I’m Glad I Wrote This Blog

This is my last day as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, and so the last day of me writing this blog on being EiC of this journal. This is also post #300; I made it to this conveniently round yet arbitrary number of articles on this site. Over my six years in this role, that’s just about one post per week, which is what I was hoping for when I started it. So, yay for me, I maintained my average and achieved my goal. I occasionally took a month off (often January) or, once, even longer, but as this is an extra thing that I tacked on to my EiC duties, I promised myself to never apologize for taking a break from it. I didn’t then and I still won’t.

Overall, writing this blog has been a very positive experience for me. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly supportive and so I kept it going. In thinking back, I only received one complaint, just after my first SPA newsletter announcement about the existence of this blog. The person lamented that I was creating starting yet another place for announcements to the community and that I should instead just go through the normal channel of the SPA newsletter. This person failed to see the irony of their comment – they only knew about my blog because I submitted a “blog highlights” announcement to the SPA newsletter! This person has not been a corresponding author on any manuscripts in the journal throughout my term as EiC, though, so perhaps my blog is not for them.

I knew that it would not be for everyone. It is for those that want to know the latest on publication policy and common practices. Those that really want to see the posts as they appear have subscribed to new content alerts (there are about 60 of you) and the rest of the community is reminded of this blog’s existence with my monthly SPA newsletter blurbs. That’s worked out pretty well, accumulating just over 122,000 page views. That’s ~1700 views per month over the 6-year timeline, which I’ll take as a big win for increased communication and transparency.

Those were my main reasons for starting this blog and writing all of the posts – communication and transparency.  I had ~90 posts that first year, having a lot of topics regarding AGU publications about which the community was inquiring and that I was discovering through my insider EiC role. Since then, I have averaged ~40 each year, enough to keep your attention (I hope) without boring you with minutiae (I hope). Like a journal article, a blog can also have a least publishable unit. I wanted to stay above that threshold and so I just didn’t post anything when I didn’t have something I deemed important enough to write about. Three hundred posts at ~500 words each is a book, and I might convert these posts into a bound volume in 2020.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all of you that have written or talked to me over the years offering suggestions and ideas for blog posts. This has been a tremendous help for gauging relevance in what to write about here. Some of these suggestions turned into discussions with AGU HQ staff, advocating for changes in publication policy. I am particularly proud of the role that the space physics community played in removing preprint servers as dual publication, as documented in a series of posts in late 2014. You not only changed the policy but AGU has fully embraced preprint servers as a means of increased scientific communication, to the point that it spearheaded the creation of ESSOAr, a preprint server just for our field.

I occasionally went off of the topic of publication policy and journal news. This usually was to voice my support for combating sexism and other bias in the scientific workplace. I think my first post on this was my November 2014 recap of Dana Hurley’s Eos article, Women Count. I’d say that this culminated in my June 2016 post about my grad student and sexist microaggressions, with several others that same summer on the topic. I’ve continued this theme ever since, with occasional posts on how diverse teams lead to better solutions to science problems (race, gender, nationality…the more diversity the better) and how we should fight bias in our interactions with each other, including some on being cordial and gender neutral in our publication-related correspondence. So, yes, I tied it back to publications, a bit. As long as I had this platform to the community, I wanted to use it for a cause I feel passionately about and wanted to promote. Thanks, Dana, for your Eos article that spurred me towards this series of posts.

Oh, another thing to say to everyone: don’t choose the outgoing editors when submitting a manuscript to JGR Space Physics. Today is my last day as EiC, but I will still be listed as an editor while the papers that I assigned to myself make their way towards final accept-or-reject decisions. Starting tomorrow, though, when Michael Balikhin is EiC, he will only have 3 editors to whom he can assign new manuscripts: Viviane Pierrard, Natalia Ganushkina, and himself. The other 4 editors – Yuming Wang, Larry Kepko, Alan Rodger, and me – will no longer be taking new manuscript assignments. Because we will still be editors for a few more months, our names will still appear in the list under the “select your editor preference” pull-down menu in GEMS. Please, don’t bother picking us, as Dr. Balikhin will not be assigning any new papers to us.

