JGR Space Physics Cover Art

In case you didn’t notice, JGR Space Physics has had cover artwork since its January 2014 issue. While this coincides with me taking over as Editor in Chief, it is purely by chance; I had nothing to do with the decision to begin cover art for the journal. In fact, at that time AGU started cover art for all journals that didn’t already have it. At first thought, this might seem like a strange time to start cover art, because the journal had dropped the print version at the end of 2012. It makes a lot of sense to have cover art, however, because of the ramp up in table-of-content email alerts and the increase in digital availability of the journal. Here is June’s cover:

Issue Information

            The cover art appears as the front page of the “issue information” PDF for each monthly compilation of the papers published with JGR Space Physics. An example of one of these documents is available here, and it appears as the first paper listed on the issue contents page. On the second page of this PDF is a caption for the cover artwork, including the authors and DOI of the paper with which it is associated. In addition, the issue cover appears as a small image on all JGR Space Physics emails for the next month, so people that subscribe to such alerts will see this image quite a bit in their inbox. Brief side note: getting these alerts is easy, just click the “Get Content Alerts” button in the upper right corner of the journal homepage. Finally, the issue cover appears next to the title on every article page for those papers in that issue, which means it is around “forever.”

I have not checked the statistics on whether selection as cover art increases the downloads of or citations to the associated paper. I’ll do that some time and post my findings. I hope that it at least builds awareness for that particular topic of space physics, with people being curious about the details of the image and the science behind it.

I am the one that selects the cover art each month. I just did this for the August issue. About this time of month, AGU staff compile a list of papers either already published that month or expected to be through production and “in print” by month’s end. I look at every figure from every paper in the issue. Yes, every image, from 70 – 90 papers. It takes me 1.5 – 2 hours to do this. Luckily, most are in the online “image viewer” system, and I can quickly scroll through all of the figures for that paper. Sometimes this production step isn’t completed yet and the link in the spreadsheet leads to a PDF download of the paper. I pay special attention to those figures called out by a reviewer or editor as a candidate for the Image Carousel. These nearly always make the short list. I try to pick one quickly so that AGU and Wiley can finalize the issue and get it released as soon as possible. The monthly issue is usually ready by the middle of the following month.

In choosing a cover image, I look for both aesthetic value as well as scientific value. Usually the former plays the bigger role, but sometimes the latter will sway me to pick a less exciting or colorful image because I think the topic or finding is worth highlighting. This gets me to a short list of perhaps 10-15 images. In addition to these two criteria, I also attempt to balance scientific discipline, choosing roughly equal numbers of images, over the long term, among four areas: solar-heliosphere, magnetosphere, ionosphere-thermosphere, and planetary-cometary. I am also keeping track of the type of image, whether it is data, simulation, schematic, or photograph. I try to keep it about even between data and simulation, with a few of the other two styles.

After selecting a cover image, I then go back through the short list and pick a few to be highlighted on the Image Carousel on the JGR Space Physics main page. The website can only handle up to 7 images in the loop, so I usually have to downselect from my short list to finalize the set for the carousel.

Note that when you have a paper accepted to JGR Space Physics, you have the opportunity of suggesting images for consideration as cover art. This can be either one of the figures in the paper or a completely new, original image related to the paper. I always look at these suggestions and give them special attention in the process.

Podcasts and Outreach

I have started listening to podcasts in my free time. I especially like to listen to something while jogging. I even listen to them when I jog with others, because all of my family members, including my 11-year-old daughter, are considerably faster than me. Music is very good, but I have switched to podcasts of various topics to get me through the workout. While I have a couple “current events” podcasts, I prefer “educational” podcasts. Here are a few of them. And yes, this does have something to do with JGR Space Physics, or at least space physics as a field.

