AGU’s Renovated Building

The renovation of the AGU building is nearly complete. I’ve written about it before but now the first floor is open and I am here right now for the EiC Meeting. The member lounge just inside the front door is fantastic:


and the meeting space is very nice. This is a net zero energy building, which is very hard to do on a renovation of a downtown building on limited land. They did it, though, with solar panels and a living roof, rain water reclamation and reuse, resuse of much of the removed material, special windows, power, and lighting, a living plant wall on every floor, and, I think best of all, geothermal energy by tapping into the nearby DC sewer line. Yeah, you read that correctly.

The building isn’t quite open yet. They have given AGU HQ staff moving boxes and told them to be ready by April 1. Let’s hope that this is the final and real move-in date; it’s slipped a few times. The building is partly open, though, and by mid-April, it should be ready for guests.

So, back to the member lounge. If you are in DC, feel free to stop by 2000 Florida Avenue and find a comfy chair. You can also reserve this space for special functions, and the first-floor and basement meeting room space for, well, meetings. The big room can easily hold a typical Chapman Conference, with smaller breakout rooms available as well.

The EiC Meeting is going very well, too. I really like these meetings because we get to have input on the strategic direction of AGU publications, and lots of conversations with AGU staff. I’ll have other follow-up posts about specific topics.



New Cover Look

AGU has been changing the design of the cover layouts for all of its journals over the past year. Perhaps you’ve noticed. The cover of JGR Space Physics now looks like this:


Just for reference, the outgoing format looked like this:


There are some differences to notice. One is that the name of the journal is bigger – JGR Space Physics stands out better with a lot of white space around it. They have changed the dimensions of the cover art graphic, too – instead of a portrait-shaped block between two blue bars, it is now a landscape-style block with a curved upper limit. They have also moved the AGU logo from the footer to the header, making it more visible. They have also eliminated the “swoosh” logo from the upper right.

This is not only the cover art but also appears as the thumbnail graphic in the electronic alerts for the monthly issue table of contents, the early view notices, the accepted article announcements. If you don’t already get these alerts, it is easy to sign up or manage them across all AGU journals.

I have been picking the cover art since the beginning of my time as EiC, that is, since January 2014. This is a bit ironic because they stopped printing and mailing the paper version of JGR Space Physics just a year or two before this. Before that, it is was the monochromatic cover, giving JGR Space Physics its other name as JGR Blue.


I think it’s nice to have cover art. I keep track of what I pick in order to try to balance disciplines and image styles on the cover. Of the 61 selections I’ve made so far, the breakdown is 19 for ionosphere-thermosphere, 17 for magnetosphere, 14 for planetary space environments, and 11 for solar-heliosphere topics. Of the image style, I’ve picked 20 model output graphics, 26 data figures, 12 schematics, and 3 photos. Yeah, we don’t have many photos to choose from.

Each month I quickly glance at every figure in every paper in that issue, downselecting to a few (usually 5-10) and then somehow choosing from there. The runner-up images go on the image carousel on the journal webpage. I also carefully consider all of the author-contributed graphics. The acceptance letter informs you that you can submit a specially-made image for consideration as cover art. Some months I don’t get any such submissions and other times I get several. I think the most I’ve ever had is four, which makes the decision very hard because those are usually the really good ones. If you want to just submit one of the graphics from the paper, that’s fine. I will see it regardless in my quick search but your submission will ensure that it gets my attention. These author-submitted graphics do not have to be something from the paper, though, just related to it. It can be a completely new graphic that more artistically presents what is in your paper, or even just highlights the scientific topic.

We don’t take a lot of photos with our work but perhaps we should, because other journals have a lot more of those on the cover. GeoHealth, AGU’s newest journal, has had nothing but photos on its cover since its initial issue. I don’t know if a picture of “Dr. Space Scientist” sitting at their desk is compelling cover art, but GeoHealth regularly has people on its cover, like this:


I would think seriously about putting such images on the cover of JGR Space Physics, so please think about those field or lab photos the next time you get a paper accepted, and submit a good one for consideration as cover art. Or any graphic that you want to submit – I will consider everything you send.


AGU Advances

AGU is launching a new journal, AGU Advances. It will be “an influential, highly selective “gold” open access journal publishing seminal research from across the Earth and space sciences.” The link above gives the aims and scope of the journal, while this From the Prow post explains why AGU is launching this new journal. Just in time for its centennial celebration year, AGU is creating this new journal at the top of the hierarchy for publication of the best of our work.