Which reminds me: the search for new editors for JGR Space Physics is still accepting applications. There are several positions open, Dr. Balikhin expects to appoint two to four new editors. I have heard that there are several applications are already submitted but the mid-January deadline has not yet passed. It is a large service role but, I think, worth the time commitment. Please consider it as a way to give back to the space physics community.

Thanks for letting me ramble on here. I am glad that I did this blog.


I’ll have at least one more Editors’ Vox article, my thank you to everyone as I pass the mantle to Dr. Balikhin, and maybe another Editor’s Highlight or two from the remaining manuscript assignments in my GEMS workflow. Also, I plan to start a new blog with my large service role that I have taken on here at U-M – heading up the University of Michigan Space Institute. I hope to be doing regular blog posts there, starting in January.

Work hard and be nice! Cheers.


AGU is Changing to eLocators

I mentioned this in a side comment in an earlier post this month and since then I have been waiting for an official announcement from AGU making this public knowledge, which I have not seen yet. As my time as EiC is about to end, I’m using my penultimate post to let you know what the editors know: AGU will shift away from issue-based pagination to eLocators for all of its journals, starting in January 2020. If I see an announcement from AGU HQ about this (probably in an Eos article, maybe as AGU news or a From the Prow or Editors’ Vox post), I’ll include the link in the comments below.


While I am old-fashioned enough to like issue-based page numbers, I think that this is a really good move. The biggest reason for me: you will know your exact reference listing the moment that the paper is accepted, because the eLocator is based on the GEMS manuscript number, just like the eventual DOI.

We were told that the exact format of the eLocator will be this: a lowercase “e” followed by the last 5 digits of the manuscript number. So, for my grad student’s recent paper, the manuscript number of 2019JA026636 becomes an eLocator of “e26636” and a digital object identifier of https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA026636. The only confusion is that most AGU journals have 6 digits after the two-letter journal designation, so you will have to drop the leading zero (or one, as GRL is about to roll over into that sixth digit). There is also the yearly rollover, if your paper is accepted in November or December that the publication year could be the following year, but there is no way around that. Overall, though, I think it will mean less citation errors because this eLocator is much simpler than a seemingly arbitrarily assigned page number range.

Like I said, I think that this is a good thing. It definitely means less work for Wiley, so issues will most likely appear online earlier in the month. Right now, an issue of JGR Space Physics usually appears in the third week of the month, sometimes even the fourth (for example, the November 2019 issue of JGR Space Physics was posted on December 26). We have relatively large issues (50-70 papers a month), and the issue-based pagination took time to do and then double check. No more! While there will still be pagination within the PDF version of each paper, it starts at one for every article, so it doesn’t matter if the final published version of a paper has ten or eleven pages, this uncertainty will not influence the pagination for the rest of the papers in the same issue. That November 2019 issue, by the way, goes from pages 8173 to 9754, over 1500 pages that the production staff had to make sure was properly formatted and paginated from beginning to end before it was released. JGR Space Physics will once again go over 10,000 pages (and probably over 700 papers).

I really hope that this change leads to issues being officially released earlier in the month, and also to better citation accuracy for papers in AGU journals. I am looking forward to it. I hope that you like it too.


My Top Posts of All Time

It is almost the end of December, when the mantle will be passed to the incoming Editor of Chief of JGR Space Physics, Michael Balikhin. This blog will end soon. So, it is time for a little nostalgia. One of the features of WordPress is that it collects page view statistics. Overall, the total page view count is over 120,000, for an average of something like 56 page views per day, which seems like a pretty good number over and 6-year run of this site. Thank you for reading.

It also tells me the page view stats on each post. The lowest count is 14, for some of my latest ones. For others, the count is over 1000 views. Here’s the list:


            Yes, my two posts on deciphering the manuscript status tables in GEMS have tallied the most hits, over ten thousand each. There is a serious demand for understanding those tables, probably well beyond the space physics research community. Similarly, the next one on the list is my post about Publication Units. Again, this is an AGU-wide policy and people submitting to any AGU journal need to know about calculating Pub Units.