the world is listening

Probably my favorite is Radiolab. They take a topic, often a recent scientific advancement, and explore in depth how this nugget of information intersects with humanity. My local NPR station airs it, but not a convenient time for me to hear it. Another excellent one I listen to regularly is Science Vs by Wendy Zuckerman, an Australian science journalist. Her relatively short (~15 minute) episodes compare “fact against fad” on a broad scope of topics in a witty presentation full of interviews with scientists working in that field. Yet another is The Infinite Monkey Cage, put on by the BBC in which the hosts convene a panel in front of a live audience. I’ve heard Carolyn Porco speak about Cassini a couple of times on this show. They make it fun by always including a comedian as one of the panelists; they’ve had Eric Idle on a couple of times this year. A final group I’d like to tell you about is the crew at Quick and Dirty Tips. One of my favorites is Grammar Girl, but I like the science podcasters as well. Explore the site; there is a lot on it.

First off, I would love to hear about your favorite podcasts. Feel free to comment below with names and/or links to the podcasts or video/audio productions that you enjoy.

Second, though, I wonder how to get our science of space physics covered more regularly on these types of shows. Sometimes the aurora is mentioned and planetary science occasionally makes it onto one of these shows. It’s a very small percentage of the content, though. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for, but I think not. Going back to my earlier post on preparing your own Ted-style talk, I think that space physicists should take a more active role in promoting our science beyond the lecture halls of space physics conferences. Public awareness is a critical foundation to public support; the more we advertise the existence of our field to those beyond ourselves, the easier it will be to make the case that our science is important and contributes to the betterment of society. I think it’s a topic that we should be considering and taking seriously within our community. One place in which this conversation has been going for quite some time is the SPA-EPO committee. This committee organizes a number activities to promote education and public outreach for our discipline. If you have an interest, then I urge you to contact the AGU staff listed on the page to get info about the monthly telecons.

Supporting Information

AGU allows authors to upload Supporting Information along with a manuscript to one of its journals. The description about it is here. It is to provide a digital archive of information that is not essential to the study but readers might find useful for a deeper understanding of the topic, methodology, underlying data sets, software, or results.

This used to be called an “electronic supplement” but that name is outdated now that the paper itself is electronic. Thus the new name, supporting information. Another change from the recent past is that it now should be uploaded as a single file, if possible. Yes, a single file, with embedded figures, tables, video, audio, or code. You can use multiple files for the different pieces of supporting information, but AGU greatly prefers for it to be embedded/concatenated into a single file. The link above is a short description of Supporting Information; the more detailed site is located here.

There are templates for the supporting information file in Word and LaTeX formats. The file should contain header information to identify the original article, introductory text to give an overview of the content, detail the source of the material, list any known caveats to usage of the information, and explain its potential usefulness to the research community. A caption should be written for each piece of supporting information.

Note that this has to be uploaded as part of the submission process and that it undergoes peer review scrutiny just like the rest of the article. Its existence has to be justified and appropriate. It also has to be deemed nonessential to the main findings of the study. So, like I recently advocated, think carefully about which figures below in the main article. Perhaps some of them could go in the Supporting Information instead.

On the plus side, supporting information does not count towards the Publication Unit count and is therefore “free” content to the author. Or, more appropriately, it is built in to the base publication fee, which is $1000 for JGR Space Physics. Also note that color figures are the same price (free!) as black-and-white images, and, at least at this point, there is no size limit to audio or video.

Carefully Plan Your Figures

A paper published in JGR Space Physics costs the author $1000. Well, let me clarify that: a paper of 25 Publication Units or less will cost the author that much. I’ve written about Publication Units a while ago but I would like to remind you that each figure is one PU:


This is true regardless of the size, shape, color content, complexity, or number of panels within it. Each figure is one PU.

The most figures that I think I have ever seen in a paper that’s come through contained, if I remember correctly, 31 figures. After the initial $1000 for up to 25 PU, each excess PU costs $125. I do remember and did not calculate the text length of this manuscript, but my recollection is that it was little longer than normal, in part just to describe and interpret all of these figures. A typical paper has ~ 15 PU of text and ~ 10 PU of figures and tables. Let’s guess this one had 20 PU of text. That’s 51 PU total, or 26 over the limit. This is an excess page fee cost of $3250 for the author. Not as bad as the old color figure charges I recently wrote about, but substantial enough to make the author think twice about submitting a future paper to JGR Space Physics.

