Elections are an essential part of democracy. But they often fall short of the ideals of enabling citizens to hold their governments to account and to bring about peaceful transitions in power. Toby James and Holly Ann Garnett provide an assessment of the quality of national elections around the world from 2012-21, based on nearly 500 elections across 170 countries. Their research found the US to be the lowest ranked liberal democracy on the list. How politicians and political parties receive and spend money was found to be the weakest part of the electoral process in general.

Cytokines are a natural part of your immune system. But an excess of these proteins has been linked to inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as well as the “cytokine storm” thought to precipitate severe disease and death from COVID-19. Their potency also makes them a promising cancer treatment. One particular cytokine, IL-12, had undergone clinical trials in people but was shelved due to severe side effects. Aslan Mansurov and his colleagues found an elegant solution: “mask” the cytokine as it travels through the body, then “unmask” it when it reaches the tumor.

Caroline Southey

Founding Editor

Elections: a global ranking rates US weakest among liberal democracies

Toby James, University of East Anglia; Holly Ann Garnett, Royal Military College of Canada

Misinformation spread by the former president cast doubt on the latest vote.

‘Masked’ cancer drug stealthily trains immune system to kill tumors while sparing healthy tissues, reducing treatment side effects

Aslan Mansurov, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

One promising cancer treatment has been in the works for decades, but severe side effects have kept it out of the clinic. A reengineered version may offer a way to safely harness its potent effects.

Hotter Kalahari desert may stop hornbills breeding by 2027

Nicholas B. Pattinson, University of Cape Town

Without successful breeding, the hornbill population will not survive, and will quickly become locally extinct.