May blogs digest: tobacco use, guiding reviewers, ancestral snakes, and more

Don't worry if you didn’t get a chance to read all of May’s blog posts. Here’s some of the best of what you missed…

How much do you know about tobacco use?

World No Tobacco Day took place on May 31 and we asked leading smoking research expert, Peter Hajek, for his thoughts on smoking cessation and e-cigarettes. We also challenged readers to see how much they knew about tobacco use worldwide with our quiz, as well as featuring guest posts about how smoking could be causing child poverty and the dangers of cigar smoking.

A beginner’s guide to peer review

Scientists don’t usually get any formal training on how to peer review. They have to rely on what they’ve read, observed, and their own experiences of peer reviewers’ comments on their work. So if you’re new to peer review, how do you make decisions about whether or not to peer review an article? And where do you start? Jigisha Patel discussed this in the first of a series of step-by-step guides for the novice peer reviewer.

What needs to be done to improve clinical trials?

To celebrate International Clinical Trials Day on May 21, we asked a European pharmaceutical company, patients involved in research in the USA and Australia, a funder from the United Kingdom, and an Ethiopian trialist what they think will be the single greatest development to help improve clinical trials in the next 5–10 years. Their thoughts are captured in these two posts.

Limbless triumph: The origin and diversification of snakes

Historically, questions about the origins of snakes have been difficult to answer, due in no small part to a lack of informative snake fossils. However, new discoveries and recent research published in BMC Evolutionary Biology  suggests that the original snake ancestor was a nocturnal, stealth-hunting predator that had tiny hind limbs with ankles and toes. The co-authors of the research told us more.

From Britain’s alcohol consumption to fascinating plants

the-bottle-609017_1280-620x342A new approach to measuring alcohol consumption: Research has found that people in England drink more bottles of wine a week than previously thought. Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK, explained why previous research was underestimating the figures.

abacus_MicrosoftAre current scholarly metrics leading us away from research transparency? Is it time for a transparency metric? Scholarly metrics are thriving right now, both in number and what (and how) they measure; there is a real interest in them that is literally buzzing. Senior Research Associate, Larissa Shamseer, put forward her thoughts here.

Vaccine_Flcikr_NIAIDTrials and tribulations for creating HIV vaccines: There is currently no cure for HIV infection making research in this area vital. Results from a Phase II trial, published in Retrovirology, told of promising results for a new vaccine against HIV. Read more from two of the authors in this Q&A.

iphone-620x342Why we should keep an eye on Apple’s ResearchKit: Patients are being recruited for medical studies straight from their phones, and the deluge of information deriving from these studies could be quickly analyzed by the IT giants. But what does this mean for the health care industry? Roberta Cucuzza addressed this question.

civilian-service-63616_640-620x342Dementia – a global epidemic: With 47.5 million people worldwide living with dementia, the disease is fast becoming an epidemic. To mark the occasion of Dementia Awareness Week, Alison Cuff took a look at the dementia clinical trials landscape.

Male and female gender symbolsPodcast: Understanding the links between sex/gender and autism: Autism is much more common in males than females but the reason behind this remain to be understood. Here, Liz Bal spoke to leading researchers about their recent work into understanding the sex/gender differences in autism.

17219979571_b41e438b3d_z-620x342The fascinating plants of BMC Plant Biology: For Fascination of Plants Day on May 18, Catherine Potenski, Editor of BMC Plant Biology, looked at the research showing just how amazing plants can be.

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