Of those 30-something figures, I think about half were single-panel plots. In AGU’s old cost model of per-printed-page charge, this was fine because the single-panel figures fit nicely into one column and at least two, and sometimes more, could fit on a single page. Single-panel figures are also my preferred method of displaying results in presentations, which seems to be a perennial topic of mine. With the relatively new cost model of PU count rather than page count, single-panel figures are no longer cost effective for a longer manuscript.

If your manuscript is in danger of going over the 25 PU limit, then I highly recommend consolidating single-panel figures of similar content, format, or style into one multi-panel figure. With the single-column format of the online and “printed” version of JGR Space Physics, figures can be any width or size, the only limitation is the actual PDF page dimension and readability of the embedded text. So, please think about this when planning your figures so that you can minimize the publication fee after acceptance.

Furthermore, please think carefully about what is absolutely necessary to make your point. Writing a good paper is not about including everything related to the topic but rather about honing the story to make a specific original contribution to the field. Please, only include the figures that directly contribute to the main findings of the study. I used to be sad about all of those plots I made and never published but now I realize that they were part of the process, helping me understand the phenomenon and formulate the narrative into just those essential elements to make the key points. They needed to be made but they did not need to be included in the paper.

Use Color – It’s Free

There was a time not so long ago that a color figure in a paper in JGR Space Physics would cost the author hundreds of dollars. It got cheaper the more color figures that you had in the paper, but the initial cost was large. It could easily go into the thousands.

I recently came across a reprint order page from 2004. That’s only 11 years ago, and yes, they still sent out the reprint order page that included the pricing for color images in the paper. Here is what it was back then:

Color printing surcharges:

  • First color page: $700
  • Second color page: $400
  • Each additional color page: $100

Color separations (required for all color figures):

  • Each color piece: $250

Color corrections (if needed):

  • Each color piece: $250

Yes, the color separation fee was its own charge in addition to the cost of each page with color in the paper. If you could double up with two small color figures on the same page, well, that was a big cost-saving rearrangement of the final layout.

My student just had a paper published with 12 figures, all color. Some were single-panel figures that might have squeezed onto the same page as another figure, but they were not all next to each other the figure order, so I doubt it. That would have cost $5100 just for the color, assuming no “color corrections” had to be done to make them compatible with the print version of the journal.

Today, the color charges for this paper were…yes, you guessed itzero. Because there is no print version of the journal anymore, a color figure is one Publication Unit, just like a black-and-white figure, a table, or 500 words of manuscript text.

I hope that you are getting my point: color doesn’t cost you anything anymore. Colorize your plots. Please, colorize your plots. Solid lines with different colors is much easier to interpret than black-and-white lines with different linestyles. Can you decipher this plot:


Yes, that’s really a figure out of one of my old papers. The three lower linestyles in the legend are very difficult to distinguish in the time series curves. Free color would have solved this issue.

I still see quite a few manuscripts come into JGR Space Physics with black-and-white figures that would greatly benefit from the use of color. My guess is that this usage of black-and-white is a mental holdover from the days when color cost a lot. It still does with some journals. That’s no longer the case with JGR Space Physics, or any AGU journal. Color figures are the same cost as black-and-white figures. There is absolutely no reason to hold back.

So, please use color wherever needed to make your plot more readable. It’s free!

Travel Grants From AGU

As many of you prepare abstracts for the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting, the deadline for which is August 5, I’d like to bring to your attention the various travel grants available from AGU to increase participation at this meeting. The link is here. Here’s a quick overview of what’s available:

  • General Student Travel Grant: all students may apply, but they take into account financial need
  • Lloyd V. Berkner Travel Fellowship: for early career scientists under 35 who are citizens of “low-income” countries
  • David E. Lumley Young Scientist Scholarship: for high school and undergraduate students studying energy and environmental science
  • David S. Miller Young Scientist Scholarship: for undergraduate or graduate students in geo-environmental science or engineering
  • Edmond M. Dewan Young Scientist Scholarship: for graduate students studying topics related to atmospheric sciences and space physics

Yes, that last one is specifically designated for our field. Applications are open and the deadline for submission is August 12. Recipients will be informed September 2.

