The Perks of Being EiC

I have been remiss in telling you about the perks of the Editor in Chief job.  Well, I mean beyond the personal satisfaction of doing all of the other duties that I have written about in previous posts.  Here are the more tangible rewards for serving as EiC of JGR Space Physics or Space Weather.  Actually, this list is for all editors, so those considering an editor role with either journal, to be opened shortly after the EiC is selected, this is for you, too.


The list:

  • An honorarium, paid quarterly, a little bit for being EiC and another component that depends on the number of manuscripts you’ve assigned to yourself. I have no idea what it is for Space Weather, but for JGR Space Physics, we handle a lot of papers, so this a few $K each time (so, > $10K/year).
  • Up to $3K in travel funds to attend a non-AGU conference of your choice. This is to be a visible and active member of the research community and promote the journal to the conference attendees, either explicitly by advocating for special sections, or implicitly by your presence and participation.
  • Waived registration to the Fall AGU Meeting, waived AGU membership dues, and open access to all AGU journal content.
  • Access to the Editors’ Lounge at the Fall AGU Meeting. This is a quiet room with breakfast and lunch provided to the editors, and beverages available all day. It’s a place for you to get some editorial work done while at the meeting and to have a private conversation about a manuscript, review, or editorial topic.
  • Invitation to the Publications Dinner at the Fall AGU Meeting. This event, held on Monday evening, is a nice meal with an open bar, and a brief awards ceremony to celebrate that year’s publications achievements.
  • Invitation to the Reviewer Appreciation Reception at the Fall AGU Meeting. This is usually on Thursday late afternoon, and is a chance for the AGU journal EiCs to thank those community members that have done exceptional work to make the journals successful.

It’s a pretty good list. It doesn’t fully compensate you for your 5-10 hours a week of effort, but these benefits are pretty nice.

A non-financial perk that hasn’t really been mentioned yet is that you get to see the full scope of new research being done across the breadth of space physics.  I don’t read every paper appearing in the journal, but I do read every abstract of every submission.  Please don’t quiz me, JGR Space Physics gets over 1000 manuscripts a year for the duration of my EiCship, so I don’t remember every abstract, but at least saw it once.  Being EiC has been a huge learning experience for me, and I have really liked this aspect of the position.


Advice for EiC Applicants

The job ad is posted seeking my replacement as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, and I have recently posted about my duties as EiC and editor.  Also note that the EiC of Space Weather is also open right now.  Yeah, now is the time for the space physics community to seriously consider this service role – the community needs good applicants for these positions!

I have no idea who is on the two search committees, so I don’t know their exact criteria for selecting the next EiCs for these two journals, but in the hope of getting the most diverse applicant pool that we can, I would like to point out some resources and give some advice to those considering this position (or to those that should be).


            First off: the information from AGU.  They have a page in the pubs section of their website that defines the role of journal editors, but it is pretty brief. The full-length description is in the “EiC job description PDF” link on the page.  Here is the summary:

  • Be an ambassador. You will be the public face and voice of the journal, so you should be ready to take on this promotional spokesperson role.
  • Set the strategy. While AGU likes to have some level of uniformity across its journals, there is some flexibility.  For instance, will you actively pursue and solicit special section proposals or will you de-emphasize that aspect of the submission process?  Another important question is how you will use Associate Editors.
  • Select editors. The EiC has full discretion in the method of selecting editors and associate editors for the journal.  You can have an open search with a public call for applicants, appoint people to the posts without a search, or anything in between.
  • Assign the reviewing work load. You see every paper that comes in and assign it to one of the editors (including yourself).  You can distribute this workload however you want, taking into whatever considerations you want.
  • Decide on ethical concerns. While there are AGU HQ staff that specialize in handling and resolving ethical issues, the EiC is involved in all of these cases, too.
  • Monitor journal activity. While AGU HQ staff have the quantitative numbers on the submissions, accept/reject rates, and other stats, the EiC is asked to occasionally report on the “state of the journal” to HQ, in particular in relation to similar journals and the outlook for the scientific field.
  • Conduct and attend meetings. EiCs attend an annual EiC Meeting, early in the calendar year, plus hold an editorial board meeting at the Fall AGU Meeting, plus convene quarterly editorial teleconferences (or as needed). My first year, we also have a JGR-Space Physics editors meeting at AGU HQ.

