Free e-Book on Scientific Writing

I have a free e-book for you: Writing Scientific Research Articles by Margaret Cargill and Patrick O’Connor.

Cargill_Writing_Book_Cover

I am not the source, just the conduit. This is compliments of AGU and Wiley. They have little credit-card-sized “coupons” for downloading and accessing a copy of this book. There is a special code on the back of each card coupon, so each person needs their own card. I think; I haven’t actually tested this, because I only needed one copy.

They actually offered this e-book a couple of years ago. I read it, liked it, and took a bunch of notes. I should pass some of the key points on to you here in this blog. Well, I have, but not specifically as a recap of this book. If you would like the full version from the original authors, then please find me here in New Orleans at the Fall AGU Meeting. I have a small stack of these cards in my pocket. I can probably get more if I run out.

As a teaser, the section headings:

Section 1: A framework for success – typical research article structures

Section 2: When and how to write each article section – a method for writing the first draft

Section 3: Getting your manuscript published – submitting and resubmitting

Section 4: Developing your writing and publication skills further – specialized writing topics, strategies, and advice

Section 5: Provided example articles – for reference, called out throughout the book

I liked the book a lot and found myself agreeing with nearly everything they suggest. I highly recommend it. Find me and I’ll give you a coupon card.

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Giving Tuesday 2017

Today has been designated Giving Tuesday, at least here in the USA. This comes on the heels of Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. I’m not quite sure why Sunday was skipped over; a leftover from a bygone time when stores were not open on Sundays, I guess.

Many non-profit organizations are using today as a special 24-hour publicity campaign to raise funds. AGU is one of those organizations. You can find out more about their particular campaign here.

AGU-givingday2017

That link takes you to the main page about the Giving Day campaign; the direct page for individual donations is here.

I am not paid by AGU to make this announcement; I do it because I believe in what AGU does for our research community. I personally like to give to several of the accounts listed in the “student” and “special” funds categories on the “donate” page. Unfortunately, the website is set up to select only one fund from each category, so if you want to give to more than one fund in a category, then you have to do a separate order for each. It’s fast, though.

I’ve talked about this a number of times. AGU used to have it on the Thursday during the Fall AGU Meeting, but now they’ve moved it to align with the national Giving Day event. There are lots of good funds to which you can designate your donation, including some specifically for space physics, like the new Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship. And yes, AGU still has the incentive program that provides extra funds to the section leadership, depending on the percentage of membership in that section that make above-normal-membership donations to AGU (of any size into any fund).

Donating to AGU doesn’t influence the publications process; it will have essentially no effect on JGR Space Physics. It will not help your paper get published. It does, however, have big importance to the “extra” things that AGU does for our community, like travel grants for students and those in developing countries, outreach and public engagement to increase scientific literacy and awareness, and prize money like the Basu, Scarf, and OSPA awards.

Open Special Sections of JGR-Space

Here’s a public service announcement for the special sections that are open to new submissions at JGR Space Physics right now. If you have an idea for a special section, then please feel free to contact any of the editors and, when you are ready to propose, please fill out the form. There’s nothing quite like a deadline to motivate the community to finalize and write up their findings.

JGRSpaceCallForPapers

Dayside Magnetosphere Interactions

            Submission deadline: 30 November 2017

This special collection addresses the processes by which solar wind mass, momentum, and energy enter the magnetosphere. Regions of interest include the foreshock, bow shock, magnetosheath, magnetopause, and cusps, the dayside magnetosphere, and both the dayside polar and equatorial ionosphere. Results from spacecraft observations (e.g., MMS, Cluster, Geotail, THEMIS, and Van Allen Probes), ground-based observations (all-sky camera, radar, and magnetometer), MHD, hybrid and PIC simulations are all included. Parallel processes occur at other planets, and recent results from NASA’s MAVEN mission to Mars, as well as ESA’s Mars and Venus Express missions are also included.

