Reviewer Now Author?

Following on the topic of author-reviewer interaction I’ve been asked several times by reviewers that are later contacted by the authors. What should they do?


            The typical case is this: the reviewer, an expert in the topic of the paper, writes a thorough review that poses some tough questions, raises some big concerns, or demands some challenging tasks of the authors. The authors then find that they need additional help to answer these concerns, and reach out to another member of the community for advice and collaboration. Inadvertently, they sometimes choose the exact person recommending those concerns be met in their paper. This is a rare event, but it happens a few times a year.

My advice to the reviewer: if you have the time and inclination to discuss the issue with the authors, then go ahead and work with them. If not, then just politely decline, perhaps stating that you don’t really have time for this extra effort, and hopefully offering some other names of people that might be more willing to help. It is entirely up to you whether you engage in this conversation with the authors.

The question comes up about whether to reveal yourself as the reviewer raising these concerns or requesting these changes. That is entirely up to you. If you are one that normally reveals your name as a reviewer, then dropping anonymity in this case follows that typical behavior. If you don’t want to reveal yourself, then don’t. Most people do not reveal their identity, but I have not done the statistics to know a percentage.

If your involvement in the work rises to the level that the author invites you to become a coauthor, again it is your choice whether to accept that offer. If you do, then the Editor will, of course, not use you as a reviewer for the resubmission. In fact, the Editor will assume that all of your concerns were met and that you now find the paper acceptable for publication. Agreeing to be a coauthor might lead to a new reviewer being assigned to the manuscript, or it might not.

In any case, please inform the Editor of this contact. Just email the editorial office and let us know. If you eventually become an author, then it will explain the strange twist. Even if you do not become a coauthor, then it will be good for the Editor to know how you helped the authors address your concerns, so this can be taken into account in the decision process without having to reveal this contact in your formal review (seen by the authors).

The Editor of the manuscript will maintain confidentiality and anonymity. That is, we will not reveal the reviewer’s identity. We shouldn’t (and I hope don’t) confirm a reviewer’s identity even after the reviewer has self-identified to the authors. I always use the terms “referee” or “reviewer” and maintain gender neutrality in all correspondence with the author, written or oral. AGU offers anonymity to manuscript reviewers, and the Editors of AGU journals strive to uphold this confidentiality.

Reviewer-Author Interaction

I am sometimes asked about the appropriate channels for author-reviewer interaction. In a word: GEMS.

The reviewer, who knows the author’s identity, should only contact the authors through emails by way of AGU/GEMS. Reviews should be uploaded to GEMS and any additional correspondence should be sent to the editorial office. The AGU staff will forward the email on to the Editor and perhaps, if appropriate, on the reviewer. Never contact authors directly; that’s a breach of reviewer guidelines and ethics.

The reviewer has the right to reveal their identity to the authors. This is no longer done in the Acknowledgments of the published paper, by the way. AGU stopped that practice just a few months ago. You’ll notice that very recent papers no longer include the extra sentence in the Acknowledgments, “The Editor thanks…” It was decided that this wasn’t really serving a good purpose, and most times it just said “two anonymous reviewers” rather than names. Really, the only appropriate way for a referee to reveal their identity is to sign the review. The Editor will not delete this signature and the authors will see the referee’s name in the review text.

Similar to the reviewer-initiated correspondence, the author should not contact the reviewer directly but only via the editorial office. This ensures that there is a permanent record of all correspondence, protecting both author and reviewer in case of a later dispute.


            Really, the only acceptable time for direct author-reviewer interaction about a manuscript is after publication (or rejection). When you submit a manuscript to a journal and when you accept a reviewing assignment from a journal, you are agreeing to abide by the rules of formal interaction about this manuscript until final decision.

