases against the elderly. In a systematic review, Chang and colleagues’ [8] synthesis of data from 422 studies showed ageism has a global reach.


Using historical data, this paper looks at gender equity in academic surgical specialties over the past forty years. Linscheid and colleagues [9] present an analysis suggesting that more work needs to be done to ensure female surgical students and trainees are supported to ensure representation across specialties.

Cardiovascular and Public Health, Epidemiology, Sports Science


The epidemiological study by Gosiker and colleagues [10], which is part of Primary and Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Collection  launched in December this year, exemplifies the importance of carefully assessing CVD risk in vulnerable populations. Using data from a large collaboration of clinical sites in the United States, the investigators examined the prevalence of elevated 10-year CVD risk among transgender women with HIV. The approach and main findings from this study contribute to the growing need of calibrated risk prediction tools that support CVD preventive strategies in underrepresented and vulnerable populations.

Dedric Cherry

The impact of socioeconomic factors (for example, education level) on health outcomes is widely studied—but do inequality rates vary across different healthcare systems types? Rydland and colleagues [11] contribute to the debate by analysing how educational inequalities found in mortality amenable to healthcare (defined as deaths which are preventable through medical intervention) vary among European countries with different typologies of health systems.


Doshi and colleagues [12] interview providers to analyze the experiences of undocumented Latino(a)/Latinx immigrants seeking healthcare and social services in the United States. By framing the results according to the “Three Delays Model”, the authors provide rich insights on the lived experiences of a marginalized group, and suggest several approaches to improve access to care.

Kevin Simmons

Mental health is a leading cause of disability globally. In their article, Smith and colleagues [13] showcase the use of Implementation Science (IS) tools/principles to deliver and evaluate scale up of much-needed mental health services in the Global South. This is one of a few IS hybrid studies that looked at both: a) implementation outcomes (reach/uptake of the intervention, fidelity) and b) effectiveness outcomes (clinical outcomes, functionality). The authors used elements of the RE-AIM framework/theory and applied simple quasi-experimental design methods for quantitative evaluation. 

Life Sciences


Whale sharks, the largest living fish, don’t have much to fear from predators and are known to be docile and and approchable. However, their eyes are exposed to damage from mechanical, chemical and biological hazards. This year, Tomita and colleagues [14] from Japan’s Okinawa Churashima Research Center made the surprising discovery that their retractible eyes are uniquely protected by rows of oakleaf-like denticles. This finding highlights the importance of vision in this species.


Resistin molecules are pleiotropic cytokines associated with inflammatory diseases but their distribution features in human organs remains unexplored. A new anti-human resistin antibody developed by Lin and colleagues [15] is used to explicitly detect the expression pattern of human resistin across normal human tissues. Results show that resistin is broadly distributed, but principally localized in the cytoplasmic granules of macrophages, hematopoietic precursor cells and neuronal cells. This characterization of resistin expression provides a framework for recognition and interpretation of changes in these patterns that may be associated with disease states.


The endemic Giant Senecios of the East African sky islands are an iconic example of the gigantism that has evolved convergently in a number of tropical montane plant lineages. In their new study, Tusiime and colleagues [16] genotyped 460 plants from across the region’s mountains to assess genetic structuring, biogeographic patterns, and taxonomic concepts. They found evidence for rapid recent radiation underpinned by long-distance dispersal and parallel adaptation. They also reported low levels of overall genetic diversity, emphasising the need for enhanced conservation efforts.


PARP proteins play a critical role in the early detection of DNA double-strand breaks, but as yet no structural information on double-strand break detection in the context of chromatin exists. In their study, Gaullier and colleagues [17] use cryo-EM to solve the structure of PARP2 bridging the mimicked double-stranded break of two nucleosomes (Nuc165) reconstituted in vitro with two short linker DNA overhangs. Their model illustrates that by bridging the break, PARP2 acts as a platform for recruitment of other factors involved in DNA repair such as HPF1.

Physical Sciences and Engineering


Understanding long term changes in the ocean can be invaluable not only for elucidating the historical record, but for predicting future scenarios amidst a changing climate. In this study, Simon and colleagues [18] use an unprecedentedly high-resolution record of stable isotopes from a marine core retrieved off western North Iceland to characterize long-term ocean variability. Using foraminifera, they reconstruct the record for the period before instrumentation, as well as overlapping with the period of instrumental observation, and demonstrate a high degree of agreement in predicted and observed data.


Plastic pollution of the natural environment is an ongoing global crisis and plastics which end up in waterways or the ocean can travel vast distances. In this new study, Duncan and colleagues [19] designed their own “bottle tags” which mimicked the characteristics of a half-full 500ml plastic bottle. By installing open-source technology within the bottle and releasing them at various points in the Ganges river system and the Bay of Bengal, the team was able to track the journeys that their bottles made; The longest journey was 2845km over 94 days, illustrating the dispersal processes of plastic pollution.


