Top researchers of 2021

A vaccine “warrior”, a pioneer of the ethics of artificial intelligence, a weather researcher, a tracker of Covid-19 variants, and the chief coordinator of China’s first successful mission to Mars. These personalities are among Nature’s list of top figures in science in 2021.

Winnie Byanyima, chief of UNAIDS, pushed for vaccine equity long before Covid-19 vaccines were even around, and continues to speak up for a more equal distribution of the shots. “Without political decisions to reduce inequality, we can’t get anywhere,” she says.

After Google fired Timnit Gebru, thousands supported her, highlighting the discrimination at the heart of the tech firm. Soon after, she started her own outfit to study artificial intelligence without the interference of large tech companies.

The article also points out a few trailblazers to look out for in 2022.

Read it here.

A year of failed leaders

Covid-19 has triggered crises in several countries, and events from last year made it clear that governments across the world have failed. In Al Jazeera, Nanjala Nyabola writes about how there was a lack of proper political leadership in 2021, and how “governance guided only by ideology without any concern for moral outcomes is dangerous”.

“Around the world, countries of various political persuasion are making a mockery of the claim that ideology can be an accurate predictor of how a country will perform in the middle of a crisis,” Nyabola writes.

Besides the pandemic, there are several other instances which show “the paucity of moral leadership” in the world today. She points out events such as the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, the attacks on minorities in Myanmar, and the inequity in vaccine distribution even as developed nations stock up on the shots.

Read it here.

Intimidating journalists in Jammu and Kashmir

In 2021, journalists in Jammu and Kashmir faced immense difficulty in reporting events that have not adhered with the administration and police’s narrative. Safina Nabi’s story in Article 14 narrates how one such journalist, Sajad Gul, faced intimidation from the police for reporting both sides of an encounter in which a man from his village was killed.

It went to the extent where his family’s house was searched and the police visited his mother’s home, threatening to arrest him despite not having pressed formal charges, Nabi writes.

His mother has asked him to quit journalism, “look for a government job”, Gul told Article 14. “After all she is a mother, she will remain worried.”

Read it here.

The climate crisis continued

Floods, fires, more record-breaking temperatures, and the United Nations climate summit. Last year was filled with news about the climate crisis.

This piece by Bibi van der Zee in The Guardian encapsulates the biggest climate news from 2021.

While the year began with NASA recording 2020 as the hottest year on record, the remainder of 2021 broke even more temperature records. Even in December, warm winters were being recorded in places such as Canada.

The latter part of the year included much news about the UN’s Cop26 summit, including its disappointing outcome.

With just days to go before Cop26, Australia, one of the countries most notorious for holding out against climate action, published its plan for how it would reduce carbon emissions, but it was called “a scam” containing no detail and no modelling.

Read the full piece here.