Postcards from the Field of Space Physics

AGU has a blogosphere, of which I have written about before.


            There is one that I didn’t write about in that post, however, because it didn’t exist then: The Field. These are blog posts in the 300-500 word range written by those who are “doing their science thing” away from the office and, well, out in “the field.” By field here, I think they really do mean anywhere outside of your normal office or lab, because the posts cover a wide range from Antarctica to the journey out to a remote field site to a classroom for outreach activities.


            There seems to be a dearth of space physics posts on this site. We do lots of cool “out of the office and lab” work, so I highly encourage you to think about stretching beyond writing articles for JGR Space Physics and try a submission to The Field. If you feel the urge to contribute a story to this blog, then please click on the “let us know” link near the top of the right-hand column of that blog’s main page and send them your idea for a post. They (the AGU staff in charge of this site) will work with you to get your story polished for posting. Be sure to take lots of pictures. The posts on this page are full of them.

Intimidated by writing a full page or two about your journeys? There is a similar yet even easier version, which has been around for ~3 years now: Postcard From The Field, AGU’s Tumblr account. Here you can submit your photo and caption. It’s short, it’s easy, and there are precious few space physics “postcards from the field” on this site. A different blog, The Plainspoken Scientist, had an article about the Tumblr account, in case you want to know more details.


            Yet another AGU blog venue for your non-JGR-Space Physics writing is GeoSpace. This site posts articles about cool science topics across Earth and space science. Again, we could use some more space physics posts in this stream.


            Happy writing!

EiC for RoG

AGU regularly has several open editor searches going on. You can find the announcements here.


            Right now there is one of relevance to our field: Editor in Chief of Reviews of Geophysics. The ad for this post is about halfway down. Yes, after ~8 years, Mark Moldwin is stepping down from this position. The search committee is formed (no, I am not on it) and they are actively pursuing potential candidates for this job. The application deadline is May 31, so you still have ~2 weeks to put together a compelling letter of interest about why you want the job and would be a good EiC for that journal.



            Reviews of Geophysics is entirely by invitation only and, as the name implies, the portfolio is entirely comprised review articles. Note that JGR Space Physics occasionally publishes topical review articles, like this one or this one, written last year for the MTSSP special sections. There is an important difference between the reviews in the two journals. The reviews in JGR Space Physics are written for experts in the field, while the reviews in RoG are written for everyone in AGU. The level of detail and use of jargon is different, or at least should be. RoG only publishes a couple papers per month and spans the entirety of the AGU discipline breadth, so the number of space physics papers is perhaps one or two a year. Being its EiC will definitely stretch you beyond your normal scientific boundaries. Also, RoG‘s Journal Impact Factor has been above 10 for quite a few years running, now; it is the top AGU journal in this metric. So, the search committee is looking for a rather special and dedicated leader to take over this post.

Mark is quite willing to talk about his experience as EiC of Reviews of Geophysics, so if you have any questions about it, then please contact him directly. If you have general questions about editing an AGU journal, then feel free to contact me. To submit your application, follow the directions in the link above.

S.141 just passed the Senate!

Perhaps not all of you closely follow the U.S. Congress. Okay, I don’t either. There is one, though, that the readers of JGR Space Physics should know about, and specifically its positive progress that I’d like to celebrate. Yes, some good news from Washington, DC, this past week: the Senate passed by unanimous consent Senate Bill S.141, the “Space Weather Research and Forecast Act”. Tuesday was the momentous day and it has now been referred to several committees in the House of Representatives.


            The full text of the bill essentially dictates, with a bunch of “shalls”, that government agencies should implement the National Space Weather Action Plan and be thinking about space weather influences within their scope of activities, including this:

“(1) BASIC RESEARCH.—The Director of the National Science Foundation, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Secretary of Defense shall continue to carry out basic research activities on heliophysics, geospace science, and space weather and support competitive, merit-based, peer-reviewed proposals for research, modeling, and monitoring of space weather and its impacts, including science goals outlined in Solar and Space Physics Decadal surveys conducted by the National Academy of Sciences.”

