In case you didn’t notice, JGR Space Physics has had cover artwork since its January 2014 issue. While this coincides with me taking over as Editor in Chief, it is purely by chance; I had nothing to do with the decision to begin cover art for the journal. In fact, at that time AGU started cover art for all journals that didn’t already have it. At first thought, this might seem like a strange time to start cover art, because the journal had dropped the print version at the end of 2012. It makes a lot of sense to have cover art, however, because of the ramp up in table-of-content email alerts and the increase in digital availability of the journal. Here is June’s cover:
The cover art appears as the front page of the “issue information” PDF for each monthly compilation of the papers published with JGR Space Physics. An example of one of these documents is available here, and it appears as the first paper listed on the issue contents page. On the second page of this PDF is a caption for the cover artwork, including the authors and DOI of the paper with which it is associated. In addition, the issue cover appears as a small image on all JGR Space Physics emails for the next month, so people that subscribe to such alerts will see this image quite a bit in their inbox. Brief side note: getting these alerts is easy, just click the “Get Content Alerts” button in the upper right corner of the journal homepage. Finally, the issue cover appears next to the title on every article page for those papers in that issue, which means it is around “forever.”
I have not checked the statistics on whether selection as cover art increases the downloads of or citations to the associated paper. I’ll do that some time and post my findings. I hope that it at least builds awareness for that particular topic of space physics, with people being curious about the details of the image and the science behind it.
I am the one that selects the cover art each month. I just did this for the August issue. About this time of month, AGU staff compile a list of papers either already published that month or expected to be through production and “in print” by month’s end. I look at every figure from every paper in the issue. Yes, every image, from 70 – 90 papers. It takes me 1.5 – 2 hours to do this. Luckily, most are in the online “image viewer” system, and I can quickly scroll through all of the figures for that paper. Sometimes this production step isn’t completed yet and the link in the spreadsheet leads to a PDF download of the paper. I pay special attention to those figures called out by a reviewer or editor as a candidate for the Image Carousel. These nearly always make the short list. I try to pick one quickly so that AGU and Wiley can finalize the issue and get it released as soon as possible. The monthly issue is usually ready by the middle of the following month.
In choosing a cover image, I look for both aesthetic value as well as scientific value. Usually the former plays the bigger role, but sometimes the latter will sway me to pick a less exciting or colorful image because I think the topic or finding is worth highlighting. This gets me to a short list of perhaps 10-15 images. In addition to these two criteria, I also attempt to balance scientific discipline, choosing roughly equal numbers of images, over the long term, among four areas: solar-heliosphere, magnetosphere, ionosphere-thermosphere, and planetary-cometary. I am also keeping track of the type of image, whether it is data, simulation, schematic, or photograph. I try to keep it about even between data and simulation, with a few of the other two styles.
After selecting a cover image, I then go back through the short list and pick a few to be highlighted on the Image Carousel on the JGR Space Physics main page. The website can only handle up to 7 images in the loop, so I usually have to downselect from my short list to finalize the set for the carousel.
Note that when you have a paper accepted to JGR Space Physics, you have the opportunity of suggesting images for consideration as cover art. This can be either one of the figures in the paper or a completely new, original image related to the paper. I always look at these suggestions and give them special attention in the process.