That’s a decently long list.  Really, though, the editorial assignments role is the only daily task; all of the others are things you do or think about occasionally.  They are all important, though.

So, my advice to you as a prospective EiC of JGR Space Physics, Space Weather, or any other journal you consider leading:  think about your philosophy regarding all of these aspects before submitting your application.  For some, you might be “staying the course” and doing what I and other EiCs have done in the past.  For others, though, you might have a bigger, bolder, idea of what to do with the journal.  I strongly urge you to explain these potential new initiatives in your cover letter.  This will help to get you on the short list, so that you have a phone interview with the search committee.  If you make it to that step, then it is time to really think about all of these aspects of the job.

That is, have a plan for the journal and convince the search committee that you are the right person for this position at this time because you have a vision for where the journal should go, what it should become, or how it should function.  The search committee might not agree with your vision and so you might not get the job, but my guess is that those with no vision about what they would do as EiC will have a tougher time getting on the short list for the phone interview.

For me, I had two big things: the first role, being an ambassador, and the second role, setting the strategy.  Specifically, on the first point: I wanted to increase communication between AGU, the editors, and the research community. While I didn’t actually think I would write a blog at the time I applied, I knew that increasing transparency and communication would be a good thing for the journal and the space physics community. This blog is major part of that (but not the only thing).  For the second point: I wanted to increase the number of special sections.  For the first few years, I went out of my way to solicit and secure special section proposals, and the number of submissions to JGR Space Physics grew quite rapidly.

Finally (for today), here are some other things that I would encourage you to read in order to prepare your application to be EiC of an AGU journal.  First is the plethora of information at the author resources center; AGU sets a society-wide policy for authors, but it listens to EiCs about suggestions on manuscript submission requirements. There is a similar page of reviewer resources, which has the list of questions we ask all reviewers to consider when assessing a manuscript. These guidelines are occasionally updated, because of input from both the Publications Committee and the journal EiCs. Another page to read is the ethical guidelines for authors, reviewers, and editors; it is good to be fully aware of what is expected from each group in the manuscript workflow process. On this note, there is a page of many links about publication policy, which I would highly recommend to anyone considering an EiC position.  Any of these topics are also fair game for your vision for the journal and your role as EiC.

As always, if you want to talk, send me an email. I am happy to share my experiences with you to help you get your application ready.


Editorial Workflow

With the announcement out seeking applicants to be the next Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, I wanted to keep going with the theme of my last post and briefly describe the manuscript editorial workflow.  Note that there is a really nice editorial written by my predecessor, Bob Lysak, on How JGR Works, that also goes over the modern workflow in detail; I highly recommend reading through that article. I wrote a recap of it a few months ago.


A quick overview of what I, as an editor, do with a newly assigned manuscript:

  • Read through the descriptive metadata on GEMS. Not only the title and abstract, to make sure it’s appropriate for JGR Space Physics, but also the author list, to make sure you are not conflicted.  Basically, double check what I did as an EiC in assigning it to myself. I also check the other metadata, like the paper type, keywords, key points, and the plain language summary at this point.
  • Open up and look through the similarity report. We will send it back if there is too much verbatim overlap with previously published papers that do not have exactly the same author list.  Note that overlap with theses and dissertations is allowed, as is overlap with a version of the manuscript at a preprint server like arXiv or ESSOAr. For more on this, I’ve written many times about similarity reports and plagiarism, including selfplagiarism, in the past.
  • Read through a few random paragraphs for English usage. It is a subjective criterion, but if I find several mistakes per paragraph, then I will send the manuscript back to get the English usage improved before sending it out for review.  English usage, along with high cross check or being out of scope, are the main reasons for rejection with review.
  • Check the data availability statement. AGU HQ staff also check this and will flag it for editorial scrutiny, but I always read through it anyway.  The data policy has shifted during my term, but the latest is that AGU no longer allows “available upon request” and the digital values behind figures and tables in papers, including model results, must be available independent of the author, i.e., at a repository.
  • Select potential reviewers. I like to pick 6 names. Perhaps one or two will be from the author’s suggested reviewer list.  Other reviewers might come from the Areas of Expertise that people have selected for themselves in GEMS, from citations in the paper, from those that cite papers in the reference list, or from similar papers we find with scholarly article searches.  For more on this, we wrote an Editorial a few years ago on our method of reviewer selection.
  • Send the initial batch of review request emails. I like to send the initial letters myself, sometimes modifying the form letter text to include a special note to the person.  I’ll often send these requests to the first 3 or 4 names on my list.