JGR Space Physics Associate Editors

When I became Editor-in-Chief, I inherited the Associate Editor crew of the previous JGR Space Physics editors. That set of AEs has now been fully replaced. I would like to thank all of them for working hard as “super reviewers” and “discerning arbitrators” for the journal. The outgoing Associate Editors, that is, those that have rotated off within the last two years, are:

Nicholas Achilleos, Olaf Amm, Nicola Andre, Sarah Badman, Nanan Balan, Jacob Bortnik, David Brain, Pontus Brandt, Stephan Buchert, Alan Burns, Paul Cassak, Jorge Chao, Mihir Desai, Ruth Esser, Reiner Friedel, Peter Gary, Jerry Goldstein, Duncan MacKay, Jonathan Makela, Gottfried Mann, Geoff McHarg, Christopher Mertens, Steve Milan, Yoshizumi Miyoshi, Yoshiharu Omura, Yuichi Otsuka, Mathew Owens, Dora Pancheva, Viviane Pierrard, Anatoly Petrukovich, Alessandro Retino, Kazue Takahashi, Sharon Vadas, Marco Velli, Zoltan Voros, and Xiaogang Wang.

To all of these people, I send out a big thank you:


In particular among this group, I would like to take a moment to recognize the career and contributions of Olaf Amm, who passed away a year ago, while still serving as an Associate Editor for JGR Space Physics. I knew Olaf pretty well and I still miss seeing him at meetings and talking to him about ionospheric physics and space current systems. It is very sad to lose someone, especially someone so young (~ my age).

While it is very hard to replace Olaf and the rest of the past AEs, here are the names the new Associate Editors that we have selected to help us run the journal. Some are not that new, and have been working in this role for nearly two years. Others have just joined us on the editorial board. They are:

Jay Albert, Anton Artemyev, Misa Cowee, Yusuke Ebihara, John Emmert, Mark Engebretson, Matthew Fillingim, Natalia Ganushkina, Hiroshi Hasegawa, Qiang Hu, Jiuhou Lei, Xing Li, Anna Milillo, Marit Oiereset, Joachim Raeder, David Shkylar, and S. Sridharan.

Yes, our new list is shorter, but we didn’t think we needed 36 AEs. We still might add one or two more in specific areas that we decide need an expert on the board, but we’re pretty happy with this list.

To all of you, I welcome you to the JGR Space Physics team and thank you for taking on the duties being asked of you!

Catching Up

The last 3 weeks have not been good for keeping up with editing for me. First the plug of work before the AGU Meeting, then the Fall AGU Meeting itself, and then a week with a final exam, end-of-term grading, in-laws coming to town, and Christmas. I still managed to put in several hours a week, but it was not enough to stay up with the influx of editorial work. Plus, I was preparing for and leading a JGR Space Physics business meeting in San Francisco and other Editor in Chief duties during the week.

This is really just a word of advice for those out there thinking about the open editor positions with Geophysical Research Letters that I mentioned a couple weeks ago or other editorial opportunities that occasionally come up for our community. Editing a journal takes a few hours a week, every week, and it does not go away or get done by others if you ignore it. I have to spend at least 5 hours a week on manuscript editorial management, plus whatever extra time I spend being EiC. So, future editors, please keep this in mind: you have to be prepared to carve out regular time in your life, for the entire duration of your term, to stay abreast of the workflow. It’s relentless. It’s worth it, though. The good definitely outweighs the bad. I’m just letting you know that as an editor you have to make time for editing, continuously, and that it will cut into other things you used to do during that time.

I spend a minimum of 5 hours a week on JGR Space Physics. I was fully caught up a week before the AGU Meeting, but then I had to pay attention to the strategic and managerial aspects of my duties. The week before and during AGU, I spent more than 5 hours a week on JGR Space Physics, but it was only partially on manuscript processing, so I got a bit behind. I did about 5 hours of editing last week, but it wasn’t enough. So, yesterday, today, and probably tomorrow, I’m catching up. This week is going to be close to 15 hours, I think.


AGU Giving Day

The #AGU15 Fall Meeting is a time when I am reminded just how large and diverse our society is. There are a few thousand space scientists here in San Francisco right now from across the country and, indeed, from around the world. For instance, on Tuesday I met Sarah Amiri, the Science Lead for the United Arab Emirates Mars Mission. I love meeting new people from around the globe; I think it’s a huge perk of being in our field. What a fantastically interconnected research community we have!

Some researchers have a tough time getting here, though. AGU, however, does a lot to help bring its members together here at the Fall Meeting each December. AGU has established a number of travel funds for students, early career researchers, and those from developing countries. I am very pleased that AGU is able to help support many people to get here because our field tremendously benefits from a diverse base of researchers tackling the tough problems from a wide array of perspectives and approaches.

