Get TOC e-Alerts From Earth and Space Science

Three years ago, AGU launched a journal called Earth and Space Science. If you haven’t already, it’s worth the time to sign up for table of content alerts from E&SS. This is easily done by clicking on the link in the in the upper right corner of the journal webpage, here:


            E&SS is a journal that spans the entire AGU scope of disciplines, a lot like GRL but not at that very high, cutting edge, must-publish-immediately level. It serves several functions but here are the top two: (1) it is a place for the publication of cross-disciplinary studies that don’t quite fit the scope of other AGU journals; and (2) it is a place for sharing and describing data sets, methods, and tools that might be of interest to those in more than one discipline.

It just released issue 1 of volume 4, which has a space physics paper in it. Not every issue has a space physics paper, but the others are often worth a perusal. One of my favorite recent articles is this one on the “geoscience paper of the future,” addressing the often-neglected topic of documenting your research, methods, and data. Yes, I have submitted to E&SS and it was published. This two-year-old paper already has 7 citations, so I am going back; I am closing in on completion of another manuscript for this journal.

It’s a fully Open Access journal, which means all papers are free to all readers. The nominal publishing fee is a bit higher than that of JGR Space Physics, $1800 instead of $1000 for a ≤25 Pub Unit Research Article, but this isn’t a fair comparison. JGR Space Physics actually charges $3500 for a new paper to be Open Access. So, really, E&SS is not twice but half the cost of publishing JGR.

I am not trying to persuade you to submit all of your space physics papers to E&SS instead of JGR Space Physics. For one, it doesn’t yet have an Impact Factor and its brand recognition is not fully established. It is a place for publishing descriptions of new methods and data sets for which the paper doesn’t have a substantial new science component. While JGR Space Physics will consider such papers, E&SS allows for an expanded readership beyond just our field, and many methods and data sets have a broader appeal, making E&SS a good journal for such articles. Similarly, if your study crosses over into other fields and doesn’t naturally fit in any particular section of JGR, then E&SS is a good place for that.

So, let me say it again: I highly encourage you to sign up for TOC e-Alerts to Earth and Space Science. It’s relevant and its paper titles are worth the glance each month.

AGU’s Pubs Highlights Website

In addition to the Highlights tab near the top of the JGR Space Physics journal homepage and other ways they highlight papers there, AGU has also assembled a “Recent Highlights Across AGU Publications” page.


            One of the links on this page is to a listing of all of the papers associated with recent journal cover art. Other sections of the page lists papers that have had news coverage in the mainstream media, papers trending on social media, and those highlighted by Editors (like the link above). There are lists of recent Commentaries, special sections, and AGU books.

It’s kind of like Eos but it’s just a single page and entirely focused on content in AGU’s peer-reviewed journals. In fact, the right-hand column has many links to Eos articles, especially that related to publications in other AGU journals.

It’s a good page to bookmark and occasionally visit. It’s one-stop shopping for what’s hot and new across the AGU scientific world.

Women Reviewers

While there have been a few good-press stories about women in science lately, with the viral blog post about a woman’s experience at Uber and today’s story about this issue in The Conversation, I thought it was finally time to write up another post on the topic of women and bias in publishing.

Specifically for geoscience and readers of JGR Space Physics, there were two recent Eos articles or relevant, one on scientists at the Women’s March on Washington and another on the obstacles facing women in our field and another. This second article is an especially worthwhile read, including parts of particular interest to scientific publishing. AGU HQ staff wrote an article that just appeared in Nature last month about gender bias in reviewing, finding that women do not serve as reviewers as much as they write first-authored papers. For researchers in their 20s, this gap doesn’t exist, but it slowly widens, almost monotonically, with each additional decade of age.

As you can see from the paper title:


I’ve described the article’s findings too generally. The title nicely links the finding to the cause. That is, the gap is not the fault of the researchers; the review-request decline rate is identical between men and women. It is the fault of the editors, who send out the review requests, and manuscript corresponding authors, who suggest potential reviewers. The proportion of women in these two categories (those getting review requests and those listed as potential reviewers) is lower than the proportion of women in the field. We need to do better. I need to do better.

