DORA and the JIF

No, this isn’t a young Latina’s adventure story about mantequilla de maní (or crema de cacahuate, or one of the other translations for peanut butter). DORA is the Declaration on Research Assessment and is a call to action to put less reliance on the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This is timely because the new JIFs for 2017 were just released this week.

DORA - logo@2x_withblack

            I particularly like the “general recommendation” of DORA:

  • Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.

It is a simple yet powerful message – the JIF (or any other journal metric) is not a measure of the quality and impact of any individual paper in that journal.

For 2017, the JIF for JGR Space Physics is 2.752, which is ever-so-slightly higher than last year’s JIF. A few notes about it:

  • Remember that the JIF is calculated only from citations in one year to papers published in the previous two years. It is an average of a highly skewed, non-Guassian, positive-definite distribution of a very small subset of full journal content.
  • I like to only quote the JIF to two significant figures, so this year’s value is 2.8, which, due to rounding, appears as a small improvement over last year’s 2.7 value.
  • There are other journal metrics out there and I haven’t yet seen these values for 2017.
  • The JIF for Space Weather is 2.9, the first time that that journal’s JIF is bigger than the JIF for JGR Space Physics. Way to go, Space Weather!
  • AGU’s few-year-old journal Earth and Space Science received its first JIF this year, coming in at 3.2. Awesome job, ESS!
  • The journal had significant growth in terms of papers published from 2015 to 2016, up by 42, which is more than 5%. The Scholarly Kitchen just had a post a couple of weeks ago stating that journal growth lowers JIF. So, the fact that the journals JIF went up means that the citations outpaced the negative impacts of growth.
  • Historically, the citation rate to articles in JGR Space Physics are rather constant with time, so that a ~10 year old paper has ~29 citations, on average. This is just how our research community likes to cite papers and it would take a massive cultural shift to alter this trend.
  • JGR Space Physics historically has a “cited half life” of at or above 10 years, which means that a 10-year-old paper with X citations will, on average, end up with roughly 2X as its eventual total citation count.
  • Nearly all papers in JGR Space Physics receive at least one citation, which is not the case for nearly half of the papers in the vast Web of Science database.

In summary, I think that the journal is doing very well. Thanks for continuing to support it. Finally, while the post was mostly about the new JIF, I’d like to leave it where I started, on the positive future outlook of DORA, in which we put the JIF in proper perspective according to its strengths and weaknesses as a journal metric, and especially stop using it to assess individual research articles or investigators.


New JGR Space Physics Website

In case you didn’t notice, the look of the JGR Space Physics website, and all of the AGU journal sites, changed just a bit a few months ago. Wiley has a new underlying software platform for these journals, a platform called literatum, created by Atypon. To the user, the front end should be nearly identical to what it was before. On the back end, the compatibility and adaptability of the structure is much easier, and access to the content is more straightforward and reconfigurable.JGRSpace_homepage_June2018

For the most part, the new website is the same as the old one. It still has the same tabs along the top for browsing papers, highlights, and special collections. In “browse articles” you still have recently published, accepted articles, and most cited. The latest issue is still a link in the upper right. Other useful links are still down the right column and at the bottom of the page.

One of the bigger changes for users is the search tool, the little magnifying glass in the upper right corner. This is a more robust and readily understandable search tool. I use it regularly for finding potential reviewers – researchers who have recently authored a similar paper in an AGU journal.

There are still a few unresolved issues with the transition to this software platform. Most notably, the “special collection” listing and organization still has some glitches. The new software will be, I am told, much better for this function, eventually. The old software limited papers to be associated with, at most, one special collection. That will not be the case with this platform. I am told that creating new special collections was an involved and tedious process. The new software is supposed to allow for very quick creations of collections of published papers. For example, are you organizing a conference? We can put together a special collection around the conference topic, listing all of the seminal papers in the field as well as the latest research results, all in one place. I’m told that this isn’t quite working just yet, but it is coming very soon.

Please send in any feedback that you have about the website. Wiley and Atypon are working to make this new site fully functional to meet the needs of AGU and the Earth and space science research community, and suggestions will be taken seriously.


Data Set Repositories

AGU’s enactment of an open data policy for all papers in its journals has moved up a notch. The current enforcement of the policy is that “available upon request from the author” is no longer allowed. The data that you use in a paper, on which you are advancing our understanding of the space environment, must be available to others. Remember, “data” is not just observed values but numerically generated values as well.

For many observational data sets, openness is required by the major US funding agencies, NASA and NSF. In fact, even for small grants, they now require data management plans about how the data produced by the project will be stored and made accessible to others. NOAA has a lot of its data freely available through several avenues. If you do simulations at the CCMC, then your run output is available to all at that website. That is, for many things, we can simply list a website and call it good.

The issue is for small data sets, like laboratory experiments or temporary instrument installations, and in-house simulation results. Authors using such data need to make the numbers available to readers without the reader being required to go through the author. Furthermore, the website where the data are available needs to be a permanent and independent repository, not the author’s personal site. We need others to be able to independently check our results, reproduce our plots and tables, and verify our claims.

For those at big institutions, like me, such places are creating open repositories for their researchers. For instance, the University of Michigan has a site called Deep Blue. We are putting data bricks there from specific, published papers.

