Thanks To All

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States today, and as we rapidly approach the halfway point in my tenure as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, I’d like to say thanks to all of those out there that keep this publication running.


            First off, let me say thanks to Nick Violette and Paige Wooden, the Senior Editorial Assistant and Senior Journal Program Manager for JGR Space Physics, respectively. They are the staff at AGU HQ that keep the editorial process running smoothly. I greatly appreciate their efficiency, competency, and positivity. They are fantastic people to work with and I greatly appreciate their dedication to the journal. Of course, Brooks Hanson, AGU’s Director of Publications, deserves a huge thank you for his insightful and visionary leadership. He is expertly steering the AGU publication juggernaut forward in this rapidly changing landscape of digital dissemination and into the uncharted future of Open Access and Open Data. There are also many others at AGU HQ to thank as well, like Mary Warner, the Assistant Director for Editorial Management, Jeanette Panning, the Assistant Director for Publications Programs, Lorraine Hall-Petty, the Editorial Coordinator, Victoria Forlini, the Pubs Assistant Director who has moved up and on in the AGU org chart this year, Dana Rehm, the Director of Marketing, who has been instrumental in launching and maintaining the “AGU Space” Facebook page, and Barb Richman, the EiC of Eos, who works hard to get our Research Spotlights published. Also, I’d like to thank the other EAs and JPMs that have helped with JGR Space Physics over the last year, like Dawit, Carol, Pam, Phil, Bev, Brian, Mike. I hope I didn’t forget anyone. Oh, and one more at AGU HQ to thank: Chris McEntee, AGU’s Executive Director, with whom I have been very impressed. She is a strong advocate of Earth and space science and an amazing administrator and strategic thinker.

May thanks also go out to the Wiley staff who produce and publish JGR Space Physics. I have had excellent interactions with Lisa Burstiner, Swapna Padhye, Anne Stone, and Matt Hollender, to name a few. The acceptance-to-publication time for our journal is under a month and I appreciate the responsiveness of Wiley to our requests for process and website improvements.

I would also like to thank the other Editors of JGR Space Physics: Larry Kepko, Yuming Wang, Michael Balikhin, and Alan Rodger. You rock. You not only carry out your numerous and continuous editorial duties, but also deliberate and decide with me on the strategic vision and future direction for the journal. I am very thankful and grateful to count you four among my friends.

I would also like to thank our Associate Editors: Anton Artemyev, Matt Fillingim, Natalia Ganushkina, Qiang Hu, Xing Li, Merav Opher, Jimmy Raeder, and David Shkyar. These people serve as “super reviewers” for the journal, and we rely on them for expert advice and guidance in our decision-making. Thanks for all that you do.

Finally, I would like to thank all of those that have served as reviewers for the journal. About the only word that comes to mind is…wow. I have a profound appreciation for the space physics community and the service-oriented mindset embedded in our culture. Thanks to the many hundreds of you out that that have worked to make JGR Space Physics the journal that it is.


Scientific Coauthorship

I was recently asked about the coauthorship policy for JGR Space Physics. AGU has a society-wide guideline and policy on authorship. About a decade ago, the AGU Council unveiled the latest incarnation of this policy in an Eos article. The second paragraph starts off with the policy statement, which I think is pretty clear: to deserve coauthorship, someone has to contribute “significantly” to either the work or the writing of the manuscript. In addition, the policy statement indicates that the corresponding author takes responsibility that not only should just those with significant contributions be coauthors, but also that all of those with significant contributions are listed as coauthors.


Even more information is provided at the AGU ethics-for-authors policy page (note that the link near the end of the Eos article is old and broken). I discussed this page in posts ~6 months ago and ~18 months ago, but I felt it was time to write about this topic again, because it is a regular question on people’s minds. Point #10 in the list of author responsibilities is about coauthorship. It’s pretty much the same as the AGU Council policy statement in the Eos article.

Near the top of the web site is a link to a PDF of Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics. This is a ~20 page document of how to be an ethical scientist, a small bit of which is about coauthorship. It’s actually exactly the same text as on the website link above, but you can see where it came from and the broader context of ethical scientific behavior.