Science did a related study looking at the proportion of women authors of their papers, finding that it is substantially lower than the proportion of women among potential authors. So, it isn’t just geosciences, but across science as a whole, that a gender bias in publishing exists.

How can we change this? In addition to me and the other editors getting our requests in line with the research population, I have one idea to share here for all of you.

Manuscript corresponding authors: please think about your list of potential reviewers before signing in to GEMS to submit your paper. GEMS asks you for lots of information and you should think about all of these questions before sitting down to submit, but I especially encourage you to put some effort into the potential reviewer list. If we do it “on the fly” while in the process of submitting, then the usual suspects of senior people, often men, will most likely come to mind. These people are often busy and decline. Please spend some time on this list and think about the full range of potential reviewers. It will help you because it helps us find highly qualified reviewers that much faster.

Want Some Salt With That Metric?

I’ve become a fan of the Scholarly Kitchen. It’s a multi-author blog produced by the Society for Scholarly Publishing. They have daily posts about academic publishing across a wide range of topics, including some useful categories for JGR Space Physics readers, like peer review, discovery and access, and a category simply called academia.


While at the AGU EiC meeting this week, a link to a just-posted Scholarly Kitchen article was circulated on the trustworthiness of journal metrics. The author rates the various journal metrics according to their completeness, transparency, and veracity. She uses a clever scale…the “grains of salt” with which you should take each of the metrics. It goes well with my recent posts on metrics.

And the winner is…CrossRef, which only requires a pinch of salt. ISI and Scopus should be taken with a cup of salt, Download Statistics with a bathtub of salt, and Google Scholar and Research Gate with a classroom full of salt. Yeah, she really doesn’t like Google Scholar for scholarly metrics.

The author is Angela Cochran, who is the Journals Director for the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Past-President of the Council of Science Editors. She knows what she’s talking about on this subject.

I like one of the comments on the article about defining a new SI unit for skepticism, the pinch. A cup of salt is then a kilopinch, a bathtub a megapinch, and a classroom is a gigapinch. Clever.

CrossRef is what is used by Wiley for the “Cited By” link on each paper for all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. Here’s a recent example article with a healthy number in the “cited by” tab. When a publisher prepares a paper for production, they check the references for compliance with the database of known scholarly literature. Once published and online, that paper’s link is sent to CrossRef, which resolves the reference tags against its vast database, ensuring that the citation from the new paper is counted in the “cited by” list for each cited reference in it. The system is fast and the linkages are automatically made. CrossRef is a non-profit organization to which nearly all publishers contribute and subscribe, meaning that the database is as robust as possible and yet focused only on scholarly content.

CrossRef does not take the next step of generating an Impact Factor or CiteScore, which are proprietary creations of Thomson Reuters and Elsevier, respectively. What you get with CrossRef is a near-instantaneous update of the “cited by” number and paper listing at the Wiley site for your papers in AGU journals, and you can trust that it is the most accurate count of citations to your paper from other scholarly publications. That’s okay with me. We need to be dishing out kilopinches (or more) of salt with those other metrics, anyway.

Subscribing to journal e-alerts

Here is one more post in the series about my estimate of the 2015 JGR-Space Physicsspecific Journal Impact Factor and the need for citing recent articles. This could be my last on this for a while. I’m off to the AGU Editors in Chief meeting tomorrow, so there will probably be new topics to discuss here from that meeting.

How do we know about the recently-published literature? How do we put our new studies in the proper context of the latest research in that field? How do we prepare ourselves to be good reviewers and know about the full range of papers that the author should be citing?

Simply relying on our memory will systematically bias our recollection of what papers to cite to the “famous” and “classic” papers, which are usually the older ones. They are the ones we have seen cited more times in the past and the ones we have probably read several times during our career. Unless we make the recent papers fresh in our minds, we will probably not think about them.