            Like two other of AGU’s journals, Geophysical Research Letters and Earth and Space Science, this new journal will span the full scope of AGU disciplines, including studies from related fields, like environmental health studies. Spanning all of AGU means that only a small portion of this journal will be space physics papers, but I hope that our community fully embraces this new title and starts submitting to it.

AGU Advances will not directly compete with GRL but rather be a full-length counterpart to it. That’s right, while the hope is that this journal rivals Science and Nature, it will not be directly competing with them (or GRL) because it will focus on full-length papers. In addition, it will be a much smaller journal than GRL. The plan is that AGU Advances will only publish about 150 papers per year, which is a small number compared to the ~6600 papers in all of AGU’s 20 journals last year. GRL is the biggest AGU journal in terms of paper count – it published ~1500 papers in 2018. Another difference is that AGU Advances will contain many Commentaries about the topics of papers they publish. This is a bit like how Science and Nature have “perspectives” articles in conjunction with some of their research papers. So, while both GRL and AGU Advances are seeking to publish high-impact and timely studies, the difference between these two journals will be large.

So, in some sense, because its submissions will have the same 25 Pub Unit length limit (with fees if you go over), AGU Advances is actually new competition for JGR Space Physics! It will not take many papers from JGR Space Physics, though, because it will be so small; maybe 10-20 space physics papers will appear in AGU Advances each year, which is only a few percent of the annual content in JGR Space Physics. I think that it will be very good; our field needs this type of journal because most high-impact multi-disciplinary journals do not publish full-length research articles. The brevity of the letters-length paper makes it sometimes quite challenging to fully describe and interpret your high-impact study. AGU Advances will give you the extra Pub Units that might be needed to give your work proper justice.

 AGU Advances will be gold open access, meaning authors pay more for publication but then all papers are immediately available to all readers free of charge. This is what AGU has been doing for all of the new journals that it has launched in the last few years – specifically Earth’s Future, Earth and Space Science, and GeoHealth. This is the trend for many new scholarly journal titles.

So, why am I making a second post in one day, just to tell you about this new journal? Because I forgot to do this earlier and, like that post publicizing the open call for Chair of the Fall AGU Meeting Program Committee, this one also has an action deadline. There is an open call right now for the Editor in Chief of AGU Advances and the application deadline is TODAY, January 31, 2019. I haven’t confirmed this with AGU HQ, but my guess is that this is a soft deadline and you can still submit applications through the weekend ahead. The caveat: the EiC of this new journal must be a Fellow of the AGU, as will all of the eventual Editors. The good news: the application process is very easy, just sending an email with a cover letter and CV (no letters of recommendation required).

Also, because there is no EiC yet, let alone the rest of the editorial board, this journal is not yet accepting submissions. It will soon.

Chair of the Fall Meeting

The AGU Fall Meeting is, by far, the largest scientific conference of the year for space physicists. A few thousand of us attend, and with the combined numbers of our three branches of the Space Physics and Aeronomy section, we are one of the biggest fields there. It is quite important for us, then, to have this meeting run well.

Now is one of those opportunities for one of us to step into the leadership role for this meeting. AGU has an open call for a new Chair of the Fall Meeting Program Committee. The deadline for applications is rapidly approaching – February 8 – just one week away!


            Like an editorship of a journal, this is a heavy-lift service duty. The call indicates that would be “approximately 10-15% of one’s time,” so roughly 5 hours per week, about the same as a JGR Space Physics editor position, although the fall meeting tasks come in spurts far moreso than editorial duties.

The specific job duties (from the link above):

  • Preside over the Union-appointed Program Committee
  • Ensure that excellent scientific sessions and keynotes are produced for Union program
  • Provide guidance to section committee members to develop programs and to ensure the development of both disciplinary and interdisciplinary sessions
  • Implement existing and new scientific program initiatives and guide the final arrangement of the scientific program
  • Attend two face to face committee meetings in the spring and fall each year
  • Participate in conference calls as needed.

They have a PDF available with the full description of the position. One of the perks is that you get an honorarium for serving in this post.