Mars Aeronomy

            Submission deadline: 5 January 2018

The Mars upper atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and solar-wind interactions are becoming increasingly important for understanding loss of atmosphere to space and the evolution of the Martian climate.  Recent observations have been made from Mars Express over the last decade, from MAVEN for the most-recent Mars year, and from Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Orbiter Mission; landed spacecraft and earlier orbiters also provided valuable information. The International conference on Mars Aeronomy held in May 2017 in Boulder, Co, USA brought together all aspects of Mars aeronomy, including pertinent observations, analyses, theoretical models and results. The proposed special issue will collect the papers presented at the conference as well as will be open to all relevant manuscripts about the Mars upper atmosphere and space environment, even if the authors did not attend the conference. This collection is a joint special section between JGR-Space Physics and JGR-Planets, so the authors can submit manuscripts to either journal. The submission deadline is 5 January 2018.

Science and Exploration of the Moon, Near-Earth Asteroids, and the Moons of Mars

            Submission deadline: 31 January 2018

This special collection, sponsored by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) invites papers focusing on the science and exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the moons of Mars. We invite contributions covering topics including, but not limited to, geologic investigations, dust/exosphere/plasma environments, surface remote sensing studies, field analog studies, laboratory analyses, and geophysical modeling relevant to the bodies of interest. In addition, we invite contributions focusing on efforts to prepare for future human exploration of these bodies. Special collection submissions can be submitted to JGR-Planets, JGR-Space Physics, Earth and Space Science, or GeoHealth. Potential authors do not need to be members of a SSERVI team to submit a paper to this special collection.

Start Authorship Discussions Early

While on our AGU Pubs trip through China last month, a good piece of advice that AGU Senior VP Brooks Hanson made in his “author advice” presentation was to start conversations about authorship early in the research process. As a researcher goes through the scientific process, the person will most likely discuss the research with colleagues or even get help and resources from colleagues. The interaction could be at the initial stage, when they see something strange in the observational or numerical data and have those initial conversations about what it could be. The interaction could occur at the literature search stage of seeing of the weird thing is already explained by some previously published study. That is, the term “literature search” could be asking a colleague down the hall about a topic and following whatever leads they suggest. The interaction could be at the time of developing the initial hypothesis of what is happening in this strange thing. It could also be in the formulation of the experiments to test that hypothesis, or in the act of conducting those experiments (whether they be data analysis tasks, numerical model runs, new lab or field data collection, or a new theoretical derivation). Or, the interaction could happen very late in the process, at the stage of writing up the study for presentation or publication.

There is a very broad spectrum for this level of interaction of the researcher with all of these different people. It could be participation in a group meeting, where the person chimed in with a few comments or suggestions. It could be a 5-minute talk in the hallway. It could be an hour of flipping through plots on a screen together. It could be writing a new chunk of analysis software or a new subroutine in a model. It could be making plots. Not only should the time involvement be considered, but the significance of the involvement should also be considered. A five-minute conversation that completely changed your thinking on the subject might be worth coauthorship, while many hours of regular participation in a group meeting at which you mentioned the work might not rise to the level of coauthorship. As a research community, we’ve been making this judgment for a long time but, even still, there are no hard and fast rules on what contribution warrants coauthorship.

Dr. Hanson’s advice: broach the question of authorship early. With the CRediT list of author contributions handy, as well as the AGU ethical guidelines of who should be an author, including AGU Council’s thoughts on this topic, researchers should have frank and honest conversations with colleagues making contributions to their work. When you think that someone’s involvement is rising to the level of coauthorship on the eventual presentation and publication of the work, then talk with them about it. Most of us wait until the paper is written before we start to have these conversations with those outside the immediate “primary author” core group (which could just be one or two people). Author role #10 on the AGU page above is worth repeating here:

Author_Guideline_number10

All coauthors are responsible for the “quality and integrity of the submitted and published manuscript.” Which means that, to be a coauthor, you pretty much have to participate in the “writing – reviewing and editing” CRediT role. That could be your only involvement, but those that participated in the “conceptualization” of the study should also review and edit the manuscript before submission. If someone isn’t prepared to take on the reviewing and editing task, then their contribution has to be very strong in one of the other contributor roles to warrant coauthorship.