There is ambiguity in defining “significant scientific contributions” towards a paper. Adding people just because they are your friends is unethical but so is leaving off those that helped make the study possible. There is a gray area there in which feelings can be hurt.

The question arises of how to police coauthorship. It is rather difficult to stop the addition of gratuitous coauthorship, because informal conversations at group meetings or over lunch could be construed as  justification for inclusion as a coauthor. I think that one or two informal conversations does not rise to the level of coauthorship, but in-depth conversations that lead to an impact on the direction, content, and findings of the paper are enough to warrant coauthorship.

The reverse case is perhaps easier to identify: an omitted contributor needs to request authorship through the author, editor, society, or publisher. The person should show convincing evidence that they “significantly contributed” to the work. If the corresponding author and editor agree, then a correction should be issued for the paper changing the author list. If not, then the editor/society/publisher needs to serve as judge about who is right.

At JGR Space Physics, we generally leave it up to the main author to decide the level of significance that deserves coauthorship and rarely question authorship decisions at the editorial level during review. It is up to your good judgment and the high ethical standards of the space physics research community.

Gendered Wording

A couple of months ago I posted about podcasts. One of the ones I listen to is Grammar Girl. Recently, one of the features was about gendered suffixes on certain nouns.


            A main point of the story was that gender-specific nouns are going out of style, and very few are regularly used in modern English. Good. My colleague down the hall is an Editor for JGR Atmospheres, and I couldn’t imagine calling her an Editrix.

This goes along with the gender-neutral responses post about removing the assumed “he/his/him” in author responses to anonymous reviewers. The overwhelming feedback I received was to use the plural “they/their” instead. I also like the more personal “you/your” but this often requires rewriting the sentence.

In the 6 months since that post, I keep seeing the use of masculine pronouns to refer to anonymous “others” in our field. Most of the cases I see are in JGR Space Physics author responses, as before, but also in other writings. Please stop.

Being an English-speaking white male, I am not directly familiar with being the minority in a scientific setting. I have been doing some reading on this topic, recently, though, including Eileen Pollack’s new book, “The Only Woman in the Room.” It’s a powerful personal narrative of her time as a young woman interested in science, including being a Physics major at Yale. It also includes details of the dozens of interviews she conducted in the last few years on this topic, demonstrating the truth of the book’s subtitle, “Why Sciences is Still a Boy’s Club.” It goes along with a post about a year ago about Dana Hurley’s Eos article, “Women Count.”

The number of women in the room matters. The little things we say and write matter. The choices we make in our everyday lives matter. Being aware that a problem still exists is a big step towards changing attitudes and behaviors.  Including in your JGR Space Physics correspondence.

Recently Closed Special Sections

To follow on with my last post on open special sections, I wanted to bring them to your attention the special sections of JGR Space Physics that have closed in the past year. A listing of “published” special sections can be found by clicking the “Special Issues” link near the top of the journal homepage. The central column of the Special Issues page gives descriptions and links to those that have recently closed or updated (i.e., a trailing paper finally published). Also on this page is a search mechanism for finding special sections based on their status or designated tags. For instance, clicking the “Accepting Submissions” filter yields “No results available.” This is because, as of today, there are no published papers for any of the five currently open special sections.


In the last 12 months, there have been 6 special sections closed for submissions and either at or nearing full publication of the manuscripts submitted to it. In order of how they appear on the page (as of today), they are:

Pulsating Aurora and Related Magnetospheric Phenomena: covering all aspects of observational, theoretical, and modeling studies of pulsating aurora, one of the major classes of aurora. There are 12 papers in this section.

Low-Frequency Waves In Space Plasmas: includes ground-based as well as satellite observational studies of low-frequency waves, not only in Earth’s magnetosphere but across the solar system. There are 26 papers in this section.

Long‐term Changes and Trends in the Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Ionosphere: joint with JGR-Atmospheres, this covers findings and insights on how the middle and upper atmosphere are evolving naturally and due to man-made climate change. There are 10 papers in this section.