Not on that page but at the main AGU list of funds is the Carl ‘Max’ Hammond Student Travel Endowment Fund, which specifically funds a space physics student attending an AGU meeting for the first time. Perhaps this is made available through the general travel grant application.

There are also reduced registration fees for citizens from lower-incoming countries, anyone at grad student education level or below, high school teachers, and retirees.

How does AGU afford to offer these discounts and travel support packages? A big part of this funding is from gift giving to AGU. The full range of giving options are described here. If you want AGU to have extra funding to make additional grants and waivers available, then now is the time to give in order to influence the number of awards given by that September 2 announcement date.

Extra giving is actually a minor part of AGU’s overall budget, around 1% of annual income. However, the total budget includes huge costs like the publication and meetings line items, and it turns out that voluntary giving is a significant part of the funding for these grants. Donating to the “annual” funds is an immediate pass-through to the award allocations for that year, while donations to the “endowment” funds are invested and provide support to people over many years.

If eligible, then please consider applying to these travel support opportunities.

If able, then please consider donating to travel support opportunities.

New Info in Reviews

If you have received a manuscript decision letter in the last month or so, then perhaps you have noticed the small augmentation in the information conveyed to you in this email. Specifically, along with the “formal review for authors” text or attachment, we are now including in the answers to the questions that we ask of the reviewers. A few months ago, AGU revised the review submission form to include a few specific questions for the referee to answer about the manuscript. I wrote about them here. The answers must be selected from a pull-down menu, each with 3 to 5 choices. These are supposed to force the referee to think about these aspects of the paper and be a starting place for the details in the report.

AGU is now including the answers to these questions in the decision letters, including for JGR Space Physics. Here is an example of what it will look like in the email:


After this would be the “normal” review text or attachment with which you are familiar.

Yes, that very first answer being revealed is the recommendation of the reviewer. Now you can see when I follow, or don’t, the reviewer’s suggestion.

Since we are asking referees to answer these questions and they are part of our decision-making process, it is appropriate for us to share it with the authors so that they can take this information into account. I guess there could be instances where I delete it but I really can’t foresee the circumstances when I might need to do that. These answers are part of the formal review process and, in general, should be shared with the authors.

So, authors, please look through these Q&A sections of the report and address these items as well as the points in the formal review.

Reviewers: please take note that these answers will be shared with the authors, and try to mention them in your formal review.

More About the 2014 JCR

I’ve looked at the 2014 Journal Citation Report for JGR and wanted to give you a little more information and interpretation. As stated in my last post, the 2-year Journal Impact Factor for JGR for 2014 was 3.4, the same as it was in 2013. The 5-year JIF was also the same, at 3.7.

Both the denominator (number of papers in 2012 and 2013) and the numerator (citations to those papers in 2014) went up by ~5%. The change was about 1% for the 5-year JIF. Overall, JGR published ~280 more papers in 2013 than in 2011, accounting for this rise.

There are lots of other journal metrics in the Journal Citation Report. Here are a few of them:

  • Total cites: went up by ~6% to an amazing 188,000. While Science and Nature get over half a million, this value for JGR is huge for a discipline-specific journal.
  • Self cites: steady at 20% of the total citations to JGR papers, indicative of a journal that is dominant in its field.
  • Immediacy index: dropped ever so slightly to 0.64. Not bad. This is 2014 citations of 2014 papers, so it is highly skewed by early-in-the-year publications.
  • Cited half-life: as in previous years, this is still over 10 years, meaning that JGR papers receive more than half of their eventual total citations a decade after publication.
  • Citing half-life: also as in previous years, it is just under 10 years, this time at 9.3. This is a measure of the “age” of the references within JGR
  • References per paper: holding steady at 55.
  • Eigenfactor score: dropped a bit to 0.32. Remember that this is like the 5-year JIF with the numerator weighted by the strength of the citing journal and with self-cites removed. Most journals are below 0.5.
  • Article Influence Score: also dropped a bit to 1.44. This number calibrates the eigenfactor by the number of papers in the discipline, with values above unity being very good.