CBO has done a cost estimate for the implementation of this Act, with the biggest item being that NOAA should launch a “SOHO replacement” with a coronograph to image CMEs for space weather prediction. This bill isn’t a budget allocation so it comes with no new money, just mandates to several agencies.

A vote by “unanimous consent” means that they did not actually take a vote, and not even really a voice vote. What it means is that everyone in the chamber at that time agreed enough to not object and demand a real vote. Pretty cool that no Senator opposed this bill, a bill which contains the words “coronal mass ejection” and puts our science front and center. If you want to watch it, then here is the C-SPAN video; go to 1:46 to see Senator Peters talk about space weather on the Senate floor (~10 minutes). It’s nice to know that our field is appreciated by at least a few lawmakers. This is a nice follow-on to AGU’s Earth Day special collection of Commentaries on the societal relevance of Earth and space science. If you haven’t read it yet, then I highly recommend checking out the Cassak et al. article in JGR Space Physics.

Keep up the good work!

The AGU Building

My job as EiC of JGR Space Physics occasionally takes me to AGU headquarters, including this week. The meeting, however, was not at the normal AGU HQ facility at 2000 Florida Avenue, but was at the temporary home of AGU off Thomas Circle (about a mile south, a few blocks northeast of the White House). That’s because they have started the renovation of the AGU HQ building. They have set up a special website where you can learn about the project and follow the progress. For even more info, last year AGU CEO Chris McEntee wrote several From the Prow articles about the building renovation project.


            They are making it a “net zero” building with 100% of the building’s energy needs created on site. That’s pretty cool, especially for a climate science society. It will also have better meeting facilities and “sunlight penetration” than the old version. There will even be an “AGU member lounge” in the building, so that whenever you are in DC, you can stop by and have a place to sit and work.

Here’s a picture (from the website) of the crew of architects, engineers, and contractors leading the renovation project:


AGU is happy to say that this group is ~50% women, a rarity in the construction business.

For those of you concerned about the solar system inlay on the sidewalk outside the building: they have to dig up some of the planets, but they will all be replaced. The solar system sidewalk will still be there.

The temporary space is smaller than the normal facility, by about a third. The staff is kind of crammed in to Cubicleville right now (that’s a word):


It’s quite a bit tighter than they are used to. Wish them luck as they get through this. They hope to be back in the renovated building by this time next year.

More Acceptance of Singular They

Two more writing style guides have officially accepted the usage of “they” as a replacement for “he/she” and all the other singular gender-neutral pronouns out there. In their newest editions, both the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook include this usage of “they.” The main usage for the JGR Space Physics crowd is in responses to anonymous reviewers. Manuscript authors can and do guess, but the when it comes down to writing the responses to the referee reports, please do not assume a male reviewer. Using “they” instead keeps is free of sexism.


            The “singular” adjective just means that “they” is standing in for an individual person, and because you do not know their gender (hey, see, I just used it!), “they” is becoming an acceptable pronoun choice in this context. Furthermore, even though it’s being called the “singular they,” you still use plural verbs with it. This is what we do with “you.” We don’t say “you is” even when referring to a singular you, we still say “you are.” The same is true for “they.” Please make it plural and write “they are” or “they were” or whatever verb you choose.

I’ve written about the singular they before and several other times about gender-neutral wording. Please don’t assume the masculinity of your reviewer, or in any writing where the person’s gender is unknown. This is offensive to me and, probably, to most women in space physics who don’t need the bro culture bias.

Once again, I have to thank Grammar Girl for letting me know about this. I often listen to podcasts when I jog and earlier this month she had one devoted to this topic. In fact, most of the content of this post is straight from her podcast. It’s worth repeating here. I’m even reusing her very nice graphic.

The March for Science


The March for Science is tomorrow, April 22, 2017. This is happening on Earth Day 2017, along with many environmental events like local cleanups, tree planting, and park restoration. It’s going to be a big day for getting out and doing something for the planet. Yesterday, AGU released their cross-journal Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries on the value of science for society, so this is a follow-on to my post on that, discussing something that you can do, this weekend, to help promote science.