How do you open a historical treasure chest without a key, when the lock may contain any manner of failsafes or protective mechanisms? Zikmundová and colleagues [20] tackle this problem using X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning. Their technique enabled a detailed exploration of the lock based on a system of levers and bolts handled by a single key, located in a case on the inside of the chest lid, including the dimensions essential for manufacturing of a new key copy. Moreover, two secret protective mechanisms were revealed, as well as all the damages of the object.


  1. Maassen E, van Assen MALM, Nuijten MB, Olsson-Collentine A, Wicherts JM (2020) Reproducibility of individual effect sizes in meta-analyses in psychology. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0233107.
  2. Craig-Atkins E, Jervis B, Cramp L, Hammann S, Nederbragt AJ, Nicholson E, et al. (2020) The dietary impact of the Norman Conquest: A multiproxy archaeological investigation of Oxford, UK. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235005.
  3. Schwartz GL, Jahn JL (2020) Mapping fatal police violence across U.S. metropolitan areas: Overall rates and racial/ethnic inequities, 2013-2017. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0229686.
  4. Nix J (2020) On the challenges associated with the study of police use of deadly force in the United States: A response to Schwartz & Jahn. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0236158.
  5. Jaffé ME, Douneva M (2020) Secretive and close? How sharing secrets may impact perceptions of distance. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233953.
  6. Wulczyn E, Steiner DF, Xu Z, Sadhwani A, Wang H, Flament-Auvigne I, et al. (2020) Deep learning-based survival prediction for multiple cancer types using histopathology images. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233678.
  7. Ohsawa Y, Tsubokura M (2020) Stay with your community: Bridges between clusters trigger expansion of COVID-19. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0242766.
  8. Chang E-S, Kannoth S, Levy S, Wang S-Y, Lee JE, Levy BR (2020) Global reach of ageism on older persons’ health: A systematic review. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0220857.
  9. Linscheid LJ, Holliday EB, Ahmed A, Somerson JS, Hanson S, Jagsi R, et al. (2020) Women in academic surgery over the last four decades. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0243308.
  10. Gosiker BJ, Lesko CR, Rich AJ, Crane HM, Kitahata MM, Reisner SL, et al. (2020) Cardiovascular disease risk among transgender women living with HIV in the United States. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0236177.
  11. Rydland HT, Fjær EL, Eikemo TA, Huijts T, Bambra C, Wendt C, et al. (2020) Educational inequalities in mortality amenable to healthcare. A comparison of European healthcare systems. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0234135.
  12. Doshi M, Lopez WD, Mesa H, Bryce R, Rabinowitz E, Rion R, et al. (2020) Barriers & facilitators to healthcare and social services among undocumented Latino(a)/Latinx immigrant clients: Perspectives from frontline service providers in Southeast Michigan. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0233839.
  13. Smith SL, Franke MF, Rusangwa C, Mukasakindi H, Nyirandagijimana B, Bienvenu R, et al. (2020) Outcomes of a primary care mental health implementation program in rural Rwanda: A quasi-experimental implementation-effectiveness study. PLoS ONE 15(2): e0228854.
  14. Tomita T, Murakumo K, Komoto S, Dove A, Kino M, Miyamoto K, et al. (2020) Armored eyes of the whale shark. PLoS ONE 15(6): e0235342.
  15. Lin Q, Price SA, Skinner JT, Hu B, Fan C, Yamaji-Kegan K, et al. (2020) Systemic evaluation and localization of resistin expression in normal human tissues by a newly developed monoclonal antibody. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235546.
  16. Tusiime FM, Gizaw A, Gussarova G, Nemomissa S, Popp M, Masao CA, et al. (2020) Afro-alpine flagships revisited: Parallel adaptation, intermountain admixture and shallow genetic structuring in the giant senecios (Dendrosenecio). PLoS ONE 15(3): e0228979.
  17. Gaullier G, Roberts G, Muthurajan UM, Bowerman S, Rudolph J, Mahadevan J, et al. (2020) Bridging of nucleosome-proximal DNA double-strand breaks by PARP2 enhances its interaction with HPF1. PLoS ONE 15(11): e0240932.
  18. Simon MH, Muschitiello F, Tisserand AA, Olsen A, Moros M, Perner K, et al. (2020) A multi-decadal record of oceanographic changes of the past ~165 years (1850-2015 AD) from Northwest of Iceland. PLoS ONE 15(9): e0239373.
  19. Duncan EM, Davies A, Brooks A, Chowdhury GW, Godley BJ, Jambeck J, et al. (2020) Message in a bottle: Open source technology to track the movement of plastic pollution. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0242459.
  20. Zikmundová E, Zikmund T, Sládek V, Kaiser J (2020) Non-destructive lock-picking of a historical treasure chest by means of X-ray computed tomography. PLoS ONE 15(7): e0235316

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