Origins and Properties of Kappa Distributions: includes studies on the physical mechanisms leading to kappa distributions in plasma and wave distributions, and the non-equilibrium thermodynamics that describes these populations. There are 19 papers in this section.

Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact VarSITI: VarSITI, SCOSTEP’s new international research program, focuses on three big chains in solar-terrestrial relations: (1) the mass chain in the form of plasmas and particles emitted from the Sun, (2) the electromagnetic chain in the form of fields, irradiance (total and spectral) and flare emissions, and (3) the intra-atmospheric chain representing energy flow and coupling. There are 20 papers in this section.

New perspectives on Earth’s radiation belt regions from the prime mission of the Van Allen Probes: includes not only strictly observational papers focused solely on the Van Allen Probes data sets but also comparative mission studies and related theoretical and modeling studies. There are 41 papers in this section.

If any of these subjects interests you, then I highly encourage you to browse these pages and read some of the papers. It’s one-stop shopping for the latest (and greatest!) on that topic.

Open Special Sections

JGR Space Physics has a number of open special sections right now. You can find them on the main page for the journal at a link in the right-hand column called “Call for Papers” under the Journal Resources heading.


            There are five open special sections right now. I’m going to list them here in the order in which they close, rather than the order they appear on the page or the order they were approved. They are:

“Nature of Turbulence, Dissipation, and Heating in Space Plasmas From Alfvén Waves to Kinetic Alfvén Waves”: papers are welcome on any aspect of electric or magnetic wave phenomena, from large-scale MHD waves to small-scale high-frequency kinetic scale waves. Studies on wave excitation, propagation, wave-wave coupling, and wave-particle interactions are encouraged. The scope is across all regions of space physics, including solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary environments. This special section is open for submissions until 30 November 2015.

            “Inner Magnetosphere Coupling: Recent Advances”: papers are welcome on the interactions within different plasma populations in the inner magnetosphere (plasmasphere, ring current, radiation belts), coupling between fields and plasma populations, as well as effects of the inner magnetosphere on the ionosphere and atmosphere. The emphasis on the coupling processes between the plasma populations, plasma and fields, or inner magnetospheric region with other areas of geospace. This special section is open for submissions until 1 January 2016.

“Big Storms of the Van Allen Probes Era”: papers are welcome that document new understanding of radiation belts and ring current processes during intense magnetic storms. The emphasis is on multi-point measurements from the various satellite constellations operating during the “big storms” from this present solar maximum. This special section is open for submissions until 8 January 2016.

“Energetic Electron Loss and its Impacts on the Atmosphere”: Manuscripts are solicited that report advancements in energy (>20 keV) electron precipitation and their impacts on the Earth’s atmosphere. This special section is being run jointly with JGR-Atmospheres and is open for submissions through 29 January 2016. Authors submit to either journal and the paper is handled independently by that editorial board. The published papers will be listed together on the special section webpage. Here is an example listing from a recent joint section with JGR-Atmospheres.

“Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics”: Original research papers as well as Commentaries (link: Sept Commentaries post) are welcome on the most salient research questions still to be addressed by the magnetospheric physics community. The ultimate aim is to stimulate research efforts on these topics and thus advance understanding of magnetospheric physics in general. Note that Commentaries must be approved by the JGR Space Physics editorial board prior to submission. This special section is open for submissions until 1 February 2016.

As papers in each special section are published, they will be available through the regular journal website as well as through the “Special Issues” link near the top of the JGR Space Physics page. This page also allows you to search for special topics within the entire set of special sections since AGU switched to digital publishing in 2002.

There are a couple of others that I know about that are currently in the drafting and approval process. I’ll write another post on those in the near future. If you have an idea for a special section, then please feel free to contact me. The form for special section proposals is available at the main JGR Space Physics website down the right-hand column.

Tools For Avoiding Plagiarism

There is no magical advice, here, I am just pointing out the basics. I think it’s worth pointing out, though, because I have been asked about the availability of similarity check software for everyone’s use. AGU sends every “initial submission” manuscript it receives through iThenticate. This checks the manuscript against tens of millions of scholarly documents. You can use this service, also, but it is not free; running a check on a single paper will cost you $100. AGU gets a volume discount from this base rate but they pay a hefty sum to process all of the thousands of new manuscripts received across their 19 journal titles.