At this point, the editor is done with the paper. AGU HQ staff follow up with chaser emails to the potential reviewers, hopefully securing two people from the list I generated. The paper reappears in my workflow if I need to assign more potential reviewers, but for most manuscripts, I don’t see it in GEMS for a few weeks.  When it comes back, then I have work to do again:

  • Read through the reviews. I read through every word you write, whether it is in the online text box, in an attached file, or an annotation of the manuscript with the online tool.  I also read through any other information you provide, like your answers to the radio button questions, your notes for the editor, and any comments you have about highlighting the paper.  I sometimes have to go back and read through a bit of the manuscript itself, too, to understand a comment or concern raised by a reviewer.
  • Decide on the fate of the manuscript. We often follow what the reviewers recommend but the decision is with the editor. Especially if the reviewers have diverging recommendations, the quality of the review weighs heavily in my decision. Longer reviews are more helpful than really short reviews, but even a short review can make a strong point that swings my opinion. Sometimes I send it to a third reviewer at this point, but not too often at this stage. I have written a few posts about this decision process, especially about rejecting papers.
  • Decide on any highlighting of this paper. Even if the decision is not yet for publication, if I think the paper is in the top ~10% or so, then I will click one of the levels of highlighting that a paper in an AGU journal might receive.  The simplest is a post on social media, up through various write-ups in Eos all the way to an AGU press release.

If the decision is to accept, then I am done.  If the decision is to reject, then perhaps I am done, but, like a revision decision, the authors might resubmit some time later.  If the decision is a revision, then yes, I will see it again, and the workflow continues:

  • Read through the responses. Again, I carefully read through every word you write.
  • Decide how to proceed with the manuscript. Sometimes, I think that all of the concerns were adequately addressed and move on to acceptance.  Other times, I send it back out for review.  Sometimes, I send it to a third reviewer, but again, often not at this stage.

If I sent it back out for review, then again I have several weeks without seeing this paper in GEMS, as AGU staff send any chaser emails to the potential reviewers.  It could come back if someone refuses to review the manuscript a second time. When the reviews are done, it rejoins my workflow:

  • Repeat the “decision” workflow steps. This is the time where I might involve a third reviewer.  Or perhaps after second revision or after third review.  If there is a deadlock without resolution, then either I make a decision in favor of one side or I ask a trusted expert in the field to provide a fresh assessment of the situation.

The revision iteration can continue several times.  Each time it comes back in, it is “With Editor for Decision,” and I get a “red arrow” in GEMS, like the one in the graphic above. You might see this in your manuscript status table. The paper will keep coming back until either of the “final decisions” of accept or reject is made about it.

Okay, at this point, I am done with the paper.  That is, unless I noted that it should be written up with an Editors’ Highlight, in which case I am asked to fill out a highlight form about the paper.  That’s one last step that usually occurs within a month of decision, about the time the paper has completed its production cycle and is ready for its final publication at the journal website.

This turned into a long post.  Yeah, we do a lot with each manuscript that is assigned to us.  Early in my term as EiC, I kept track of my time and determined that I was spending ~7 hours per week on editorial duties.  That’s probably gone down a bit but only a little; I still spend ~5 hours a week on JGR Space Physics, and some weeks it goes up to double digits.

Please apply to have my job!

The announcement is out!  A search committee is formed! My successor is being sought!  Applications are now being accepted for the Editor in Chief position of JGR Space Physics.  Here it is at the top of the GEMS login page:


            If anyone out there wants to know more about this position, then please contact me.  I am very willing to talk with anyone about what this job entails.

Note that the editor search webpage also lists the opening of the EiC for Space Weather.  Yes, both Delores Knipp and I are rotating off this year. 

