GRL Editorial Policy

This Eos article is well worth the read. Written by the entire editorial board of Geophysical Research Letters, it clearly and concisely explains the current mandate and policies of that journal. Perhaps like many of you, I have had quite a few rejections from GRL over the years. Sometimes I have pushed back and resubmitted to GRL, and other times I have expanded the study and submitted the manuscript to a different journal. As the article states, GRL serves a particular role in geoscience research, and we should respect that role and honor the service of the editors and reviewers that make GRL a rapid-publication, high-impact publication.


            They touch on many of the topics that I have mentioned in this blog. I’d like to take their Eos article as an opportunity to review some of the key points of AGU publication policy that they address. A big change in policy is that GRL has resumed the use of major revisions. There is always an editorial dilemma between rejection and major revisions, over the levels of rejection, or even why we should reject at all. They nicely explain that major revisions are back, but the turnaround time is fast (30 days). If you are submitting to GRL and demanding rapid publication, then you should be ready to work quickly to make that rapid timeline.

Another topic they mention is that GEMS now allows editors to retain the original submission date on a submission-after-rejection manuscript. If the paper is largely the same, then you can refute the rejection, and if the editor is convinced by your arguments, then they have the option of switching the submission date back to that of the original submission. That is, this essentially treats the “new” submission as a revision resubmission. Note that this normally doesn’t get applied for rejection without review, but rather for decisions based on scientific content and quality. I rarely use this feature, but it is an option for all AGU journal editors within GEMS.

They bring up mobility between journals within GEMS. One of the levels of rejection is “reject and transfer.” AGU has also implemented a very helpful “consultation” feature in GEMS to allow editors from different journals discuss a manuscript before suggesting a transfer. I get a small but steady stream of transferred GRL papers, and we occasionally send papers on to other journals, like Space Weather, Radio Science, and Earth and Space Sciences.

The Eos article has an important section on AGU’s Data Policy. This has been around for several years now and I have written about it several times. Note that they adopt the same position on code, demanding availability of “data from numerical models” rather than the code itself.

The GRL Editors explain their position on the cross check analysis. This is always subjective call of whether to send it back, especially with respect to self plagiarism and overlap in the methodology section. I give some tips for checking for overlap here.

I am glad that they mentioned reviewer recognition in the article. None of the AGU journals would exist without the dedicated reviewing service of the research community. This work greatly helps with the process of ensuring high-quality papers. There are a lot of you involved in reviewing, and I also extend my thanks to you.

Finally, the article wraps up with a note on visibility of papers. Papers are highlighted on the journal websites, as well as via Eos Research Spotlights and Editors’ Vox articles. We’re also trying to increase the number of Commentaries in AGU journals and promote papers via social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

In summary, I really like the article that Noah Diffenbaugh and crew wrote about GRL‘s editorial policies. I am very happy to see editors reaching out to the community to increase communication and transparency so we all know what goes on behind the curtain.

PhD Comics Rejection Letter

Some midsummer editorial humor for you.


            Does ours sound like this? Do people read our “decline” letters with this red text commentary running through their heads? Even if they do, it’s a funny comic. I smiled at it, and I hope you do too.

I like PhD Comics but I don’t subscribe or visit the website very often, so thanks to all of those that pointed it out to me (okay, there were two of you).



New AGU Manuscript Templates

It took me quite a few months to notice, but in case you didn’t see them, there are new manuscript templates available at the AGU Author Resources website. The links are in the lower left part of the page, under the “Resources” heading. They have created one for Word and another for LaTeX.


            One of the big changes in these templates: embedded figures and tables! AGU has been accepting papers with figures and tables embedded in the main text for quite a while now, these new templates help guide authors to actually doing this.

Another change is single-space text. At least in the Word template, the document is no longer double-spaced but rather the default is a single-spaced manuscript. I like this change a lot. I see that the LaTeX template still has double spacing as the default, but doing loading the “setspace” package, with the command \usepackage{setspace}, allows you to control line spacing throughout the document. I print out documents very rarely now and do most of my markups of other people’s papers as “tracked changes” or “comments” to the document, so I prefer single-spaced text.