Really, though, you probably do not need the full iThenticate service, you simply need a check of a few relevant papers against your manuscript to ensure that you didn’t inadvertently use verbatim text from another source. I know that this can happen all too easily. For me, the common trap is that I borrow text from a paper for a proposal and then borrow it from that proposal into a later paper, thinking that I wrote it from scratch when I wrote it for the proposal. After writing so many blog posts about avoiding self-plagiarism, I know it is in my karmic future to have a manuscript rejected due to a high crosscheck overlap.

My method for conducting pre-submission crosscheck is rather rudimentary and takes a few minutes, but it gets the job done. Basically, it entails putting a copy of all of the possible source documents into a folder along with the new manuscript and conducting searches, just within that folder, for exact matches of complete phrases or even full sentences. I usually do several searches, checking each of the key phrases or sentences extracted from the sections of the new manuscript that I think might have been copied from an earlier paper.

From the Command Line (Linux/Unix/Mac Terminal): the grep command does it. Navigate to the folder you created with the new manuscript and the possible overlap files and type this:

grep –v ‘string’ *

where string is the phrase or sentence you want to find. The funny thing about grep is that it treats PDF and Office files as binary files, so it won’t tell you the exact line of the match but it will indicate that the string exists in the file.

Also for Linux and Windows: there is a program called searchmonkey that apparently does a grep-like search, but fancier.

On the Mac: this is done in the “search box” in the upper right corner of each browser window. Cut and paste the suspicious text into the box, but put it in double quotes. If the Finder window is open at the folder with all of the files, then once it starts doing its search you can click the button across the top that only searches that folder. I have found that this isn’t very good, though, as my Mac, at least, doesn’t find all of the files with the exact phrase in it. Perhaps it has to do with what is indexed by Spotlight. Personally, I open the terminal and use grep.


On a Windows machine: I don’t use this, but I have been told that FileString Finder is a good program for searching for long phrases in multiple files, as well as the program WindowsGrep, which is a menu-driven version of grep for PCs.

If others have better software or a better procedure that conducts these searches for identical text in multiple files, then please post a comment below sharing your knowledge.

New Scope for JGR Space Physics

We have a new “aims and scope” statement for JGR Space Physics. It reads:

JGR: Space Physics is dedicated to the publication of new and original research in the broad field of space science. This embraces aeronomy, magnetospheric physics, planetary atmospheres, ionospheres and magnetospheres, solar and interplanetary physics, cosmic rays, and heliospheric physics. Science that links interactions between space science and other components of the Sun-Earth system are encouraged, as are multidisciplinary and system-level science papers.

JGR: Space Physics welcomes theoretical, numerical, or observational manuscripts as well as submissions on new instrumentation, numerical models, or analysis methods, as long as such papers include an illustrative example demonstrating direct and timely relevance to space research. Authors are strongly encouraged to make very clear in their manuscript the new science or technology contribution to the field.

JGR: Space Physics also encourages the members to the space science research community to submit proposals for topical reviews, commentaries, and special collections to the Editors.


The old scope was quite brief, basically a short version of the second sentence. This new scope clarifies the full range of topics included in the journal as well as the types of papers that can be submitted. Here are some notable changes from the old version.

We have dropped the word “external” in front of “solar physics.” We are encouraging the submission of papers that span the entire breadth of phenomena that influence solar, interplanetary, and planetary space environments. This includes processes within the convective zone of the Sun that influence the solar magnetic field and solar atmosphere.

We have included explicit mention of multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and system-level science studies. As long as there is relevance to a core discipline within space science, then papers including connections to other fields, or even focused on something beyond the normal scope, are welcome.

Not every paper has to have a significant original scientific contribution to space science. JGR Space Physics accepts submissions of several other types of papers for which the publication criteria do not include this “high bar” of original research. First, there are Technical Reports, oriented towards either “data” or “methods,” that should describe a new resource or capability that others in the community should find useful. These papers must include a discussion that demonstrates how it could be used to advance understanding of space physics but it does not have to include the scientific advancement in the Technical Reports paper.