On this note, a big thing that I think we can (and should) be doing is subscribing to journal table of content alerts. More than this, we need to be giving them a quick scan for relevant new papers in our fields of expertise and clicking on those articles. I like to download them and collect these PDFs in a “Papers to Read” folder. Most of the time, the contents of this unread-papers-folder expands with time simply expands with time but every now and then I read through one of these papers and move it to my “Electronic Reprints” folder. Okay, clearing out this folder often comes in little binge reading sessions, usually when I am with my laptop but isolated from the internet. At this point, though, I’ve seen the paper at least twice and I hope that something about it sticks in my head, ready to be recalled the next time I am talking about that topic.

Nearly all journals have TOC e-alerts now. At JGR Space Physics, it’s over on the right-hand side on the main website:


            The other big thing we should be doing is not relying on our memory to populate the cited references in the Introduction and Discussion section of a new manuscript, but conducting a rigorous literature search for relevant papers. I wrote a post on that last fall.

Should we do more for our JIF?

In my last post I presented my estimate of the 2015 Journal Impact Factor for JGR-Space Physics. The number is below the all-sections JGR impact factor by about half a point.   I also showed that this section-specific impact factor has been lower than the all-section value for, well, as far back as I calculated it (~10 years). While I am not that concerned, it is a little troubling to think that space physics, as a field, isn’t as good as other fields, like atmospheric science or astrophysics, at citing recently published papers in our new studies.

The ultimate responsibility for this is with the authors of papers. Each of us should be a conducting literature search with every new paper we write, including citation of relevant papers that either build up to the question addressed or place the findings in the context of existing knowledge, in the Introduction and Discussion sections, respectively. As I have written before, please do this with every new paper you submit.

In addition to this, should we who gate-keep and publish the papers, meaning the Editors, reviewers, AGU, or Wiley, be doing more to increase the impact factor of JGR-Space Physics? I guess we could, but it seems a bit unethical and manipulative, as mentioned in the Physics Today article I highlighted earlier this month. We can do something, though, especially the reviewers.

Reviewers, as the expert assessors of the quality of the work, are the best people to be addressing this issue. They should include an examination of the citations in the manuscript, especially the Introduction and Discussion sections, and determine if the study properly motivates the study with respect to existing knowledge of the topic as well as places the findings into the context of other similar or competing findings from other studies.

At the reviewer instructions at GEMS, AGU brings this up to reviewers in two places. First, it is asked of reviewers in the question set they must answer when submitting their review: “Is the referencing appropriate?” GEMS only provides three answers to choose from: yes; mostly yes, but some additions are necessary; and no. By asking the question, though, it really is just prompting the reviewer to think about this aspect of the paper and encourage suggestions of additional relevant papers to cite. The second place is in the question set for the reviewer to think about in the formal review: ” Does this paper put the progress it reports in the context of existing published work? Is there adequate referencing and introductory discussion?” Again, making sure that the reviewer assesses this aspect of the paper.

See the reviewer instructions for more details on this. There is also a 2011 Eos article about writing a good review. This Eos article has a spiffy flow chart about the review process:


It suggests that you read the manuscript up to 3 times. The article states that reviewers are not there to catch “to catch every typo, missing reference, and awkward phrase.” I agree. The reviewer should, however, catch glaring omissions of clearly relevant studies.

This idea of you-don’t-have-to-force-citation-of-everything is reflected in the GEMS questions to reviewers. Neither of these questions listed above explicitly ask the reviewer to look for citations to recent articles, nor is there a requirement to cite some minimum number of recent articles. I am glad, because I think that would be stepping over the line of ethical acceptability. In the process of thinking about all relevant literature on which the manuscript builds, though, the reviewer should also consider the recently-published studies as well as the older, and perhaps better known and more familiar, studies.

Impact Factor Just For JGR-Space Physics

This coming year, I am told that Thomson Reuters will release section-specific Journal Impact Factors for JGR. I want to give the community a heads-up on where we stand.