The Fall Meeting Program Committee chair is also a member of the AGU Meetings Committee, for which I am an editorial liaison. So, I have gotten to know the current person in this post, Denis Didier-Rousseau.   The Meetings Committee typically meets in the fall, soon after the Fall Meeting Program Committee has wrapped up their planning of the scientific program, so that’s a second trip to DC in the September-October timeframe for this person. By the time I see Denis every year, he is a happy guy because the work of the Fall Meeting Program Committee is done.

Even though the position is to be chair for a 3-year term from 2020 – 2022, the selection will occur by April and the person will start shadowing Denis through the 2019 Fall Meeting planning process. So, the time commitment would start this year, not next.

Among the array of service roles that we can fill within the operation, management, and strategic planning of the AGU, this is one of the bigger positions on the list. The entire AGU community relies on this person to effectively lead the planning of our flagship annual event, and it would be fantastic to have someone from the space physics community in this position. Do you consider yourself to be someone with excellent organizational skills and dynamic leadership abilities? If you feel called to serve in this position, then please consider applying. If you know of someone who you think would be ideal for this post, then please pass on the application link and encourage them to apply.

Note that the only documents required for the application are a CV and cover letter – no letters from others or formal position statements. So, even though the deadline is rapidly approaching, there is still time to assemble your application.

The Shutdown

As probably everyone who reads this blog knows, the US government is in a partial shutdown right now. This means that roughly 800,000 federal employees are not getting paid right now, about half of which are forced to work without pay and the other half, the “non-essential personnel,” are furloughed and forced to not do anything work related during this time. It is truly awful for many people on several levels. Let’s hope that it ends soon, and I encourage Americans to write to their members of Congress to persuade them to work (even harder) towards the solution you desire.

This shutdown has negative ramifications for JGR Space Physics and AGU publications as a whole. First off, there are civil servants that accepted reviewing assignments before the shutdown and now cannot legally complete this work. Authors are getting frustrated with the extended timeline to manuscript decisions. Second, there are civil servants who are authors or coauthors on papers, and these are not being submitted or resubmitted into the system. We will patiently wait for these manuscript resubmissions, of course, but it is sad to see them sit in the system “waiting for revision.” Third, civil servants cannot respond to review requests, so the editors are having to rely on others in the community to take on this shifted reviewing workload. Without the civil servant researchers, it is taking a bit longer, on average, to find two reviewers for each new manuscript. Fourth, for those that use research tools that are now shut down or turned off, like government websites, computing resources, office space, or lab facilities, you cannot do that work right now. The shutdown of NASA, NSF, and NOAA, just to name a few agencies, is impairing scientific progress. These impacts alone are significant and having a noticeable negative effect on space physics research.


            For JGR Space Physics in particular, one of the editors, Dr. Larry Kepko, is a civil servant at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His editorial duties are part of his official workflow so doing GEMS manuscript processing is off limits for him.   I had a previously declined manuscript, originally assigned to him, just get submitted again, and so I contacted him (outside of his official NASA email address) about editorial work and he explained that he is legally unable to do this work.

Fortunately, this only affects ~10 manuscripts in the GEMS system right now. I have been ramping down his assignments of normal papers has he took on the role of Centennial liaison for the journal, including organizing community invitations for papers to two centennial-related special sections. I see in GEMS, though, that there are some manuscripts “with editor for decision” for the entirety of the shutdown. I am sorry to those authors that have been waiting for decisions on these manuscripts, this is an unpleasant consequence of the government shutdown. If you are one of these authors, I truly regret that this has happened to you and we will get this paper moving through the editorial system again very soon. I have already asked AGU HQ staff to shift some of these manuscripts over to other editors, and will be shifting the rest in the days to come.

For the civil servants and on-site contractors out there – I am wholeheartedly with you in spirit. I was a grad student working at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during the 1995 government shutdown, locked out of the office for 3 weeks right before that year’s Fall AGU Meeting. It was difficult getting the work done and a presentation put together in time for the conference. This new shutdown is now longer than that one, and the stalemate persists with no end in sight. I am very sorry that you are going through this.

For the rest of you, please remember that we are missing a fraction of our colleagues right now, who are not only locked out of their offices but also technically forbidden to do any work. We, the journal editors, might be asking for another reviewing assignment for you at a more rapid cadence than usual. Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience and please seriously consider taking up the mantle of the extra duty as we get through this tough time. Also, manuscripts might take longer to get through the editorial process right now, as we deal with no US civil servants being available for participation in the publication flow.