The deadline for applications is the end of this month – May 31.  You have 4 weeks to decide if you want to apply.  The application process is relatively easy, with only two documents requested – a letter of interest and your curriculum vitae. No letters of recommendation (or even names of potential letter writers) are requested.

The quick overview of EiC-specific tasks:

  • Assign every new manuscript to an editor. This takes maybe a minute per paper as I check the title and abstract, the author list and affiliations, any notes from HQ, and suggested preferences.  I sometimes follow the author’s preference but not always, usually for load balance. Note that we have over 1000 new manuscript submissions every year to JGR Space Physics, so this task is usually less than half an hour per week.
  • Organize and moderate the quarterly editors’ telecons and annual full editorial board meeting at Fall AGU. These are to discuss policies, best practices, changes to GEMS or other workflow issues, and any other topics we, the editors of JGR Space Physics, need to decide on as a group.
  • Respond to questions from other editors. This includes questions from the other JGR-Space Physics editors as well as EiCs of other AGU journals. This can be done through email or inside of GEMS with the “consultation” feature. This is a mechanism for editors to discuss manuscripts, either tough ones for which we would like a second opinion, or to decide whether to do a “reject and refer” decision. I probably average about one of these per week.
  • Respond to questions from the research community. This can be about a particular manuscript or review, or about publication policy, or suggestions for improving the publications workflow or websites.  I probably average about one of these per week.
  • Attend the annual EiC Meeting. In February or March, AGU has a 2-day meeting for all 20 of their Editors in Chief to think about more long-term, strategic issues of publication policy and best practices.  This is occasionally joint with the AGU Publications Committee.
  • Promote the journal. This includes attending science meetings and seeking out researchers to organize special sections, writing Editors’ Vox articles for Eos, and any other way you want to do this. For me, this included creation of this blog.
  • Serve on the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section executive committee. Yes, being EiC of JGR Space Physics comes with membership on the SPA ExecComm.  This is one in-person meeting each year, usually Sunday evening before the Fall AGU Meeting, and then several telecons throughout the year.
  • Help out AGU in other ways. For me, this has included a weeklong trip to China to promote AGU journals, serving as an EiC liaison to the AGU Meetings Committee, and, right now, serving on the Fall Meeting Program Chair search committee.
  • Choose the issue cover art. Near the end of every month, I get an email with the “forecast report” of papers to appear in that month’s issue.  I then scan through every figure in every paper, plus the author-supplied suggestions, for a single graphic to use as the cover art for that issue. This takes about an hour.

There are probably more things on this list that I am not thinking of right now. If I think of more, then ’ll post it in the comments below.

In addition to all of those duties, there are also the things that all editors do for the manuscripts assigned to them.  I’ll write up a summary of those duties in a separate blog post (or several, this could be long). There are also perks to being EiC; I’ll write those into a blog post as well.

EiC for AGU Advances

AGU Advances, AGU’s newest journal, now has an Editor in Chief – Dr. Susan Trumbore. This is a great thing; Susan is a fantastic scientist and awesome person with the editorial experience to guide this journal to a successful launch.

This journal was announced a few months ago and I wrote about it earlier this year. A recap: it will be a highly selective gold open access journal focusing on the most influential studies in Earth and space sciences. Its scope will span all AGU disciplines, from the deep interior of the Earth to the farthest extent of our solar system. AGU Advances will not directly compete with Geophysical Research Letters because it will publish full-length articles, and only a tenth of the volume published by GRL. Yeah, there might only be a few space physics papers in AGU Advances each year.

I met Susan at AGU’s annual EiC Meetings. I really like those meetings as they are a chance to think more strategically about publication policy than about the immediate-need actions and decisions of regular editorial work. They are also a time to talk about best practices with other editors, swapping stories and having a sense of camaraderie with a group of people tasked with similar editorial obligations. I enjoyed my interactions with her at these meetings. Unfortunately, we just had the EiC Meeting for 2019, so we will not overlap as I rotate off before the next one.


            AGU Advances is not quite accepting manuscripts yet. Susan still needs to select the rest of her editorial board (editors and associate editors, all of which will be AGU Fellows, like her). I hope that this will occur soon and that the GEMS submission site for this journal is open for manuscripts in the very near future.