If your institution has a subscription to Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science, then it is not a difficult to do a search for “Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics” in the “Publication Name” field for specific years (one at a time) and get the citation numbers for a Journal Impact Factor specific for JGR-Space Physics.

I just did this and here are the results:


Unofficial JIF for JGR-Space Physics:

Number of items published in 2014:              760

Number of items published in 2013:              711

Cites in 2015 to items published in 2014:      1808

Cites in 2015 to items published in 2013:      2077

My estimate of the 2015 JGR-Space Impact Factor =      3885 / 1471 = 2.64


Hmm. This is well below the JGR-all sections JIF of 3.3 reported by Thomson Reuters. When I do this same search but with “Journal of Geophysical Research *” for the publication name, then I get a value of 3.20. This is close but a bit lower than the Thomson Reuters value. This is expected because I did not remove Editorials, Prefaces, and other items from the list of “papers”, which presumably have few if any citations and which presumably Thomson Reuters removes from the JIF calculation. So, perhaps the JGR-Space Physics value that I just calculated should be up by a tenth or two, but most likely it is still below 3.0.

I gathered the numbers for the 5-year Impact Factor, and for 2015, JGR-Space Physics has 2.76. Better than the 2-year JIF above, as expected because the journal has such a long cited half-life. With the correction to the denominator, this value is approaching 3.0, but again, probably not all the way up to it.

I was a nerd about it and pulled values back to 2002, when JGR went digital. This gives me 2-year JIF scores back to 2004 and 5-year JIF scores back to 2007. With my simple method, there has only been one 2-year JIF for JGR-Space Physics above 3.0, in 2012. The lowest is in 2004, which I calculate to be 1.89, but I am not sure that I trust the citation numbers for 2002; they are noticeably lower than other years and it is the year of the “switch.” So, removing this, then the next lowest year is 2007, with 2.25. Most years are between 2.5 and 2.7.

What does this mean? It means that this is the “level” for the JIF of JGR-Space Physics. Adding in the “Immediacy Index” values (cites in the same year as publication), which are usually between 0.6 and 0.8, and the total number of citations in the first two years of a paper’s life is, on average, between 6 and 6.5.

Note that the number of papers without a citation at all is very low. After 2 years, it is already down to just a few percent. Nearly all papers are cited at least once. In fact, total citations for the average paper increases almost linearly for the first ~8 years or so, as seen here:


I’d say that’s pretty good.

In fact, it is a big reason why I am not afraid of the coming official release of a JIF specific to JGR-Space Physics and its expected value of below 3.0. This journal’s papers have longevity, accumulating citations well past anyone’s journal metric calculations. People have published good papers in this journal, and present-day researchers continue to cite those studies. We take a while to absorb a result and build on it. The JIF is useful as a journal metric, but it is not the whole story.

JIF and CiteScore

This week, Physics Today published an article on the Journal Impact Factor and the new CiteScore index. Both are average citation values within a certain year to papers published in a few preceding years. The main difference between the two are that the JIF uses citations to papers in the prior two years while CiteScore includes citations to papers in the previous three years. The other main difference is that Elsevier, the creator of the new CiteScore index, is making everything about the creation of the values open, while Thomson Reuters only makes the formula and numbers used available to subscribers, and the actual list of citations is kept proprietary.


            As the Physics Today article notes, the values are similar for most journals between the two indices, but some shifting is evident, especially among the top titles. For JGR (all sections combined), the values are almost identical, with the 2015 Impact Factor being 3.32 and the CiteScore being 3.39 (to two significant digits, which I don’t like to do).

Also as noted in the Physics Today article, the similarity in how they are calculated suggests that the complaints about JIF are largely applicable to CiteScore. Okay, it includes another year, but Thomson Reuters already produces a 5-year Impact Factor, so CiteScore splits the difference. Both are susceptible to the size of the “highly cited tail” of the paper distribution in a journal, especially if the number of citable items is relatively small. Also, both are susceptible to manipulation, if publishers were to unethically push authors of new manuscripts into citing papers in their journals.

