More On AGU’s Data Policy

There’s a new Eos article that was just published this week about AGU’s Data Policy. It can be found here:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eost.v95.37/issuetoc?campaign=woletoc

Written by Brooks Hanson, the Director of Publications at AGU HQ, and Rob van der Hilst, the chair of the AGU Publications Committee, it gives historical context and broader perspective on why AGU is now enforcing this policy with every manuscript that is submitted to any of its journals. I highly encourage everyone to read it.

To very quickly summarize, the reason behind the policy is reproducibility of the results and veracity of the scientific findings. I agree with the Data Policy and think that it is a worthwhile goal for which all of us should strive.

In addition, the article serves as an open call for research community members to participate in an upcoming conference on data availability and archiving. This meeting is in early October, just a few weeks away, so if you have interest in being part of this discussion, then please contact Brooks or Rob immediately.

Observational data in the field of space physics is usually available at the Coordinated Data Analysis Website, Planetary Data System, one of the World Data Centers, or a mission-specific or an instrument-specific website. These are all legitimate locations to which you can direct readers to find the data used in your study. If it is from a smaller experiment, such as a rocket or balloon flight, a short-lived field campaign, or laboratory data, then the observations used in the manuscript should be made available by the authors at a personal website, an institutional server, or even as an electronic supplement to the paper.

Numerical data is very similar to the latter case above: unless it is a CCMC simulation and the results are available through their run output repository, then the authors need to make available any code results that were used for any plot or value in the paper. Again, this can be made available at a personal website, an institutional server, or as electronic supplements to the manuscript.

The Eos article includes a couple of paragraphs about the Data Policy requirement of the availability of computer codes. If commercial software was used, then simply stating the names of those packages is sufficient. If code was written to process data or solve equations, though, the ideal would be to have all of this be open source code so others can error check the code and ensure the correctness of the calculation. Making code available is the goal, but AGU is also giving each journal editorial board discretion to implement this policy specifically for their field. The editors of JGR Space Physics would like to have all codes be open source and available, but we realize the code is your intellectual property and so we are not requiring this availability as a stipulation of publication. The output from the model, however, is “numerical data” and needs to be available for others to download (from somewhere) and examine. When you submit a paper to JGR Space Physics, you will be asked to provide a statement about the availability of modeled data as well as instrumental data.

For more on this topic, the Data Policy can be found here and I have written a couple of other posts about the policy, when it first became enforced and later to help clarify the model availability issue.

Why Reject At All?

One of the biggest categories for complaints to me regarding manuscripts is when I decide to reject a manuscript. Some authors accept the decision and move on with one of the options discussed in my previous post. Others, however, feel the need to argue their case with me and try to get the decision reversed.

First of all, please feel free to email me. I like to hear from you, even when it is a complaint about my decision. I think that, in nearly all cases, more communication is better than less, and an occasional email exchange about a paper is part of the job.

That said, the question is still out there: why reject at all? Why not always send it back as a major revision, and if it can’t be revised in the 2-month turnaround time, then it should be withdrawn and resubmitted when ready. Authors know how much time it will take to make the revision, so why should I prejudge this for them?

To continue the theme with another reason to opt for “rejection” rather than “major revision”: I reject papers because multiple major revisions could lead to very misleading “initial submission date” for the paper. That is, people could submit half-baked and incomplete papers just to get that date locked in, and then follow up with revision upon revision until it is finally acceptable. I really do not want that to be the case at JGR Space Physics.

There is an implicit understanding between author and editor at the time of submission. Authors are expected to be submitting a manuscript worthy of consideration for publication in the journal, and editors are then expected to give that manuscript full consideration for publication. If a paper is deemed to need serious work to be worthy of publication, then it wasn’t really ready for submission. The initial submission date, therefore, is not a true measure of when it was submitted as a manuscript worthy of full consideration for publication.