On a related note, at lunch on Tuesday I sat next to Sunanda Basu, who has made a significant positive impact on our field through her science papers on ionosphere-thermosphere physics, her dedicated service at NSF, and her generous contributions to establish several awards and travel grants. She told me a story about her mother, who established a school in a village in India as a way to give back to humanity some of the richness of her life experience, especially to those less fortunate than her. Sunanda, thank you for the example you serve to us; you have learned very well from your mother. We all should.

We, the space physics community, can help expand this travel grant program. Giving beyond your membership dues allows AGU to provide even more support to a larger and broader contingent from our field. By giving at the voluntary contribution website you can direct exactly how your gift to the society will be allocated. It could be given as unrestricted funds or designated to one or more specific funds.


            In addition, this giving by individual AGU members will help space physics. AGU has recently initiated the Section and Focus Group Incentive Program to encourage member giving. For every milestone in percentage participation attained by a particular AGU section (like SPA or Planetary Sciences), AGU makes a bigger and bigger financial contribution back to that section (from AGU general funds). Section leadership can then do more for space physics, like the SPA Student Mixer that happened on Sunday evening. I have been told that the Space Physics and Aeronomy Section is below the initial “kickback-eligible” participation level of 5% giving $50 or more. Yeah, that’s right, very few of us give beyond our membership dues. We can do better.


            A great time to give is, well, right now. December 17, 2015 (yes, tomorrow) is the inaugural AGU Giving Day. Like Giving Tuesday, it is a one-day effort to encourage people to give back. Student volunteers will be roaming the Moscone Center to remind you of this event. If you are an introvert, then you can preempt their conversation with the satisfying mindset that you already gave. Because I know that you all have high ethical standards, though, as witnessed to me in your manuscript prep and peer reviewing for JGR Space Physics, I trust that you will, in fact, actually give before replying, “I already gave” to them.

Wanted: GRL Editors

The two space physics editors for Geophysical Research Letters, Benoit Lavraud and Bill Peterson, have been at the job for 6 years. They would like to rotate out of this role. There is an open call for this position on the AGU Pubs website. The call is rather general, and more information is found at the PDF file linked at the bottom of the announcement.

GRL banner

            Let me repeat some of the material in the call:

“Applicants should be respected leaders in the community, independent-minded, and even-handed. As Editor you should be (1) committed to further strengthen GRL as a leading AGU letters journal, (2) proactive in attracting innovative contributions in both traditional disciplines and emerging fields, and (3) able to commit to GRL’s fast publication pace. The Union is interested in attracting papers in developing areas and ensuring that readers of GRL receive the highest impact peer-reviewed scientific results in the most timely fashion possible.”

At the main page for GRL, you can read more about the journal’s mission, including the full aims and scope.

Space physics will suffer without two well qualified people from our research community on the GRL editorial board. Please think about it. If you feel the call to this service role, then I highly encourage you to explore it further.

If you want to know more, then please contact the current space physics editors of GRL. They have been at the job a long time and both are a wealth of information about the position. In addition, you can contact the GRL Editor in Chief, Noah Diffenbaugh. Noah will be at the AGU Pubs Booth from 3-5 pm Tuesday (today!) here at the Fall AGU Meeting, and this would be an excellent time to catch him. He is the one that will actually appoint the next space physics editors of GRL and with whom those two will closely work. You can also contact me about life as an Editor of an AGU journal.

Finding Me at Fall AGU

I am bouncing around between geospace and planetary sessions throughout the week, as well as a couple talks in solar/heliospheric and atmospheric electricity sessions. I am absolutely certain that I will be in these places this week: my poster presentation Friday morning, SM51C-2571, the oral presentation that is not on the schedule in SM53B in room 2016, plus I am chairing two sessions, P21C in Moscone West Room 2007 on Tuesday morning and SM53 in West 2018 on Friday afternoon. You can definitely find me at these times and places.

