Most people are supportive of the position of journal editor, but occasionally I get asked the question, “Why did you take on this job?” It’s a very good question, because the job takes a lot of time away from doing other things in my life. In addition, I am “the obstacle,” the roadblock to the smooth and timely publication of your paper. Who wants that job?! It’s a universal assumption that authors think their manuscript is worthy of acceptance without revision, and I, with the help of the solicited referees, am the gatekeeper deciding that it needs more modifications. Or worse, deciding that the modifications are too great and therefore I reject that version of the manuscript.
So, why did I agree? One big reason is that I know people who are/were getting frustrated with JGR-Space Physics and I thought up some ways to alleviate that angst. That is, I was (and still am) concerned about the prestige of the journal and wanted to do what I can to keep it a premiere publication. This concern is not really about the standing of JGR relative to other space physics journals; it is about the journal’s stature beyond our field and a perception about space physics as a discipline. I did not want to see its reputation slip and be a reflection on our entire field.
To address this looming “stature gap” relative to other fields, I first had to understand the irritation with JGR. Some of it had to do with the immediate issue of production snafus with the transition to Wiley. For others, it was dissatisfaction with the editorial system and process. For some, it was a very specific affront and they refused to publish in JGR anymore. Many of these personal disappointments had taken place years ago, yet they still held it against the journal.
For a portion of these issues and concerns, the answer was already in place but the community didn’t know about it yet. I wanted to increase communication from the editorial board to the space physicists we serve, removing the opaque barrier of secrecy to our work and helping the community understand what we do. I think that people are reasonable and if they become familiar with the editorial process, then they will better comprehend our decisions.
For other problems that people have with the journal, I wanted to open up a conversation with the community so that these issues can be identified and addressed. Again, this blog is helping with that, but I would also like people to feel comfortable directly emailing me with a question or comment about how JGR works. The more information you have about the process, the better. Ignorance is a huge driver of fear and frustration, and so the more that I can communicate with you to let you know what we do as editors, what AGU staff do to process manuscripts, and what Wiley staff do to convert the accepted manuscript into a published paper, the better.
Note that being open about the process does not mean being easy on the manuscripts. I and the other editors will still demand revisions and occasionally reject papers. The bar for publication is still high and papers must make a significant original contribution to our knowledge of space physics in order to be published in the journal. That said, if you have any questions about why, then please just ask.