While I am encouraging you to start embedding tables and figures and single-spacing your text, these are only recommendations. This is still a personal preference and you are free to continue putting tables and figures at the end and double-spacing your manuscripts. I will tell you, though, that this old style of manuscript format is a regular complaint that I receive from reviewers. There are some in our field that vocally gripe about the awkwardness of these formatting options, with their inconvenient placement of figures and tables far from the callout text and the awkwardness of double spacing on mobile devices. My figure is twitching just thinking about all of the extra scrolling.

Finally, just above the AGU Manuscript Template links, AGU has posted links to submission checklists, for both initial submissions and revision submissions. There are different rules for first versus later submissions of a manuscript, because the hope is that later submissions are getting close to acceptance and AGU needs the original files of the text and figures to eventually send to Wiley for production. At initial submission, a single PDF file is acceptable. And, remember, you can always replace the GEMS-generated “merged PDF” with your own version of the full paper document that gets sent to reviewers.


Details of JGR’s 2015 JCR

Thomson Reuters has completely reformatted the Journal Citation Reports (JCRs) at their website, but eventually I was able to sift through the new layout and find most of what I wanted. One of the documents, the Journal Profile Grid, is an Excel sheet in 5-point font. While this is easily correctable, it is annoying on first reading.

As I mentioned in a post last month, 2015 had flat-to-slightly-down 2-year and 5-year Impact Factors. However, in the long term, JGR‘s Impact Factor has been trending slightly upward. It was never above 3.0 in 2007 and earlier, yet has never been below 3.0 from 2008 onward. Here is a nice little graphic from the JCR showing that trajectory:


So, it’s done this (a brief, small dip) before. The little hiccup as of late might be just that, a blip in the long-term upward trend. Or it could be the start of something bad. Let’s hope for the former, not the latter.

Following what I did last year with JCR details, here are some other tidbits of information about JGR.

  • Total cites: rose by ~5% to an amazing 198,000. This is a huge number for a discipline-specific journal. Here’s a chart of JGR total cites by year:


  • Self cites: down a little at 18%. I don’t actually know what this means. A high number (above 10%, say) could be a sign of dominance in the field or it could be a sign of isolation and disconnection from the field. We’ll go with the former.
  • Immediacy index: dropped just a bit to 0.61. Remember, this is cites in 2015 to JGR papers published in 2015; most of the papers in the second half of the year have zero citations.
  • Cited half-life: still greater than 10 years. So, on average, more than half of the citations to a JGR paper occur 10+ years after its publication.
  • Citing half-life: ever-so-slightly up to 9.4 years. This is the “age” of references in JGR
  • References per paper: up by one to 56. They count papers with more than 100 references as “review articles” rather than “regular” research papers.
  • Eigenfactor score: dropped ever-so-slightly to 0.31. This value is based on the 5-year Impact Factor but removes self-cites and then weights citations based on the strength of the citing journal. This is a decent value.
  • Article Influence Score: down a bit to 1.39. This is a discipline-normalized version of the Eigenfactor. Values above unity are good.

All of these metrics are explained in more detail in an earlier post. And again, remember, this is for all of JGR, not just JGR Space Physics.


LWS TR&T Feedback Request

A few months ago, I let Alexa Halford, a member of the NASA LWS TR&T Steering Committee, write a guest blog post requesting input for the creation of the TR&T Focused Science Topic (FST) list for next year’s ROSES call. That process went well, and the TR&T Steering Committee is now on to the next stage, which is gathering community feedback on the draft FST list. Alexa asked to write another guest blog post about this, again based on her longer post at her blog. Here it is.


Urgent! Comments on LWS TR&T FSTs are due July 18th 2016

First off, Thank you all for submitting research topics earlier this year! We had a total of 57 proposed topics and many more comments. The living with a star steering committee met back in May and we tried to collate the topics into themes which became the 15 Focused Science Topics (FSTs) that we plan to submit to NASA headquarters. You can find the FSTs here.