So, researchers honing in on results worthy of a manuscript:

  • Make an agreement with potential coauthors, saying something like this: “I think that what you’ve contributed so far warrants coauthorship on my future paper, but there is still more for you to do to get your name on the paper – please read the paper.” You should extract from them a promise to read and comment on the manuscript; without it they probably should decline to be a coauthor.
  • Offer coauthorship to all colleagues that significantly contributed to the work. Think about who impacted the research at each stage of the scientific process and offer them the chance to be a coauthor, with, or course, the additional work of “reviewing and editing” the manuscript.

The question still remains, what amount of interaction rises to the level of a “significant scientific contribution to the work?” I’ve addressed it here but it’s a subjective judgment call.

CRediT Is Here

Contributor Roles Taxonomy, CRediT, is now implemented for new submissions to AGU journals. I had a post on this a few months ago and it’s been in place with Water Resources Research for a year or so, but now it is implemented for all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. They have a page listing the various CRediT author roles but a much better description of them is in this Google doc. Here is the main chart from that document:

CRediTlistofroles

Corresponding authors, when submitting their manuscript through GEMS, now have the option to fill out these contributor roles for all coauthors on the paper. You don’t have to do it, at least not yet. Also, the current plan is to start displaying these contributor roles as part of the paper’s online information in January 2018, or whenever Wiley completes its software upgrade enabling display of these contributor role designations.

You don’t have to worry about the film credit model of authorship; that is not being implemented anytime soon. We will still have an ordered listing of authors, we will still be citing multi-authored papers by the first author’s last name, and all authors will still be getting full credit in their CVs and h-index calculations. This is just an extra layer of information about the study that will not only increase transparency about the contribution of each author to the study but also make corresponding authors aware of the different roles within a study and think about who should be an author of the eventual paper.

Trip to China

In mid-October I went to China on a publications-awareness-building trip with AGU CEO Chris McEntee, AGU Senior VP for Pubs Brooks Hanson, JGR-Atmospheres Editor in Chief Minghua Zhang, and GRL Editor Andrew Yau. It was a full week of visiting universities and research institutes; 4 in Shanghai and then 3 more in Wuhan. We met many people conducting research in the broad swath of “geoscience” fields from students just beginning their projects to well-known senior members of the community.

I’d like to say thanks to all of our host institutions. The people we met were fantastic and it was a pleasurable week talking with so many researchers at all of these locations. I had a wonderful time visiting your country and your workplaces, I was well fed at every stop, and the hospitality was excellent. Shanghai and Wuhan are delightful cities and I highly encourage others to visit when given the opportunity. It was a really nice week.

Mike_with_SJTU_mug-cropped

Me and my new Shanghai Jiao Tong University mug

 

I’d also like to thank my travel buddies. Minghua, Andrew, Brooks, and Chris, you are an excellent human beings. I am really glad that I got to spend that week with the four of you.

At each institute, Dr. Hanson would give a talk about publishing in AGU journals. This would start with a few slides about the scope of AGU and its 20 journals, author demographic info, and some updates about AGU’s latest endeavors in scientific publishing. Then we transitioned into more of an author workshop mode, discussing the desired elements in a manuscript submission to an AGU journal. This is where the presentation gave way to conversation, with questions from the audience and with the editors chiming in with stories and advice. We spoke with full rooms at every institute, with the crowd varying depending on the size of the room, from ~30 to ~200.

Here are a few of the key highlights that kept recurring in our “advice to authors” tips:

  • Talk to an editor. If you are unsure of whether your paper is suitable for a particular journal, feel free to contact an editor of that journal and ask. Some studies fall on the borderline between journals, or you might be questioning whether your result is significant enough for a particular journal. Either meeting an editor in person at a conference or sending them an email is a way to help you sort out which journal is the most appropriate for your work.
  • Write a cover letter. For AGU journals, this is just a text box entry during the GEMS submission process, so it is straightforward and easy. This is a great opportunity to explain why your study should be in this particular journal. Less than half of submissions include a cover letter, which is a missed moment to positively influence the editor’s assessment of your manuscript.
  • Write a clear Abstract and Key Points. Editors send the Abstract to potential reviewers, so this is a paragraph used to entice these people to accept the reviewing assignment. I strongly recommend making the finalization of the Abstract as one of the last things you do before submission, ensuring that it clearly yet concisely conveys the motivation for the study, the highlights of the methodology, the key findings, and mention of the significance of the results for the field. Similarly, the Key Points are displayed on the journal website table of contents, so these are one of the first things that potential readers will see, using their clarity and significance to assess whether to read the full article. Please make the drafting of the Key Points an element of paper writing, not something done at the last moment as you upload the paper into GEMS.
  • Have a friend critically read the manuscript. Coauthors should be stepping up to this role, but even beyond that, it is highly encouraged to form a small group of “writing buddies” who will read each other’s papers. Getting feedback from someone not intimately involved in the research is usually highly beneficial to the paper’s chances of eventual publication.
  • Spend time on the Discussion section. This is where the results of the new study should be placed in the context of what is already known, making the case that the new findings are a significant original contribution to the field. Far too many papers cut this section short, instead jumping straight to the summary and conclusions. A weak Discussion section can sink an otherwise compelling study.
  • Scholarly writing is hard, so practice it. Academic writing for journals is a learned skill; no one has a natural-born talent for this task. Just about everyone struggles with scientific writing, has had to completely rewrite whole paragraphs or even sections in the editing process, and has had papers rejected. Even experienced writers get forgetful of the proper technique for good science communication. Do not be discouraged; you are not alone in your pain. What helps? Practice. Making scientific writing a regular habit will improve your ability to write well.

That’s a good start. I’ll write more on this in the coming weeks.

Heliophysics Division Director

We need a Heliophysics Division Director at NASA HQ. The application submission deadline is October 13, just under two weeks away. I would like to urge solar and space physicists that are senior to me to seriously consider this position.

NASA-meatball

            I know what you are saying to yourself: why would someone from outside of NASA HQ ever consider this job? Over the last ~6 years, we had two such people go to HQ from the outside only to have them not last through their Senior Executive Service probationary first year and leave the post. The most recent holder of this position, Steve Clarke, came from within NASA HQ and, while doing a great job for Heliophysics, only stayed a couple of years (he is now at OSTP).

One key difference is the presence of Thomas Zurbuchen at NASA HQ. He has been the NASA Associate Administrator in charge of the Science Mission Directorate for a year now. According to his recent Facebook post, he loves his job and fully appreciates the high quality team running the SMD activities at NASA HQ. He is committed to the success of NASA, which includes the success of the Heliophysics Division, and wants a qualified expert and leader in that post.

When he was a professor here at U-M, I worked regularly with Thomas on a number of academic and research activities. I told you a bit about that when Zurbuchen left for NASA HQ last year. If you would like to know more about my experiences working with Thomas and my perspective on what I think it would be like to have this position working with him at HQ, then please contact me. One email address for me is just below my picture in the right-hand column, and my office contact info is here.

We need a strong and capable solar and space physicist in this post. I urge those qualified for the position to think about this opportunity. Don’t let the past dissuade you; whoever is selected, Zurbuchen will want that person to thrive.

Here is the ad as it appeared in one of our e-newsletters:

Heliophysics_Div_Dir_jobad_2017.png

 

AGU’s Reddit AMA Series

For about a year now, AGU has been promoting and sponsoring its members to conduct Ask Me Anything sessions on Reddit’s Science page.

Reddit-1

This activity of AGU-arranged AMAs is part of their Sharing Science program. This page has many good resources for AGU members to learn how to connect with the public and policy makers, and I encourage you to join the Sharing Science Network.

AGU has arranged a couple of space physics AMAs so far, as well as a few planetary science ones. I am also aware of another AMA by one of our own, Liz MacDonald on Aurorasaurus.

AGU’s next AMA is with…yeah, you might have guessed…me. Next Thursday (October 5) I will be fielding questions from, well, whoever out there posts a question. I am told that it is a few hours of constant typing, so I should warm up my fingers with lots of paper writing over the next few days. I’m looking forward to it.

Liemohn_AMA_Fall2017

            As you might have seen in xckd this week, space physics and space weather has some societal appeal right now. We should take advantage of this traction with the public and do what we can to make our field better known to the world.