            I’m participating in the Ann Arbor satellite version of the March for Science. We’ll meet at the University of Michigan “Diag” at noon, hear some speeches, and then walk a circuitous path through campus and downtown Ann Arbor. Here I am with my sign and my AGU-sanctioned March for Science T-shirt:


Yes, as a sponsor of the March for Science, the organizers made shirts with the AGU logo on the back. Sweet!

I really hope that it will be a good day. As outlined in the Marcher Pledge, the organizers are putting the emphasize on the positive benefits that humanity gets from scientific advancement. In addition, the Principles and Goals page is definitely worth the read and goes into even more detail about the objectives of the march. This is the right place to put the focus. Science does a lot for making life better, plus there is just the cool factor of learning something new about the universe that we, as a species, didn’t know before.

If you couldn’t tell from my sign, I really like that the March for Science takes diversity and inclusion seriously and has even issued a statement reinforcing this position. Science is better when the group tackling a problem comes from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. While the institutions where they got their PhD is one form of diversity in the group, this isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people of different genders, races, ethnicities, religious affiliations, hometowns, home countries, and different personal histories. We need to be inclusive of this wide spectrum of people in our research groups and help each member to fully participate and contribute to the solution. This is something that strive to achieve in my research group and with editing JGR Space Physics. I am glad that this is one of the core principles of the March for Science.

You can still sign up to walk on Saturday, either in DC or at one of the more than 600 other Marches for Science around the world. You don’t have to do this step but it really helps the organizers know what kind of crowd to expect and therefore plan a better event.

Finally, if you were still waffling about whether to go to the March, PHD Comics has a flow chart to help you decide.


Addendum:  here is a picture of me at the March for Science with the final/augmented version of my sign:


Earth Day Special Collection

It’s up! The AGU’s Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries about the awesomeness of Earth and space science is now available. It is a cross-journal collection, spanning all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. Yes, we just published a Commentary (Cassak et al.) on relevance of space physics research to “contemporary society.” I look forward to reading the other articles in this special section, including the Commentary from Ray Greenwald in Radio Science and several Commentaries and other articles from Space Weather.

There is also an Editors’ Vox article, authored by Brooks Hanson, AGU’s Director of Publications, and coauthored by all of the Editors in Chief of AGU’s journals, that summarizes the major themes across the scope of this special collection. An AGU press release was just issued about it, too. Here’s the graphic published with the Vox article:


            Earth is beautiful. Learning new things about Earth, and its home in the universe, is beautiful, too.

Space Weather is the natural home for touting the usefulness of space physics for societal needs, and indeed this journal is where nearly all such news, commentaries, and feature articles can be found. We (the journal editors) decided to solicit at least one article for JGR Space Physics, though, because this special collection is important, being published just before the March for Science. This is also a time when the anti-science movement, which has been around a long time and comes from both the left and the right, is emboldened. We thought it was important for every journal to participate in this special section, including JGR Space Physics.

So, we enlisted the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section’s Advocacy Committee to write an article on societal relevance of space physics. If you haven’t heard of this entity, it was created about three and half years ago to lead and coordinate efforts to remind policy makers about the importance of our science. Their charge also includes motivating the rest of the SPA community to get involved in science policy discussions. They were a natural choice for writing a Commentary for this special section.

AJE Technical Editing for AGU

Occasionally, manuscripts need some extra help with English language usage. While it is great when a reviewer takes on the task of copyediting a manuscript, the main request on reviewers is an assessment of the science in the paper, not the grammar, diction, and spelling. As Editor, I sometimes return a paper for English corrections before I will send it out for review. I often just mark up the first couple pages of the manuscript, hoping that the authors see the problems and make similar corrections throughout the rest of the paper. Or, even better, the authors should get a native-English-speaking colleague to proofread the text. Yet another option is to use a technical editing service. AGU used to have a list of such services, but now just lists one: American Journal Experts (AJE). Why the change? Because AGU and AJE have struck a deal so that potential authors to AGU journals can get a 20% discount on AJE services. Details are found here

and here.


Here is the direct link to the AJE-for-AGU site:

For a typical JGR Space Physics manuscript in the 5000-10000 word range, their “standard service” costs between $250 and $400. With it, you get an “editing certificate” that verifies to the journal that the manuscript has been edited by a native English speaker and that it is ready for submission. AGU selected AJE for this deal because the AGU Pubs staff and Pubs Committee believe that AJE offers a high quality service at a fair price. This is a small cost compared to the publication fee and I hope that those authors that are unsure about their English usage will opt to use this (or another) service to make the manuscript as clear and readable as possible.