The fourth entry on the list a curious one to me, on acronyms in titles. Over 4000 views. Hmm. I guess people are interested in acronym usage. This goes with entry #13 (the last on this list of post with > 1000 views), on scientific presentations. It is good to be clear in our correspondence with each other.

There are several on this list about the Journal Impact Factor, including two posts on this from 2014, another one from 2016, and my JIF score post in mid 2017 . That’s a lot of top-viewed articles about this one topic. We like journal metrics.

Number #6 on the list is about AGU’s manuscript templates.  Note that the specific Word and LaTeX template links in there are now old; the better page to bookmark is this one, which is updated with links to the latest templates. If you notice issues with these templates, please email AGU pubs staff and let them know. These templates are regularly updated, both as the AGU publication style changes and as corrections are pointed out.

In late 2014, I had a whole series of posts on revision, rejection, and the editorial decision-making process. Entry #9 is the first of these posts, and apparently the most-read of them.

Which brings me to #10, my rather long post about my PhD student leaving space physics, including some advice on combating microaggressions. I especially love the comments that people wrote on this post (scroll down on that linked page), and I have written several other times about sexism, racism, and the need for diversity and inclusion in the space physics workplace (see the pingback links on that page).

Only one more to talk about, and that was about AGU’s data policy. This policy has slowly evolved throughout my term as EiC, or more precisely, as enforcement of this policy has evolved and become stricter. My most recent post on this was in August of this year.

I could keep going, but the 1000 views mark seems like a nice (yet arbitrary) cutoff for this list.

The Top 10 Most-Cited Papers Published During my EiC Term

I like that my institution has a subscription to the Clarivate Analytics Web of Science. It allows me to quickly obtain paper count and citation stats. One of the things I can do is a search with “Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics” as the “Publication Name” and enter a year range to find the paper count and citation count. If I use the range 2014 – 2019, this covers my full term as EiC of the journal. It looks like the collection already includes the “early view” papers online in December 2019, so it is about as up-to-date as it can possibly get.

Some quick facts that I learn:

  • There have been 4,509 papers published over these 6 years.
  • There have been 34,519 citations to those papers over those same 6 years.
  • Those citations came from 10,547 articles across all scholarly publications included in the Web of Science listing.
  • 2016 and 2017 were the peak year for papers, with 830 and 832 published articles, respectively. This was the peak of my push for special sections.
  • The average citations per article is 7.7, while the median is 4, indicating (as expected) a highly skewed right-sided tail to the distribution.
  • 651 of these papers have zero citations, mostly those published this year and last
  • Only 14 of the papers published in 2014 (out of 760, so ~2%) still have no citations (including one correction, two replies to comments, and one special section preface).
  • If this 6-year interval of the journal’s existence were a person, it would have an h-index of 47, which is higher than my h-index for my whole career.


Another bit of info this gives me is the list of most-cited papers. Here are the top 10 most-cited papers in JGR Space Physics, published from January 2014 through today:

  1. W. S. Kurth et al., Electron densities inferred from plasma wave spectra obtained by the Waves instrument on Van Allen Probes, Feb 2015, with 177 citations
  2. E. Astafyeva et al., Ionospheric response to the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day storm: A global multi-instrumental overview, Oct 2015, with 126 citations
  3. W. Li et al., Radiation belt electron acceleration by chorus waves during the 17 March 2013 storm, Jun 2014, with 108 citations
  4. G. Livadiotis, Introduction to special section on Origins and Properties of Kappa Distributions: Statistical Background and Properties of Kappa Distributions in Space Plasmas, Mar 2015, with 93 citations
  5. L. G. Ozeke et al., Analytic expressions for ULF wave radiation belt radial diffusion coefficients, Mar 2014, also with 93 citations
  6. N. P. Meredith et al., Global morphology and spectral properties of EMIC waves derived from CRRES observations, Jul 2014, with 91 citations
  7. S. A. Glauert et al., Three-dimensional electron radiation belt simulations using the BAS Radiation Belt Model with new diffusion models for chorus, plasmaspheric hiss, and lightning-generated whistlers, Jan 2014, with 88 citations
  8. A. A. Saikin et al., The occurrence and wave properties of H+-, He+-, and O+-band EMIC waves observed by the Van Allen Probes, Sep 2015, with 85 citations
  9. A. N. Jaynes et al., Source and seed populations for relativistic electrons: Their roles in radiation belt changes, Sep 2015, with 84 citations
  10. C. Gabrielse et al., Statistical characteristics of particle injections throughout the equatorial magnetotail, Apr 2014, with 83 citations