But before we submit these FSTs, we need your help! We would love to get feed back from the community on the FSTs. Do you like them? Did we miss something? Does that sentence even make sense? Let us know what you think (by July 18th). Later this year we will take these comments and edit the current draft FSTs before finalizing  and  sending them off to NASA headquarters. You can comment until July 18th on individual topics or on the entire document. As you may remember from past years, headquarters will then decide on if they want to use these proposed FSTs or others, combine them or edit them  before turning them into ROSES FY17 calls. So make sure your voice is heard and help us make these the best Focused Science Topics our field has seen!

Thanks so much for your involvement with this process! Personally, I think we have a great set of FSTs (that I’m sure can be improved with your help) and that in large part is due to the strong community involvement we saw this year. Thank you!

JGR’s 2015 Impact Factor

Thomson-Reuters released the 2015 Impact Factors and the value for Journal of Geophysical Research is 3.3. This is a 0.1 drop from the journal’s Impact Factor of 3.4 in 2014 and 2013 . Basically within the noise of year-to-year variation, but it went down a tenth instead of up, which is disappointing.

Here’s the Thomson-Reuter’s logo, just so we have a graphic to go with this post, with a link to their page on this topic:


            The Impact Factor is calculated as the average citations in year 2015 of papers published in 2013 and 2014. Thomson-Reuters also calculates a 5-year Impact Factor and the 2015 value for JGR is 3.7, again identical to the 2013 and 2014 values to two significant digits.

Thomson-Reuters still has all sections of JGR combined in this value. So, I don’t know what it is specifically for JGR Space Physics.

In good news for the space physics community, AGU’s Space Weather Journal rose from 2.1 to 2.4 in its 2-year Impact Factor, and from 1.9 to 2.3 in its 5-year Impact Factor. Woohoo for Space Weather!

Like last year, I’ll download the Journal Citation Report, take a closer look at the numbers behind this index, and write a follow-up post.

Women in Space Physics

Here in America, the last two weeks have seen several stories of losses and victories over sexism in society. On the dark side, there was the campus rape, with the Stanford student who does not deserve to be named, the relatively light sentence issued by the judge in the case, and the student’s father minimizing the heinous act as “20 minutes of action.” There were, however, the courageous people that stood up to this sexism, including the victim herself and her powerful courtroom speech, the two grad students that caught him in the act, and the millions on social media standing up for the victim.

There was also Hillary Clinton, clinching the delegates needed to be the first female (presumptive) nominee of a major political party. Regardless of what you think of her, this is a huge step for the United States. The presumptive nominee from the other major party, however, scoffs at her electoral success with sexist drivel, most notably saying that Clinton is playing the woman card. Yeah, this:


            Why I am writing about this on my JGR Space Physics EiC blog? Because sexism still exists in our field. As a white man in a position of authority in space physics, I feel compelled to bring this up.  I’ve written about this before here, one on Women in Science and several on Gendered Wording in correspondence, but it is time to write another post on it, not only for the stories above but for this reason…

My exceptionally intelligent grad student, Lois Sarno-Smith, is leaving academia. Her “Reason #3” deeply concerns me: blatant sexism in our field. She has noticed it among us. I have noticed it among us. You, perhaps, also, have noticed it among us.

It manifests itself in several ways. Perhaps most commonly, sexism insidiously creeps into our everyday conversations. Little things we say, idioms of our regular lives, carry connotations that promote sexism. Have you ever heard someone say “man up” or “that was ballsy” or “you throw like a girl”? Phrases like this implicitly assume men are superior to women; they should be purged from usage. We need to be more careful in how we speak because words matter, not only in the workplace but also in every aspect of our lives.

Because there are so many men in space physics, there can be a “bro culture” where it is considered acceptable to tease, taunt, swear, and make sexual innuendos. These interactions are not welcoming to a diverse assembly and they make others beyond the “in group” feel uncomfortable. Bro culture is perhaps most common among a late-night drinking crowd, but it can occur anywhere, including during “regular work meetings.” I have seen an otherwise normal research conversation suddenly veer into bro culture language. What I didn’t pay enough attention to was that others were cringing at the inappropriate tangent. We need to do better at keeping our professional lives at a professional level.