So, in summary, I’d say that JGR is doing quite well.

JGR’s 2014 Impact Factor

The 2014 Impact Factors have been released by Thomson-Reuters, and the Journal of Geophysical Research number is 3.4. Yes, to two significant digits, it is exactly the same as last year’s Impact Factor. I hesitate to report anything more than 2 digits, because I don’t feel like the Impact Factor should be reported and used to that fine-scale precision.

Remember how the Impact Factor is calculated, being essentially the average citation in year 2014 of papers published in 2013 and 2012. Thomson-Reuters also calculates a 5-year Impact Factor, as well as some other measures of journal significance, and the 2014 5-year Impact Factor for JGR is 3.7, again identical to the 2013 value to two significant digits.

The flatness of these values reminds of the recruiting poster I received from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology back in high school:


Yeah, RHIT is in a “zero slope” part of the country. By the way, for the rest of you RHIT alums out there, note that you can purchase this poster through the Rose-Hulman bookstore.

Okay, back to Impact Factor: another point to make about it is that this is still a value for all sections of JGR combined. Each section has its own journal identifier now, though, so, either in 2015 or 2016, the sections will be split and receive individual values. For now, however, all sections are lumped together in a single calculation.

Compared to last year’s 8% increase in Impact Factor, this 0% increase is a bit disappointing. On the other hand, at least it didn’t go down. I’ll download the Journal Citation Report and take a closer look at the numbers behind this index to see if there is something to be learned.

Communicating Science To Scientists

If you haven’t discovered it yet, AGU hosts a bunch of blogs at the AGU Blogosphere.   There are some that are written a specific author and others that are by “AGU Staff and collaborators.” There is one in particular that I would like to point out to you, The Plainspoken Scientist. This blog has regular posts on how to talk to non-scientists and, in particular, the media.

As I sit here at the GEM Workshop in Snowmass Colorado, listening to talks, I am reminded of one recent post on this blog of special relevance to my present situation. It’s the May 28 post by Ilissa Ocko, entitled, “Scientists Should Speak Simply To Other Scientists, Too”. It makes the point that scientists at science conferences should be sure to keep it simple in their presentations. Her three main reasons:

  • The audience is usually hearing the result for the first time
  • The audience only has the short presentation interval to absorb the result
  • The audience is often distracted

I completely agree. She even drew a nice cartoon to go with that last bullet item.


I love this cartoon. Thanks Ilissa!

How does this relate to authors and readers of JGR Space Physics? It reminds me of a mantra that I pass on to all of my students: papers are completely different than presentations. Yes, they contain largely the same information, but in a paper, the reader is in control of the pace of consumption. The reader can take as long as necessary with each section, plot, or nuance of the result. In a presentation, the presenter is in control of the flow of information, which means that the pace cannot be too fast and the slides cannot be too busy. Concepts should be brought out one at a time in a clear format with large graphics and minimal text. I see too many presenters show the same figures that appear in their papers, and this is actually not a good practice. A stack of 10 line plots is fine in a paper, where the reader can spend as much time as needed to understand each panel. In a talk, it’s awful. One, maybe two, plots on a slide is about all you want, otherwise the audience is looking at something else on the screen rather than what the speaker is focusing on at that moment.

I have made this point before, every six months or so, but I am making it again. Please, take Dr. Ocko’s advice, and simplify your presentations. Save the complicated plots and descriptions for the paper or the one-on-one conversation.

Finally, to come full circle, check out the AGU blogosphere. There are lots of great posts there.