Thus, I reject some papers, as do the other editors. Note that as an author, I try and sometimes fail at meeting this implicit understanding. I was recently second author on a paper that was rejected (yes, this calendar year, with a member of “my” editorial board making this decision). After rereading the manuscript, though, I realized that it did not reflect the elements of a great paper, and contained too much extraneous information and was not focused on the original contribution to the field. I include this story to come to this: please don’t take it personally when your paper is rejected. Anyone can have his or her paper rejected. The editors are being as careful, thoughtful, objective, and unbiased as possible in their decision-making process.

Revision Versus Rejection

            When deciding about a manuscript (accept, revise, or reject), I have two levels of revision: minor and major. The language and tone of the two letters is slightly different, but functionally for the author and for the GEMS system, there is really only one difference: the turnaround time. For a minor revision, the authors are given one month, and for a major revision, the window is two months. There are some papers that I reject because I think the paper is clearly not ready for the journal, but there are other times when I have to make a judgment call. Do I think the authors can do this work in two months? If my answer is no, then I will often reject the paper instead of giving them a major revision decision.

            That said, authors know best how much time they need to revise a paper. If it takes more than 2 months, then they will withdraw the manuscript and resubmit it when it is ready. If it takes them less time, then it was appropriate to give them the major revision decision and keep the original manuscript number and initial submission date. So, why even reject papers at all? Why not just let authors decide?

            It’s a fair question and one with which I struggle regularly. So far, I am often deciding in favor of a major revision rather than reject, therefore letting the author “self-reject” if the changes cannot be made in the turnaround window provided.

            There is a big and fundamental difference, however, in the decision for major revision and rejection. If it is only a major revision, then there is still a connection of this manuscript with JGR Space Physics and there is an implicit obligation for the author to resubmit it to JGR Space Physics when it is ready. That is, even when the decision has been made and the email sent, the decision of major revision means that it is still in the review process with JGR Space Physics, just with the author rather than with the referees or the editor.

            Rejecting the paper frees the author to go elsewhere with the manuscript. The authors could then resubmit immediately to another journal, revise it to whatever level they see fit and submit it to another journal, or make the revisions in the decision letter and compile replies to the reviewers and resubmit it to JGR Space Physics. We hope that authors choose the third of these options, but with a rejection, they can choose either of the other two options.

            Therefore, sometimes I reject papers based on the reviews. It’s a necessary and useful tool for both editors and authors.

Elements of a Great Paper

            To continue the thread of why I took this job, another reason for me is to help shepherd the community to write great papers. This is mainly done by guiding referees to do a more thorough job at reviewing manuscripts, scrutinizing every aspect of it to make sure the study is conducted and presented as optimally as possible. This direction to the referees, however, can be treated as advice to authors.

            The introduction should weave a story of previous studies on the chosen topic to build to the climax of the thesis statement: the unresolved question that still needs to be addressed. It should include citations and discussion of all relevant papers, including those very recently published to show the continued need for another investigation in this area. However, it should not drift beyond the those absolutely necessary to make the point, and should not include an exhaustive listing of papers in tangential or indirectly related fields. The introduction should be focused and make the case that the question is worthy of attention.

            The methodology section needs to describe the experimental set up at a level so that others can repeat the analysis. By experiment, I mean the describing the observations and the sensors used to make those observations and/or the numerical model and the run configurations used for the simulations. It is perfectly acceptable to make this section very short, as long sufficient citations are included of previous papers that give the full details of the technique. Quotations of previous papers are also legitimate, especially in this section. If the set up is new or the analysis method has changed, then the section needs to be longer to fully describe what is new in this methodology. For observations, it should be demonstrated that the sensor is properly calibrated and the measurements are reliable. For simulations, it should be shown that the model has been verified against analytical solutions with grid convergence tests and conservation checks.

            The results section should objectively present the data and describe the main features of interest in the plots or tables. For this section in particular, it is vital to judge the manuscript against the criterion of “only what’s needed to make the point.” It is easy for authors to include far more information than is necessary to address the problem. On the other hand, enough content should be given to convincingly support the eventual findings of the study.

            Next comes the discussion section. Sometimes this is intermixed with the presentation of the results and other times it is intermixed with the conclusions and summary of the study; that’s the author’s choice in how they structure it. This section should bridge the gap from the objective presentation of the results to the conclusion addressing the question posed at the end of the introduction. It should make the case that the findings are an original and significant contribution to the field. It should mention and address any substantial caveats to the study and note any limitations to the applicability of the conclusions.