We still carry sexism in discussing how people look or dress. Actually, I am amazed we even talk about how people dress or look in the workplace. “Beauty” should only be used towards a sophisticated piece of hardware, an elegant section of code, or a scientifically significant figure, not the figure of the person who created the device, code, or plot. We need to catch ourselves before making comments about someone’s appearance and ask ourselves if the comment is really appropriate for the office. Usually, it isn’t.

Another way is the stereotype that women are bad at math, which creates a “stereotype threat“. If not addressed and dispelled, the pressure to overcome the stereotype can hurt performance on assessments of that skill. It is a very real and documented issue, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce this effect.

There are others, but I will mention just one more: inappropriate advances. While office romances occur in nearly every setting, senior men should not be hitting on junior women. It is an abuse of power and, unless it is one of the very rare instances of consensual and mutual attraction, it creates a hostile work environment for the woman. Every workplace has a power hierarchy, and those above others in this structure have the extra responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe rather than threatening and uncomfortable. I don’t understand the desire to spoil a good working relationship with the weirdness of romance and the potential of a breakup. Many times, such relationships work out just fine, but the initial advance is often inappropriate.

A special note for space physics: your “workplace,” a word I have used repeatedly above, extends well beyond the physical walls of the building that houses your desk. We collaborate with people at other institutions and, at conferences, regularly discuss our findings with people from across the world. Our “workplace” is the entire space physics research community, or at least that part with which we regularly interact.

I am guilty of sexism in my interactions with space physicists. I hope that my transgressions are behind me now, though, as I am more aware of the problem and am now actively working to address it. When you see sexism, even in its seemingly benign forms, call it out. Like the Stanford rape case, it should not fall on the victim to notice that something is wrong. Those witnessing the words or deeds should also feel empowered to address the perpetrator. Furthermore, we should be comfortable discussing this issue. There is a stigma that those who are harassed should just “toughen up” and “deal with it.” No. Sexism hurts, and our field will be better off if we openly address it and decrease it. Raising awareness of the problem and allowing victims to safely tell their stories is a necessary step towards identifying and correcting the root causes of the problem.

As two other women in my research group are leaving soon to start Assistant Professor jobs at other universities, I am hopeful that we can overcome sexism in space physics. I would like to think that space physics is more gender-neutral and minority-welcoming than in the past, but, clearly, we still have a long way to go. Please be part of the solution.

Summer 2016 Open Special Sections

Occasionally I post an article here about the open special sections with JGR Space Physics and it’s time I did that again. At the main page for the journal there is a link a little bit down the right-hand column, “Call for Papers”.

There are two or five open special sections right now, depending on how you count them.

“Geospace system responses to the St. Patrick’s Day storms in 2013 and 2015”: March 17 has been an exciting day this solar cycle, with very large geomagnetic storms occurring in both 2013 and 2015. This special section is open to any paper on any aspect of geospace activity during these two storms. Of particular interest to the organizers are coupling across geospace boundaries, especially from the magnetosphere to the ionosphere-thermosphere and down to the mesophere. We even have a special banner logo for it:


The deadline has shifted a month to July 15. This is only a month away, so get writing and get the paper in soon.

“Measurement Techniques in Solar and Space Physics”: in the late 1990s, there was a two-part Geophysical Monograph set on this same topic. It was time to do it again. After a conference in April 2015, the organizers explored options for publishing articles from the presentations. They selected JGR Space Physics. The expectation was ~150 papers across all possible instrumentation methodologies for our field, and so we divided into 4 special sections. One is subtitled “Particles”, another “Fields”, a third one is “Photons”, and a fourth is “Ground-Based and Optical.” We have over 85 submissions (unique papers, not counting revision submissions) and we are expecting quite a few more. The original deadline has past but we have shifted it to allow the remaining papers to come in: it is now August 15. Most of the papers in these 4 special sections are Technical Reports: Methods paper type, which require an original contribution to how we do space physics and a demonstrated applicability to eventually lead to additional understanding of space physics, but the Methods paper itself does not have to include a scientific advancement itself. Also, note that you didn’t have to attend the conference to submit a paper to any of these special sections; everyone with an instrumentation advancement is welcome to write a paper for these collections.