Many have asked about “public repositories” that will accept a data brick accompanying a journal article. There are several. AGU is associated with COPDESS, the Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences, which is an organization that maintains a list of scientific repositories. It is easily searchable and includes heliophysics and space physics as taxonomy groups. One data base listed there for space physics is NCEI, the National Center for Environmental Information, which has this for its data archive submission front page. AGU also recommends general ones like  ZenodoDryad, or Figshare – each can assign a DOI for deposited data. Github is becoming a common place to share not only code but also code output.


            The AGU Data Policy FAQ page has a lot of good information about current implementation and additional suggestions of repositories willing to host your data.

Another question that I get is, “how much to upload?” My common answer is, “As much as you can.” Seriously, though, some numerical simulations produces hundreds of GB of output, and some statistical surveys of observational data can cover several TB of values. I don’t want to quote all of the policies for every data repository but there are some out there that will take very large data sets. The minimum set should be “those data used in the paper.” This includes the values behind any plot, table, or value in the paper.

New Editors for JGR Space Physics

The editor search for JGR Space Physics is done and the search committee has selected two new editors for the journal: Natalia Ganushkina and Viviane Pierrard. These two are highly qualified for the role and the final decision was quite difficult. We think that they will serve the space physics research community very well. With my amazing photo-editing powers, I have added them to our group picture:


            Remember that AGU is rapidly approaching its 100-year birthday in 2019, and there are many plans for celebrating this existence milestone. I have appointed one of the JGR Space Physics editors as the coordinator of our Centennial activities – Larry Kepko. So, he has been pulling back from “normal” editing assignments in order to arrange our Grand Challenge paper set and organize a collection of historic perspectives from and about the pioneers of space physics. I think that Dr. Ganushkina will be picking up a lot of this workload of manuscripts on the outer magnetosphere and tail, storm physics, and substorms.

We also receive many submissions on inner magnetospheric topics, especially the radiation belts. Dr. Balikhin and I handle most of these manuscripts, but the volume is large. Because we also cover papers in other disciplines within the journal scope, this is heavy load. In addition, I would like to do more of my editor-in chief duties that sometimes get the short end of my attention, like long-range strategic planning, publications policy discussions, and communication (like paper publicity and this blog). Plus, I am now an editor liaison on the AGU Meetings Committee, which is a very interesting position but takes additional time. I think that Dr. Pierrard will be picking up a lot of the rebalanced workload of inner magnetospheric manuscripts. She will also help us better connect with the solar physics community.

The biggest selection criteria applied by the search committee were expertise in their research field, demonstrated reviewing excellence or editorial experience, and an editorial philosophy that blends well with the existing team. The search committee also took into account geographical, disciplinary, gender, and racial diversity/breadth in their decision. In fact, AGU is making a concerted effort to increase representation of women on its journal editorial boards, and JGR Space Physics was one of only two AGU journals with an all-male editor crew. The search committee happily included this criterion in its deliberations.

Note that these two new editors are being appointed for 4 years, so they will continue to serve after I rotate off late next year, when my term as EiC ends along with the terms of the 4 other editors. This timing is intentional in order to ensure some editorial continuity between EiC terms.

We had many excellent candidates and, I would like to reiterate, it was a very difficult decision to select only two. AGU does not limit the size of our board but the search committee made the downselect to the originally-advertised two positions so that the next EiC has some flexibility in selecting new editors for their team. There are definitely some in the candidate pool that I will be encouraging to apply for the EiC or Editor positions that will open up in a year or so.

Unconscious Bias in Space Physics

I attended the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit meeting a couple of weeks ago, and there was a very good plenary session on unconscious bias in space physics. The presenters were the authors of the Clancy et al. paper in JGR Planets on bias in astronomy and planetary science. They summarized the findings of that paper, which quantified the extent of women and minorities reporting feeling unsafe or encountering a hostile work environment in these science fields. The numbers are not encouraging, with 80% of women experiencing some kind of sexist remark and two-thirds of women-of-color hearing racist remarks in the workplace. Furthermore, over a quarter of women have felt unsafe in their current position because of their gender or race. This is disturbing to me that the numbers are so large in 2018.

Unconcious Bias Plenary Handout title

            Fortunately, the conversation is not ending with the TESS plenary session. The organizers created a handout that was available to everyone at the session and online with the session description. I highly encourage everyone to read this tri-fold pamphlet. They encourage people to take the Harvard implicit bias test and read through the materials at the U of Arizona’s StepUp! by-stander intervention program. The sheet is filled with tips on how to identify and minimize implicit bias. Two of the biggest things that individuals can do immediately: amplify minority voices is group discussions (but don’t he-peat) and avoid making sexual remarks in the work environment.

As for JGR Space Physics, fighting implicit bias can be done in several ways. The first is to be cordial in your correspondence, especially to early career researchers like graduate students, and to apply the Platinum Rule in your interactions with others, thinking about how they want to be treated and considering the interaction from their perspective. Authors, please use gender-neutral pronouns in responses to anonymous reviewers. Reviewers, consider using one of the links in the handout for quantifying gender bias in writing. Finally, I hope that you all make a personal DEI pledge to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. People leave the field because of sexism in the workplace, and for our discipline, the workplace includes manuscript correspondence. I occasionally hear from advisors whose students have had a bad interaction with a reviewer.

Thanks to the TESS meeting and session organizers and for coordinating this panel discussion. Let’s continue to strive to do better to reduce implicit bias in space physics.