Another paper type in this category is the Topical Review. Again, this does not have to include an original research component, in fact they shouldn’t, but it should include a discussion of the relevance and timeliness of compiling the review now. Note that these are not meant to be as lengthy as a Reviews of Geophysics article, nor written for the broader audience of that journal, but rather focused on a particular issue and written for those in the field. Note that these need editorial board approval before submission; please send us an email.

Finally, there are Commentaries, about which I have recently written. A Commentary is a short “perspectives” article that addresses a particular space science topic and does one of the following: explain the importance of that issue, synthesize recent developments, discuss a controversy, or provide context around an unresolved mystery. They can also be used to provide a scientific evaluation on a recent meeting, a classic paper, or a notable anniversary or event in the field. Until we see how they work in this journal, we are requiring editorial board approval before submission. Like topical reviews, send us an email.

The last thing mentioned in the new scope are special collections, also known as special sections or special issues. These also require editorial board approval, but there is actually an AGU form available for these. The list of published special collections is here and the list of open special collections is here.

Initial Submission Can Be Any Format

Yes, you read that headline correctly: for JGR Space Physics, and I think any AGU journal, the initial submission of a manuscript can be in any reasonable format. As long as the paper has all of the essential elements (title, authors, abstract, main body, affiliations, references), it will be passed on by AGU HQ staff to the editors for consideration. We really like line numbers, too, as that greatly helps the editor and reviewers comment on specific text within the manuscript.

What does this mean for you as an author? It means that if you usually submit to a different journal, for example Annales Geophysicae or ApJ, and you prefer to prepare your manuscripts in that journal’s style format, then please, by all means, do it. Even if you intend to (or eventually) submit it to JGR Space Physics, you can feel free to prepare and submit the initial version in another journal’s formatting and referencing style.

So, here is some advice:


I don’t care which style guide you pick, at least for the first submission of a manuscript.

If it is not declined for publication, then for the second submission of the manuscript, it will have to be converted to comply with AGU formatting standards. This is the point at which publication is becoming much more likely and we need you to make it ready for the production staff.

Note that the second submission is also the point at which you need to upload the figures as individual files. For the first submission, this is not required. A single PDF of the manuscript, with figures either embedded throughout the text or clustered at the end of the document, is all that you need to upload.

Finally, for any submission version number, you can replace the GEMS-generated PDF with your own PDF. I find this especially helpful for the resubmissions when the figures have to be uploaded individually. GEMS does not annotate the figures and therefore they are unlabeled and not numbered, with either figure numbers or page numbers, in the GEMS-generated PDF. Uploading your own version of this PDF, with the figures numbered and paginated and perhaps even embedded within the main text, is not only allowed but also beneficial and appreciated.

We hope that this makes it more convenient for everyone to submit papers to AGU journals. I think that this loosening of the initial submission rules will most directly help those who only usually published in other journals and occasionally publish in JGR Space Physics.

Reviewers: Look Up Papers

A solution to the issue of self-plagiarism in the Methodology section is to write up the method thoroughly in the first paper of the series and then only have a couple of sentences in subsequent papers with a reference back to this full-length description. I like this solution, as long as the subsequent papers include the key elements of the methodology that are essential for understanding the results of that new study. Maybe nothing needs to be highlighted beyond what was in that initial full description paper, but sometimes the follow-on study focuses on a particular aspect of the full methodology and therefore it is useful to remind the readers about that specific point.

For this solution to work, it takes an effort on the readers of the papers to look up the initial paper with the full description. With the push towards Open Access, including the availability of past papers, this is rather easy. Given the full citation in the reference list, I can usually have electronic access to the paper within minute. I don’t need the authors to repeat verbatim a methodology description they have already published.

While some researchers prefer to give a complete methodology description in every paper, this idea of citing published work and just giving a sentence or two about the relevant points to the new study has a long tradition in scientific publishing. This about the Introduction; it’s entirely written this way. Sometimes a published study gets a full paragraph, but usually they get a sentence at most, and sometimes just inclusion in a listing along with other similar papers. This style is fully acceptable in the Introduction and we need to start embracing it in the Methodology section as well.