I know that there is at least one proposal in the works for another special section. If you are thinking about it, then please grab the Special Section Proposal Form just a few spots down from “Call for Papers” in the right-hand column of the journal website. Or email me and I’ll send it to you.

Passing 50000 Hits

An arbitrary but round-number milestone was reached this week: this JGR Space Physics blog passed the 50 thousand hits mark. Here’s the image from the bottom of the screen, as of a few minutes ago:


Thank you very much to all of the readers of this blog out there, whether you are regular or one-time-only visitors. Watching this number steadily rise lets me know that this effort is worth it.

Here are a few other stats about the blog readership. First, here’s a plot of the daily visitors and page views (i.e., hits) for the last month:


The numbers at the bottom are the values for today, as of a few minutes ago. As you can see, the blog normally gets between 50-100 page views a day, with a bit less on the weekends. The huge spike on May 9 is when my monthly highlights announcement came out in the SPA Newsletter. Those days typically get several hundred hits.

Here is a chart of the visitors and views per month for the last year:


The values at the bottom are for June, which is only three and a half days old. You can see that the blog hovers in the ~2000 views/month range, except for January, which I took off from blogging. That month still had ~1400 visits.

Here are the top 10 blog posts viewed so far in 2016:


            The “home page” is the most commonly visited, and on this page people can read the latest five posts. Interestingly, the next four are all from 2014. I struck on a good topic with those, and for the most part they are instructive posts on how to understand the AGU manuscript process. Only three on this top-10 list are from this year, but the “home page” views are also view of this year’s posts, so that should count, too.

Most of the readers are from the United States. Here’s the map of 2016 views by country:


It’s a little easier in table format; here are the top ten countries visiting the blog in 2016:


Countries from almost every continent are on the list. Thanks for being such a diverse audience.

One final factoid: I’ve written 162 blog posts (this is number 163). I’m two and half years into my four-year term as Editor in Chief, so I am pretty safe in saying that the majority of blog posts have already been written, unless I really pick up the pace in the final year. Please keep the blog post suggestions coming; I eventually get around to writing about most of them. If it seems that I’ve lost one of your suggestions, please feel free to send it in again.

Reviewer Selection Editorial

The Editors of JGR Space Physics just published an Editorial on our reviewer selection process. The big point in this article is that we often use the Areas of Expertise, a menu of space physics topics within GEMS specific to this journal, for identifying experts within the community who might serve as qualified reviewers of a manuscript.

I wrote a month ago about our expansion of this list. We now have 18 more items in the list, bringing the total to 73. These new Areas of Expertise will only help us if members of the research community update their GEMS profile and click on whichever of the new topics falls within their specialty. Here’s the full list, with the new ones in green:

Areas of Expertise v3.jpg

            Updating your Areas of Expertise selections in GEMS helps you as a reviewer because the Editors will be better at sending you papers within your specialty. Without this, we either have to know you very well or we have to guess a bit based on the papers that you have authored or reviewed in the past. Filling this out will hopefully cut down on the number of times we request a review from you for something outside of your comfort zone.

Also, from a communal perspective, the more people that fill out the Areas of Expertise, the higher the quality of reviews that you should have on your submitted manuscripts. With high participation of researchers selecting their Areas of Expertise, then all of the manuscripts will be better matched with specialists in that field.

Yes, filling this out means that you might get asked to review more often. But, as seen in our statistics for 2015 and for 2014, the average number of reviews per reviewer per year is ~2.5, so we are trying not to overwork you. If you feel overworked as a reviewer, then you always have the option to decline our request.

So, I encourage you read the Editorial and then log in to GEMS for JGR Space Physics and check out the new Areas of Expertise.