The high-profile journal Science has compiled a list of the top breakthroughs of 2011, some of the most major discoveries and and advances across scientific fields. The top breakthrough was research finding that antiretroviral drugs can act not only to treat patients infected with HIV, but also these antiretrovirals significantly reduce the likelihood of transmission of the disease. This is a pretty effing big deal, as HIVand AIDS are tragically rampant in many parts of the world.
One of the runners-up to this breakthrough: "Archaic Humans' DNA lives on." The brief exposé highlights the studies from this year that corroborated the 2010 evidence for Neandertal and "Denisovan" DNA in living people. The exposé concludes with a short and rather out-of-the-blue paragraph about the Australopithecus sediba fossils from Malapa. How about that - anthropological research as a major scientific breakthrough; FL governor Rick Scott certainly didn't see that one coming.
See for yourself:
Anonymous (2011). The Runners-Up Science, 334 (6063), 1629-1635 DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6063.1629