Sticking to our mission: covering science writ large

A magazine cover featuring scientists on an expedition to the Arctic may seem like an odd choice when the world is in the throes of a pandemic. But while we all struggle to adapt to a frightening new reality, here at Science News we’re continuing our mission to report on news across the sciences.

The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has suddenly overturned every corner of life. Our staff has decamped from our office to work from home, in an effort to practice social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus. Schools are closed; like so many people across the country, we’re juggling child care, work and worry. We’re scanning the internet for the latest news. And we’re wondering what will happen next.

The pandemic has prompted huge changes in our newsroom, with almost everyone involved in some way. We’ve launched new ways to deliver the news, including our twice-weekly Coronavirus Update e-mail newsletter and home-learning resources at Science News for Students. We feel fortunate to have the scientific training and experience to be able to report accurately on the fast-moving science of the virus and efforts to tame it. Every day brings new research findings that add another piece to the puzzle and help counter an online miasma of misinformation. Often, we have to say that the science is unclear. But even knowing that helps as we all learn together.  

While we’re working flat out to cover the pandemic, we’re also continuing to cover other developments in the sciences. It might not seem important right now to find out what astronomers are wondering about the sudden dimming of the star Betelgeuse, or about an artificial intelligence system that detects odors by mimicking how mammals smell, but science continues. And we all need to be able to take a break from pandemic news — a brief reminder of a wider world, and a respite.

But the new coronavirus manages to elbow its way into topics that seem very far removed. The two features in this issue, one on the MOSAiC expedition to the Arctic and another on experiments to design playgrounds that encourage physical activity, didn’t escape the virus’s ghostly touch. One participant on the airborne part of the MOSAiC expedition was infected with the coronavirus, forcing the cancellation of research flights, and some areas have asked that children avoid play equipment in order to reduce transmission. It turns out that while children and teenagers are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, they can easily spread the virus to others.

For the latest news on the science of the coronavirus outbreak, plus news on physics, astronomy, climate change, artificial intelligence, paleontology and other fields of science, visit E-mail us questions at As the pandemic continues, we will answer a selection of your questions in our newsletter and on our Feedback page. In this issue, we look at how the coronavirus stacks up against the flu and whether there are really two strains of the coronavirus circulating.

We may no longer be in the office, but we’re still hard at work for you.

Nancy Shute is editor in chief of Science News Media Group. Previously, she was an editor at NPR and US News & World Report, and a contributor to National Geographic and Scientific American. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.