The Film Credit Model of Authors

AGU is moving towards the adoption of a new step in paper publication, assigning contribution roles to the names in the author list. At some point in the “near future,” you as an author will be asked to go through your author list designate who did what for the study. I don’t know when this will happen, but Brooks Hanson, a Senior VP of AGU, is a coauthor on this paper and AGU is gearing up to implement contribution designations. I also don’t know if this will be requested as optional metadata, perhaps as a mandatory submission step. I expect that the research community will have plenty of lead time before it becomes required.

As of now, AGU will still have author lists associated with each paper. There will simply be an extra set of information that provides details of the roles for each author in the list. For a single author paper, this is, of course, overkill, but most papers have more than one author and this extra information could be very useful.

But, what if we didn’t have the list anymore?

I was recently told about a rather radical yet intriguing extrapolation of this process. The original article is here describing the problem of paper authorship and the potential for frustration and annoyance at the placement of names in the list. The author notes that the issue is the fact that the authors names appear in a list and that we as a research community ascribe certain meaning to people’s placement within that list. The suggested solution is summed up in this graphic:

Papers_wo_authorlists_cropped

No more first author. No more last author.

They call this is the film credit model of authors. Names are listed next to the roles, jobs, or functions they performed to contribute to the final product. Who is first author of a film? As an example, for The Martian, is it Damon et al. (highlighting the lead actor), or maybe Scott et al. (highlighting the director), or perhaps Goddard et al. (highlighting the executive producer)? We never say any of these. Could that be the case with scholarly articles someday?

This would change the in-line citations of references, because there would no longer be a first author to name in the text. Reference list formatting in papers would also need to be revised because there would not longer be a clear order for the authors. CVs would change, as we list our contributions rather than just our placement in the author list of our publications. Like I said, this is a radical suggestion. It is also, though, a natural progression along the path that AGU is now undertaking.

I’d like to say thanks to Dr. Shane Hanlon at AGU HQ for pointing out this Medium article to me, via a response to my post at AGU Connect. This website, especially the “AGU Community” discussion page for everyone in AGU, is a place for geoscientists (including space physicists) to engage in conversation about scholarly topics. You can sign in with your AGU username and password. There are some topics, like paper authorship, that span well beyond the scope of JGR – Space Physics. Sometimes, I will be posting on such topics over there instead of here, especially if I pose my thoughts as a question rather than a comment. So, look for those discussions and, if interested, then please start responding and posting on that site.

Hurricane Special Session

I am very saddened to hear about the loss of life in Texas, the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall this past month. There is also tremendous loss of life in Bangladesh due to the severe flooding happening there. And we can’t forget the huge earthquake off the coast of Central America. I hope that survivors can find a way to make their way through the chaos left behind from these disasters.

We can already be thinking about what to learn from these beasts of nature. Specifically, AGU has created a late-breaking session for the Fall Meeting about these large and devastating hurricanes. Originally, it was just about Hurricane Harvey, but the scope has been expanded to include Irma.

harvey-image-960x630

            The first author rule is relaxed for late-breaking sessions. Even if you have submitted one already, you can submit another to this (or any other) session created after the original submission deadline.

Space physics can participate in this session. Storms in the troposphere produce atmospheric gravity waves that break in the lower thermosphere, heating this region and creating ripples in ionospheric density. Sometimes magnetic fields are shaken, creating ULF waves that propagate into the magnetosphere. Harvey is particularly intriguing because it parked itself for such a long time, allowing this energy coupling to influence a particular spot for an unusually long time. There are probably other lower-upper atmospheric connections of interest.

The deadline for this session is October 31, so you have time to do some preliminary analysis before making a decision about an abstract submission.

AGU HQ staff and the journal EiCs are already discussing the possibility of a joint special section about new science findings from these hurricanes. I have no details on that yet but, if you pursue a study on this topic, then please keep an eye out for this special section. Even if it doesn’t materialize, then please consider submitting such papers to an appropriate journal, like Space Weather, Geophysical Research Letters, Radio Science, or JGR Space Physics.