AJE also does illustration formatting to ensure readability, clarity, and compliance with journal specifications, again at the 20% discounted price (if you go through the AGU link).

The “Technical Reports” Paper Type

During our reviewing and publication of the special sections on Measurement Techniques in Solar and Space Physics,


the JGR Space Physics editors sometimes received questions about the appropriateness of “instrument papers” in this journal. The fact is that JGR Space Physics has accepted Technical Reports: Methods and Technical Reports: Data paper types for many years. The fraction of such papers, though, has been small, with most papers in this journal being the Research Article paper type. When we accepted the proposal for the MTSSP special sections, we knew that reviewing the expected ~150 manuscripts on space instrumentation would be a bit different for those receiving the reviews. It’s not a paper type that we normally get, so some in the space physics community were a little confused about this paper type being in this journal.


            I’ve written about the Technical Reports paper type before, but since we’ve reassessed what we want for this paper in JGR Space Physics, it is good to remind the space science community about the expectations for a manuscript in this paper type. The paper must describe a significant original contribution to the field, but this new contribution is the method, technique, or data set. Yes, that’s right: it does not have to include an original contribution to our scientific understanding of the space environment, as is the case for a Research Article paper type. It has to be applicable to scientific study of the space environment, but does not have to actually include such a study.

That said, the manuscript must have these elements:

  1. A section at the beginning why to I need to study the relevant aspect of space physics. You must motivate the publication of this technical advancement in JGR Space Physics by convincing readers that the science area to which it pertains is interesting.
  2. A series of clear statements about the novel elements of the method, technique, or data set. You must place the technical advancement in the context of existing technology or data in order to convince readers that the report contains an original and significant contribution in this area.
  3. A section on what new science is likely to accrue. You must include “at least one illustrative example,” to quote from the paper type description website above. This section closes the gap between the earlier two “must have” sections. That is, given the the current state of scientific discovery in the relevant subdiscipline of space physics and the cutting edge aspects of this new technique or data set, you must then discuss how this new technique will eventually lead to better scientific understanding.

So, authors: if you are writing a Technical Reports manuscript, then please ensure that it includes these three elements.

Also, reviewers: if you are assessing the publishability of a Technical Reports manuscript, please carefully consider these three elements.

AGU has a relatively new journal that is specifically targeted at this manuscript type: Earth and Space Science. Just entering its fourth year, E&SS spans all of AGU’s scientific disciplines, especially requesting papers on “methods, instruments, sensors, data and algorithms” for our field and across the AGU discipline spectrum. I had a recent blog post about signing up for E&SS table of content e-alerts.

A final point to make: Technical Reports paper types are limited to 13 Publication Units rather than the normal 25 for a Research Article paper type. This is to keep the description of the new method, technique, or data set focused. Extra figures and explanation can be put into the online Supplemental Information accompanying the published paper, if needed. You can go over a bit, though and no one should complain or send it back. That is, this limit is not a strict cutoff but is more like a guideline.

AGU’s Commentary Collections

A Commentary is an AGU paper type that offers a perspective on a recent result, controversy, or special event in particular field. JGR Space Physics published 15 Commentaries in 2016, most of them as part of the special section on Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics. These short articles are meant to spur discussion, action, and hopefully eventual resolution regarding the chosen topic. In JGR Space Physics, they are too new to understand and quantify their influence. Other journals have published Commentaries for many years, and the anecdotal evidence is good enough that AGU is encouraging all journals to publish more of these.

To better highlight and promote the existence of these papers, AGU has assembled several new special collections that gather these Commentaries for easy discovery. The link is on all journal websites, under the Special Collections pull-down menu:


On this page are links to the Commentaries in each AGU discipline, including Space Weather and Space Physics. There are Commentaries here from a few different journals. Because papers cannot be in two special sections in the Wiley paper management system, instead of listing all of the UPMP Commentaries, there is simply a link to that special section’s webpage.

Happy reading!