The plasmasphere is in pole position. People love to know plasma density. Nicely done, Bill! I see an ionospheric paper in the #2 spot, one that conducted a sweeping analysis of many data sets for one of the most famous storms of solar cycle 24. Way to go, Elvira! I see a lot of inner magnetosphere papers, which is not a surprise given that the Van Allen Probes mission produced an excellent data set, with its prime mission phase still in full swing right at the beginning of my EiC term. Also, it is not surprising that all of these most-cited papers come from 2014 and 2015; these years have had the most time to accumulate citations.

The big surprise, at least to me, is the Introduction paper to the kappa distribution special section in the #4 slot. This article is more like a review than a preface, but still, I am very impressed at its inclusion in this list. It has broad appeal, though, spanning topics from the solar corona to planetary ionospheres, and it appears that people are citing it as a standard reference for this topic from all space physics fields. Fantastic, George!

Also, among those older papers without a citation yet, I don’t see (qualitatively) any particular trend in topic. There are papers from nearly every topic within the journal scope, including quite a few inner magnetosphere studies. Their dominance in the top-10 most cited list is not a guarantee that a paper on this topic will “do well” with respect to this measure of impact. Likewise, omission from this top-10 list does not mean that your favorite topic performs systematically less well than others. And, of course, citation count is not the full measure of impact for a scholarly work.

Keep up the good work, space physicists!

ESSOAr Transfer for All AGU Journals

Back in June, JGR Space Physics became one of the journals to pilot a one-click transfer within GEMS to have your new submission simultaneously posted on ESSOAr, the Earth and Space Science Open Archive. This pilot program has been deemed a success, with 30% of authors opting to post their new submission at ESSOAr. AGU is now expanding this option to be available for all 22 of its journals. Here’s a fun graphic I made with the journals to which a space physicist might submit a manuscript.


I highly encourage you to click this little button the next time that you are submitting to an AGU journal. Also, I highly encourage you to sign up for regular content alerts from ESSOAr, which will allow you to see the latest from your colleagues, even before it is officially published.

Preprint servers have benefits for scientific advancement, but remember the warnings about them, too. The biggest warning is that preprint servers are not a replacement for peer-reviewed journals because anything can be posted there. Well, not quite anything, there is an advisory board that does a light screening for topic-appropriate content, but this group does not rigorously examine the study. That’s the job of the journal editor and the reviewers who provide assessments of the work. While the preprint server can help speed up the flow of scientific discovery, it cannot replace the vetting done by a reputable peer-reviewed journal. In general, do not cite an older preprint at such a server (say, more than a year old), but instead cite the accepted and published version of that work once it makes it into a journal. If it does not have a published companion version in a peer-reviewed journal within a year of posting on a preprint server, then please ignore that preprint.

That is, using preprint servers requires community buy-in to the concept that such papers are not “real” papers yet, but only “extra-early view” versions of a work that might change significantly before reaching the version of record in a peer-reviewed journal. In fact, it might never reach that level. Preprint servers issue a DOI to every approved submission, so they become “permanently” accessible on the web, but we have to know that old preprints without a version in a peer-reviewed journal should be ignored.

That said, I think that they provide a net benefit to the community. I hope that you do, too.