I would love to hear from you about your ideas for Special Sections in JGR-Space Physics. Please, send me, or any of the Editors, an email about your idea and we will work with you to make it happen.
While some have told me that Special Sections are an out-dated relic of the paper version of the journal, I think that Special Sections are needed more than ever. Let me explain.
First of all, it imposes a deadline on us for writing and submitting a manuscript. In today’s busy world, we need to have deadlines to make certain projects a priority. I know that I have a backlog of papers waiting to be written, with the results done and usually presented somewhere already. The last step in the process is converting those Powerpoint bullets into paragraphs of text. And I do, a few a time, but then I have to stop and do something else for a while because that other thing has a deadline, and the paper sits half finished. There is little else like a deadline to make something get done, and a deadline on a manuscript submission rises this task up the to-do list and gets it done.
Secondly, another reason that I like Special Sections is that they focus community attention on a particular topic. There are enough of us out there that we can make serious progress on an unresolved issue if a large collection of us put our minds to it. A Special Section is a means to direct the research community to think about a certain problem for a little while. On this note, it’s actually a good thing to recycle Special Section topics every now and then to refocus attention on that problem and force us to build on the last Special Section advancement.
Yet another way that Special Sections help is that they serve as a one-spot-shopping place for papers on that topic. Space physics publishes well over a thousand papers a year (across all journals), and it is essentially impossible to keep up with the literature. Therefore, it is useful to collect papers on a single topic at one website and make it easy to find the latest contributions to the discussion. I think that this greatly facilitates scientific advancement.
Note that AGU is probably going to change the name from Special Section to Special Collection. I like this and fully support the name change. The other new feature is to make a Special Collection from already-published papers. I think that this is brilliant: it is an opportunity to create a website of paper links, including a sentence or paragraph of commentary, on the fundamental and foundational “classics” of a particular topic.
The process is easy. All of the Editors of JGR-Space has a form for the proposer to fill out, describing the Special Section topic, the need for it to be solicited now, and the expected contributors. If (when) approved, the only task of the proposer is to publicize the Special Section and prod colleagues in the field to submit papers by the deadline. The submissions are treated just like regular submissions and are handled by the journal Editors, not a guest editor. Writing a preface or foreword to the Special Section is optional.
So, please think up new ideas for Special Sections and contact any one of the Editors. We would love to hear from you.