            Some papers will have a final conclusions or summary section. I personally like this as a stand-alone section to the manuscript so that readers can quickly skip to the main findings of the study. It should repeat what has already been stated earlier in the paper and not include any new analysis points.

            There are a few other considerations to ensure a great paper. One is that the title should be an appropriate distillation of the main focus of the study. It shouldn’t contain many, if any, acronyms, and should focus on the scientific discovery rather than the methodology used to make the advancement. The abstract should be a concise yet complete summary of the study that explains not only the finding but also the reasoning behind its significance. Tables and figures should be readable, understandable, and adequately and objectively described in the captions. The prose should be publication quality and not need extensive corrective proof-reading.

            In short, a great paper contains, in an easily readable and understandable presentation, all that is necessary to convey the significance of the findings…and nothing else.  I hope that referees heed this direction and write reviews with this in mind.

 

Why Do This Job?

            Most people are supportive of the position of journal editor, but occasionally I get asked the question, “Why did you take on this job?” It’s a very good question, because the job takes a lot of time away from doing other things in my life. In addition, I am “the obstacle,” the roadblock to the smooth and timely publication of your paper. Who wants that job?! It’s a universal assumption that authors think their manuscript is worthy of acceptance without revision, and I, with the help of the solicited referees, am the gatekeeper deciding that it needs more modifications. Or worse, deciding that the modifications are too great and therefore I reject that version of the manuscript.

            So, why did I agree? One big reason is that I know people who are/were getting frustrated with JGR-Space Physics and I thought up some ways to alleviate that angst. That is, I was (and still am) concerned about the prestige of the journal and wanted to do what I can to keep it a premiere publication. This concern is not really about the standing of JGR relative to other space physics journals; it is about the journal’s stature beyond our field and a perception about space physics as a discipline. I did not want to see its reputation slip and be a reflection on our entire field.

            To address this looming “stature gap” relative to other fields, I first had to understand the irritation with JGR. Some of it had to do with the immediate issue of production snafus with the transition to Wiley. For others, it was dissatisfaction with the editorial system and process. For some, it was a very specific affront and they refused to publish in JGR anymore. Many of these personal disappointments had taken place years ago, yet they still held it against the journal.

            For a portion of these issues and concerns, the answer was already in place but the community didn’t know about it yet. I wanted to increase communication from the editorial board to the space physicists we serve, removing the opaque barrier of secrecy to our work and helping the community understand what we do. I think that people are reasonable and if they become familiar with the editorial process, then they will better comprehend our decisions.

            For other problems that people have with the journal, I wanted to open up a conversation with the community so that these issues can be identified and addressed. Again, this blog is helping with that, but I would also like people to feel comfortable directly emailing me with a question or comment about how JGR works. The more information you have about the process, the better. Ignorance is a huge driver of fear and frustration, and so the more that I can communicate with you to let you know what we do as editors, what AGU staff do to process manuscripts, and what Wiley staff do to convert the accepted manuscript into a published paper, the better.

            Note that being open about the process does not mean being easy on the manuscripts. I and the other editors will still demand revisions and occasionally reject papers. The bar for publication is still high and papers must make a significant original contribution to our knowledge of space physics in order to be published in the journal. That said, if you have any questions about why, then please just ask.

New Space Weather EiC

            As it was just announced in the SPA newsletter, please join me in congratulating Delores Knipp to the editorial helm at Space Weather! It’s been a six-month process, but the decision has been made that she will be the new Editor-in-Chief of this journal and its print version counterpart, Space Weather Quarterly.

            Dr. Knipp, a Research Professor in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, is in the midst of transitioning into this new role and will officially take over from the outgoing EiC, Lou Lanzerotti, in October. I look forward to working with Delores as part of the AGU journal EiC crew as well as through our inter-journal communication between JGR Space Physics and Space Weather.

