To say that 2020 was challenging is an understatement. A world laid low by a pandemic. Racial inequities laid bare through social protests. Regions laid waste in the wake of extreme natural disasters. Yet science often rose to tackle these challenges.

We started the year knowing next to nothing about the novel coronavirus. Huge questions remain, but thanks in part to extraordinary efforts to develop vaccines that appear effective, we enter 2021 with glimmers of hope.

Hope is also emerging from a gut-wrenching reckoning with racial inequities, sparked by police killings of unarmed Black men and women in the United States. Through #BlackInSTEM and similar social movements, scientists are using their voices to shine light on a lack of diversity in their fields and to drive change.

It is harder to find any positive angles to 2020’s record-breaking fires, hurricanes and extreme Arctic heat. Yet science played a role here, too, helping us see the connections between our actions and our changing world.

In this year-end issue, we at Science News also felt the need to spark some joy and spotlight the thrill of discovery, whether it’s finding the edge of the Milky Way or the fossil of the oldest known modern bird, delightfully dubbed “Wonderchicken”. — Macon Morehouse, News Director