I find it bewildering that there are ~5% of journals in existence with a CiteScore of zero (as reported in the Physics Today article). This means that there was a year in which there were no citations to any of the articles published in that journal for the prior three years. I have not looked up the names of these journals to look for a trend or commonality but, regardless…wow. Thanks again for reading and citing the papers in JGR Space Physics!

Why Extend My Term?

As I stated in a post a couple weeks ago, I am extending my term as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics for two additional years. So, I have 3 more years as EiC, not just one more. We’ve reset the hourglass back to the halfway point of my term.


            The primary motivation for continuing to do this job is that I would like to see the project through on a few initiatives that we have started. One is an assessment of the common qualities of highly cited papers. One such study of citations to JGR Space Physics papers is well under way and, while I am not ready to reveal results (mainly because they are still in flux), a manuscript on our findings should be ready in the coming months. At the Fall AGU Meeting, I requested an additional study of this type to be conducted by Wiley staff, and I look forward to seeing their findings some time in 2017. Really, though, I want to develop a strategy based on these data and findings and see it through to implementation and eventual success. This will take longer than a year. So, when Brooks Hanson (AGU’s Director of Publications) asked me to extend my term, my initial thoughts were positive because I was already wishing for more time to see things through.

Another initiative I would like to bring to closure is this experiment in cultivating a relatively large number of special sections. We had 11 special sections that closed to submissions in 2016, a number that has been steadily increasing during my term as EiC. I would really like to assess the influence of these special sections on the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). Do they have any influence at all, or do papers in special sections receive more (or less!) citations than a “regular” paper. The same can be said for Commentaries, of which we had a special section consisting almost entirely of this paper type. Commentaries are short perspective articles that hopefully stir discussion, debate, and action in the scientific community. Again, I would like to assess the influence of such papers, in particular the number of studies that each one inspires, measured not only by citations to the Commentary but also by the number of “similar-field papers” within the “keyword” or “index term” category. However, because they are so new to the journal, we will have to wait a year or two to even conduct this assessment.

I am told that in 2017, Thomson Reuters will issue separate JIFs for each section of JGR. I have been forewarned that ours is below the all-section average. Because 2016 is done, the next release of JIF numbers are already set (although not calculated); we cannot change the initial set of values that we’ll have. I don’t want to hand off the journal to a new EiC who will have to deal with this step-function shift in JIF for the journal. I want to start now on influencing future year JIF values, and a couple more years as EiC will all me to properly assess and address this shift before handing the reins to the next EiC.

Finally, I’m having fun with this blog. I regularly receive positive feedback about it, which I greatly appreciate. I am glad that so many of you find it to be useful and informative. Yep, I’m going to keep writing these posts for three more years.

The Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship

This year, we were saddened by the passing of Dr. Maha Ashour-Abdalla, a space plasma physicist, prominent member of our research community, a Fellow of AGU, and a professor at UCLA. The SPA Newsletter announcement about her death is here. It’s worth the read.

AGU is honoring her with the creation of the new Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship in Space Physics Fund. The announcement about it is here. It is specifically targeted at women entering graduate school intending to pursue a research project in space physics.


            The exact size and number of scholarships to be awarded is still to be determined. As a new fund, it is starting out with only the initial donations received so far this year. To help establish this scholarship, people have to donate. There is a block at the bottom of the announcement page that allows you to quickly make a contribution to this fund.

I just had a post about AGU’s Giving Day with various ways and reasons to donate to AGU. The most direct and immediate way is to give online. This page is the general donation page with listings of all of the different accounts and funds open to contributions. Among all of those others, you can find this new scholarship fund on this page, too. Under the “Student Grants, Scholarships, and Activities” pull-down menu, the second from the bottom is the “Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship in Space Physics Fund.”

Let’s make this a lasting memorial to her, continuing her legacy as a leader in our field.