            I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lou for his decade-plus history of service to the space physics community as the inaugural editor of this journal. I agree with Jim Klimchuk in his newsletter post, “It is largely because of Lou’s incredible dedication, energy, and wisdom that Space Weather and the Quarterly are the premier publications that they are today.” Congratulations, Lou, on a successful and prosperous tenure as EiC!

            Finally, I’d like to add a manuscript submission comment to this post. JGR Space Physics and Space Weather are closely-related journals and authors sometimes have a difficult time determining to which of these journals a particular manuscript should be submitted. Overlap between these journals can be minimized by clarifying the scope of the two journals: JGR Space Physics is the place for advancements in our knowledge of space science, i.e., of the processes controlling how rarefied neutral and charged particles move and their relationship with electric and magnetic fields throughout the solar system. Space Weather focuses on the application of this understanding toward an advancement of knowledge on the issue of space environment effects on technological or biological systems. It connects the space research community with engineering and operations groups working in fields that are affected by those rarified neutral and charged particle populations and/or electric and magnetic fields in outer space. We occasionally reject manuscripts based on this delineation of scope, encouraging the authors to resubmit the paper to the other journal. On this note, an upgrade in the works for the GEMS system will allow us to shift such submissions directly to another AGU journal (with the permission of the author), rather than requiring the author to resubmit from the beginning at the GEMS site for that other journal.

Most Used Index Terms

            Here are some factoids for the day about AGU Index Terms selected for manuscripts submitted JGR-Space Physics.

            The most-used AGU index term for JGR-Space Physics papers among those submitted between January 1 and mid-July: 2784, Solar wind/magnetosphere interactions. This is not surprising to me. It is such a general term that many papers across the space physics subfields fit into this category, and a quick scan of papers using this term reveals this to be the case. Because solar activity drives disturbances in planetary space environments, just about any paper from any subfield of space physics can include this index term in its list.

            The next two most commonly selected AGU Index Terms are both magnetospheric topics: 2774, Radiation belts; and 2730, Magnetosphere: inner. This is probably a result of the Van Allen Probes being in its prime mission phase right now. In addition, we just opened a special collection for Van Allen Probes data analysis studies (see the JGR Space Physics Call for Papers).

            Next on the list are three ionospheric physics terms, right in a row: 2437, Ionospheric dynamics; 2439, Ionospheric irregularities; and 2415, Equatorial ionosphere. It looks like, so far, the ionosphere is outpacing the thermosphere as a topic of newly submitted manuscripts to JGR-Space Physics.

            Not much farther down the list are the top three most-used terms related to solar-heliospheric physics: 2164, Solar wind plasma; 2114, Energetic particles; and 2101, Coronal mass ejections. The breakdown of SH manuscripts submitted so far this year is slightly in favor of heliospheric propagation over solar and coronal origins of these phenomena, but not by much.

            In the new AGU-Wiley website and format for journal articles, the Index Terms now appear in pop-out window for the “Information” button on the left. These are clickable links that launch an EASI database search for similar papers. Sometimes this can be a little overwhelming, finding hundreds or thousands of papers, but you can sort the search results by “Best Match” or “Date” and hopefully find some additional papers of relevance to you.

            It’s interesting to note that we’ve had over 600 new manuscript submissions so far this year. Even though authors can select up to five AGU Index Terms for a paper (and most select 3 to 5), none of the terms had been used more than 100 times. This is lower than I thought the max would be, but it can be explained by the fact that we have used 296 distinct index terms so far (well, as of mid-July, when we had our editorial board meeting), with nearly 100 being used only once. We are a diverse group!

Fast Turnaround at Wiley

            I wasn’t editor during the conversion to Wiley as the publisher of AGU journals, but I am told that there was some roughness in the transition. Specifically, the stories I have heard could be summed up with the assessment that the project to port all of AGU’s journal content to Wiley’s servers and format took more resources than expected. I have heard four main complaints about this transition: some things took a while to become available at the Wiley site, there were issues and concerns about format and ease of use, and, of particular grievance to authors, errors in the conversion to production format and delays in getting papers through the publication process from acceptance to “print.”