In addition, AGU has arranged for Editors in Chief of its journals to sign up for dedicated time at the AGU Booth at the Fall AGU Meeting, in the Poster Hall in Moscone South, just to the left of the poster help desk. I, and most other Editors in Chief, have signed up to be there. Here are the times for some space-relevant journal EiCs:

  • Me (JGR Space Physics): Monday 9-10 am and Wednesday 3-4 pm
  • Delores Knipp (Space Weather): Tuesday 3-4 pm
  • Phil Wilkinson (Radio Science): Tuesday 12-1 pm, Wednesday 3-4 pm, and Thursday 12-1 pm
  • Mark Moldwin (Reviews of Geophysics): Thursday 3:30-4 pm
  • John Orcutt (Earth and Space Sciences): Monday 2-3 pm and Tuesday 10-11 am
  • Noah Diffenbaugh (Geophysical Research Letters): Tuesday 3-5 pm

Stop by and say hello.

There is also the SPA section reception on Tuesday evening in the Marriott, Salons 10/11 from 7:30 – 9:00. I think that all of us will be there, too. Yes, note the slight time change from what was posted earlier. This is to accommodate the SPA Agency Night, over in Moscone West from 6:15 – 7:15 pm that night. There will be heavy appetizers and the SPA awards ceremony will be at this reception starting at 8:30.

014_2484_AGU Space FB image-final

At the AGU Meeting

The last couple of months have been pretty full for me. I tried to add a new thing to my work life for which I didn’t really have time, and it squeezed other activities. Mostly, it reduced my writing time, as new manuscript prep ground to a halt for me. I kept my New Year’s Resolution of writing 30 minutes a day for quite a few months, but lately it has greatly suffered. I tried hard to keep up with my JGR Space Physics editorial duties. The biggest interruptions to that were other JGR duties, in particular selecting new Associate Editors and preparing for our annual business meeting, which is this week.

I am looking forward to a relaxing week of science presentations and conversations in San Francisco at the Fall 2015 AGU Meeting. Seriously, I am excited about the week ahead, not only hearing about all of the cool new science results people have worked up but also visiting with all of you.



            For those of you also at this meeting, please feel free to find me and say hello. Even if I don’t know you, I would like to meet you. Please forgive me if I can’t immediately recall your name; there are ~25,000 attendees, of which a couple thousand are space physicists.

You can talk to me about anything, but if you are looking for a conversation starter, then how about this: what is something that you really like about AGU journals? People with gripes will always find me; it is for them that I started this blog, to have a venue for answering those questions and addressing those concerns. I’d like to hear the good stuff, too. I am not asking specifically about JGR Space Physics, but about all of AGU’s journals and the general topic of scientific publications. What works well? We expect everything to go well, and so those running the journals often only get feedback in the form of complaints about the things that don’t go well. The “squeaky wheel mentality” of addressing the loud and negative voices can actually have unintended consequences. When we only hear grievances, it could be that we change something that actually was working very well for most people. It’s good for us to get some positive feedback, too, so that we know what is helpful, easy, and worthwhile.

If you think of something, then let me know about some aspect of paper writing, reviewing, publishing, or reading that you find good.

Paper Titles

The instructions for titles, found on the AGU author instructions page, seem simple enough:


This isn’t much to go on, so let me fill in a few other pieces of advice about paper titles.

  • Be specific and informative: being too vague in the title runs the risk that your target audience won’t be able to find it or realize it is relevant. Focus on the original contribution to the field, usually the main science point for a Research Article or new methodology for a Technical Reports paper.
  • Be brief: Bibliometric researchers have investigated the optimal length for a paper title, with one study, that included over 400 Open Access journals, finding that shorter titles (below 95 characters) that focus on the results rather than the method yields more citations. Another study, focusing only on papers in the journal Cell, found that 30-50 characters yields maximal citations.
  • Abbreviations and punctuation: as much as I dislike acronyms in titles, they are allowed in the title as long as they are defined in the Abstract. These usually refer to methodology, though, so I suggest omitting them unless absolutely necessary for context about the science finding. Punctuation, like colons, commas, hyphens, parentheses (used properly), and quotation marks are fine.


A good title is a balance between completeness and brevity while maintaining clarity. It is not an easy part of manuscript preparation, yet it is a critically important element of the final paper. Even before readers see the Significant Points, they see the title. Write it so that it catches the interest of all researchers that might find it useful for their studies.

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.