This requires a change of mindset for some reviewers. Something like this:


A cool graphic I grabbed from here.

When a manuscript has only a short methodology section and instead refers to previously published papers for these details, reviewers should look up these papers for those details. Only the elements of the methodology that are critical for understanding the new work needs to be included in the new paper. Reviewers should not demand a complete description of the methodology in every manuscript when it is already available in another paper.

As an Editor, I will try to spot requests for more methodology and make a judgment call on whether the authors need to adhere to the reviewer’s request. I might not catch such requests, though, so authors should feel empowered to push back on such requests from reviewers when there is a complete description of the requested details already in print. This will bring the issue to my attention when I read your responses (or entered in the cover letter text box during submission) and I can arbitrate at that point. Sometimes, the extra text is needed because the detail is essential to properly understand the new work; other times, though, it is extraneous.

Let’s all help to make the world a place with more concise writing.

Levels of Rejection

I was at the “Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics Workshop” in Scarborough, England this last week. It was an excellent meeting and I highly commend Mick Denton and crew for putting on a brilliant conference with lots of time for discussion. In case you were wondering, yes, I think that even my talk went well, as it prompted a lively debate.

Here is Editor Larry Kepko’s hand holding aloft a bottle of “magnetosbeer,” specially labeled by a local brewery just for the conference:


He carried that bottle a couple of miles and up a hill in order to get that photo!

Something came up in conversations during the week: it was lamented to me that JGR Space Physics has gone the way of GRL in sending authors “reject with encourage to resubmit” decision letters. Yes, we do send out such letters. It was brought to my attention that these letters are worded rather nicely, indicating that the paper is being “declined publication” (i.e., rejected) but that the Editor would like to see it resubmitted to JGR Space Physics when it is suitably revised. We even ask for responses to the reviews. This sounds a lot like a major revision decision, except that it is assigned a new paper number upon resubmission. The complaint is that this decision is done simply to increase our rejection rate and submission-to-decision time. Perhaps others of you feel the same way as those that expressed this to me directly. Therefore, I would like to directly and openly address it.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that this opinion of the “reject and encourage resubmission” decision is a valid complaint. At first glance, it certainly does look like a major revision decision, just with a new paper number next time. That is not our intent.

I use this option when two conditions are met. The first condition is that the reviewers noted numerous and substantial concerns about the study. Therefore, I am judging the paper to be demonstrably not ready for acceptance and publication. I have written a couple of times about why I reject papers. The paper needs an overhaul and I am making the judgment call that it will be a significantly different paper upon resubmission, therefore making it a new submission and invalidating the original initial submission date. There second condition that must be met is that I think the core elements of the study are worthy of eventual publication in JGR Space Physics. The decision letter, therefore, not only informs about rejection but also indicates my eagerness to see it again. Yes, it was rejected, and I think you have a lot of work to do, but yes, I also want you to give it another chance in JGR Space Physics.

Asking for responses to the reviews actually helps you speed your previously rejected paper towards acceptance. That’s why we ask you to do it. If you supply them, then we will definitely seek out the original reviewers. You can also ask for us to not send it to those reviewers. In the end, we may or may not use the original reviewers.

We have another decision-to-reject letter does not include these words of encouragement. In that letter, we state that we are providing the reviews in case you want to consider them as you mull your options of sending the paper to another journal. You can still resubmit a rejected paper for which I sent such a letter, but my experience tells me it will be a challenge to get through the reviewers.

I would also like to acknowledge that I believe that no one likes to receive a rejection letter. Here’s a website I found with a graphic that pretty much sums it up:


You spent time on the study and writing the paper. Rejection stinks. It’s okay to wallow in misery for a day.

Finally, I would like to dispel the erroneous notion that I am under pressure to achieve a particular rejection rate or time-to-publication interval. AGU places no pressure on us to hit any targets with either of these statistics. We do our best to keep JGR Space Physics a high-quality journal that publishes significant new contributions to the field, while also moving your papers along through the editorial process as smoothly and quickly as possible.