            AGU and Wiley have been working closely together on the first two points, with regular releases of new websites for AGU journals (the latest just a couple weeks ago). I hope that you like the website format. They will keep tweaking it and, in fact, plan yet another website upgrade in the fall. If you have comments and suggestions, then please send them on and your ideas will be considered for subsequent releases.

            As for the third point, I hope that it is better. I will have another post on this process in the near future.

            This post is really about the fourth point: the timeliness of acceptance-to-publication. Look at this chart, which was shown to us at our recent editorial board meeting:

Acceptance-to-publish 2014 Q2

The x axis is the time it takes for a paper to go through the publication process from acceptance to early view “print” online at the Wiley site (binned by week), and the y axis is a histogram of paper counts (normalized to the peak value). The six rows of plots are for each month in the first half of 2014. All AGU journals are included in this chart. As you can see, the median time it takes to process a paper and get it moved from “in press” to “in print” was about a month at the beginning of the year and is now shifted to something under 3 weeks. I am told that the median time from acceptance to print actually exceeded 8 weeks for a while in 2013. Therefore, these are amazing histograms showing an outstanding improvement in workflow at Wiley.

            Both with AGU and with other journals and publishers, I have had papers sit at the “in press” stage for months. Wiley is working very hard to get this turnaround time as short as possible, and their efforts are paying off. Yes, there is a long tail, as there will always be a few papers that need extra processing and extra time at this stage. Overall, though, papers are processed rather quickly now. Wiley has been very responsive in listening to our complaints and making the process and product acceptable to the AGU research community.

 

 

New Web Pages for AGU Journals at Wiley

Brooks Hanson wrote a piece in Eos recently about the new web pages for all AGU journals, which are now up and running at Wiley. The Eos article can be found here:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014EO310012/abstract

The general layout is very similar to what has been there since early this year (discussed here). There are new mouseover popups and automatic resizing features that didn’t exist before, and more content as well, including a longer archive of past issues and electronic access to AGU book content (new “Books” tab at the top).

Note that the site address changed. The new address for JGR-Space Physics is here:

http://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/agu/jgr/journal/10.1002/%28ISSN%292169-9402/

If you had the recent site bookmarked, that link is now broken. Please update it to this new URL.

We heard a lot at our recent editorial board meeting about how AGU and Wiley continue to work on developing the website. Like this new version just a few months after the last one, there will be new website releases every few months for the near future. I think one of the next big things is to update the paper search part of the site. If you have suggestions about how to improve the site, then please voice it, directly to Brooks Hanson (his email is at the end of the Eos article) or through me and I’ll pass it on.

New AGU Journal Launched

It’s official, Earth and Space Sciences is the newest AGU journal. The page at the AGU site describing it is here (click on the logo swoosh):

ESS_olbannerright

and my earlier posts about it are here and here.

John Orcutt is the inaugural editor of the journal, a well-respected physical oceanographer with a long history of scientific publishing. I wish him the best in this endeavor.

He has a challenging yet interesting job ahead of him. This journal covers the entire breadth of topics across the scope of AGU, much like GRL. Because it is just starting, though, he is the only editor for now. Once it gains traction and builds a robust submission rate, more editors in other specialties will be added to the team. It will include both research articles and papers detailing the availability of and methodology behind relevant data sets, field observations, numerical models, and laboratory techniques. That is, the scope of ESS is actually broader than just JGR or GRL.

While I think that JGR-Space Physics is still the place to go with your most significant contributions to the field, Earth and Space Science is another option for you to consider. This is especially true if you think that the work has implications or applications beyond space physics. In addition, it is an entirely Open Access publication. While the pub fee, set at $1800, is higher than the nominal fee of $1000 for JGR, it is half the cost for full Open Access in JGR. Even better, all fees are waived for submissions to ESS through 19 December 2014 (the end of week of the Fall AGU Meeting). So, this might also be factor in deciding to publish in ESS.

I didn’t see a place to sign up for table of content alerts, but perhaps that is premature, as they are just now accepting manuscript submissions. We should see the first issue in a few months.

In support of this new journal launch, I am tasking myself with submitting a manuscript to Earth and Space Science within the next 12 months. Hopefully I can make it by the free publication cutoff late this year.