Earth Day Special Collection

It’s up! The AGU’s Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries about the awesomeness of Earth and space science is now available. It is a cross-journal collection, spanning all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. Yes, we just published a Commentary (Cassak et al.) on relevance of space physics research to “contemporary society.” I look forward to reading the other articles in this special section, including the Commentary from Ray Greenwald in Radio Science and several Commentaries and other articles from Space Weather.

There is also an Editors’ Vox article, authored by Brooks Hanson, AGU’s Director of Publications, and coauthored by all of the Editors in Chief of AGU’s journals, that summarizes the major themes across the scope of this special collection. An AGU press release was just issued about it, too. Here’s the graphic published with the Vox article:


            Earth is beautiful. Learning new things about Earth, and its home in the universe, is beautiful, too.

Space Weather is the natural home for touting the usefulness of space physics for societal needs, and indeed this journal is where nearly all such news, commentaries, and feature articles can be found. We (the journal editors) decided to solicit at least one article for JGR Space Physics, though, because this special collection is important, being published just before the March for Science. This is also a time when the anti-science movement, which has been around a long time and comes from both the left and the right, is emboldened. We thought it was important for every journal to participate in this special section, including JGR Space Physics.

So, we enlisted the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section’s Advocacy Committee to write an article on societal relevance of space physics. If you haven’t heard of this entity, it was created about three and half years ago to lead and coordinate efforts to remind policy makers about the importance of our science. Their charge also includes motivating the rest of the SPA community to get involved in science policy discussions. They were a natural choice for writing a Commentary for this special section.

AJE Technical Editing for AGU

Occasionally, manuscripts need some extra help with English language usage. While it is great when a reviewer takes on the task of copyediting a manuscript, the main request on reviewers is an assessment of the science in the paper, not the grammar, diction, and spelling. As Editor, I sometimes return a paper for English corrections before I will send it out for review. I often just mark up the first couple pages of the manuscript, hoping that the authors see the problems and make similar corrections throughout the rest of the paper. Or, even better, the authors should get a native-English-speaking colleague to proofread the text. Yet another option is to use a technical editing service. AGU used to have a list of such services, but now just lists one: American Journal Experts (AJE). Why the change? Because AGU and AJE have struck a deal so that potential authors to AGU journals can get a 20% discount on AJE services. Details are found here

and here.


Here is the direct link to the AJE-for-AGU site:

For a typical JGR Space Physics manuscript in the 5000-10000 word range, their “standard service” costs between $250 and $400. With it, you get an “editing certificate” that verifies to the journal that the manuscript has been edited by a native English speaker and that it is ready for submission. AGU selected AJE for this deal because the AGU Pubs staff and Pubs Committee believe that AJE offers a high quality service at a fair price. This is a small cost compared to the publication fee and I hope that those authors that are unsure about their English usage will opt to use this (or another) service to make the manuscript as clear and readable as possible.

AJE also does illustration formatting to ensure readability, clarity, and compliance with journal specifications, again at the 20% discounted price (if you go through the AGU link).

The “Technical Reports” Paper Type

During our reviewing and publication of the special sections on Measurement Techniques in Solar and Space Physics,


the JGR Space Physics editors sometimes received questions about the appropriateness of “instrument papers” in this journal. The fact is that JGR Space Physics has accepted Technical Reports: Methods and Technical Reports: Data paper types for many years. The fraction of such papers, though, has been small, with most papers in this journal being the Research Article paper type. When we accepted the proposal for the MTSSP special sections, we knew that reviewing the expected ~150 manuscripts on space instrumentation would be a bit different for those receiving the reviews. It’s not a paper type that we normally get, so some in the space physics community were a little confused about this paper type being in this journal.


            I’ve written about the Technical Reports paper type before, but since we’ve reassessed what we want for this paper in JGR Space Physics, it is good to remind the space science community about the expectations for a manuscript in this paper type. The paper must describe a significant original contribution to the field, but this new contribution is the method, technique, or data set. Yes, that’s right: it does not have to include an original contribution to our scientific understanding of the space environment, as is the case for a Research Article paper type. It has to be applicable to scientific study of the space environment, but does not have to actually include such a study.

That said, the manuscript must have these elements:

  1. A section at the beginning why to I need to study the relevant aspect of space physics. You must motivate the publication of this technical advancement in JGR Space Physics by convincing readers that the science area to which it pertains is interesting.
  2. A series of clear statements about the novel elements of the method, technique, or data set. You must place the technical advancement in the context of existing technology or data in order to convince readers that the report contains an original and significant contribution in this area.
  3. A section on what new science is likely to accrue. You must include “at least one illustrative example,” to quote from the paper type description website above. This section closes the gap between the earlier two “must have” sections. That is, given the the current state of scientific discovery in the relevant subdiscipline of space physics and the cutting edge aspects of this new technique or data set, you must then discuss how this new technique will eventually lead to better scientific understanding.

So, authors: if you are writing a Technical Reports manuscript, then please ensure that it includes these three elements.

Also, reviewers: if you are assessing the publishability of a Technical Reports manuscript, please carefully consider these three elements.

AGU has a relatively new journal that is specifically targeted at this manuscript type: Earth and Space Science. Just entering its fourth year, E&SS spans all of AGU’s scientific disciplines, especially requesting papers on “methods, instruments, sensors, data and algorithms” for our field and across the AGU discipline spectrum. I had a recent blog post about signing up for E&SS table of content e-alerts.

A final point to make: Technical Reports paper types are limited to 13 Publication Units rather than the normal 25 for a Research Article paper type. This is to keep the description of the new method, technique, or data set focused. Extra figures and explanation can be put into the online Supplemental Information accompanying the published paper, if needed. You can go over a bit, though and no one should complain or send it back. That is, this limit is not a strict cutoff but is more like a guideline.

AGU’s Commentary Collections

A Commentary is an AGU paper type that offers a perspective on a recent result, controversy, or special event in particular field. JGR Space Physics published 15 Commentaries in 2016, most of them as part of the special section on Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics. These short articles are meant to spur discussion, action, and hopefully eventual resolution regarding the chosen topic. In JGR Space Physics, they are too new to understand and quantify their influence. Other journals have published Commentaries for many years, and the anecdotal evidence is good enough that AGU is encouraging all journals to publish more of these.

To better highlight and promote the existence of these papers, AGU has assembled several new special collections that gather these Commentaries for easy discovery. The link is on all journal websites, under the Special Collections pull-down menu:


On this page are links to the Commentaries in each AGU discipline, including Space Weather and Space Physics. There are Commentaries here from a few different journals. Because papers cannot be in two special sections in the Wiley paper management system, instead of listing all of the UPMP Commentaries, there is simply a link to that special section’s webpage.

Happy reading!


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.

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.

Not One But Three

As I went to the Fall AGU Meeting this month, it was finally hitting me that I was entering the final year of my Editor-in-Chief term for JGR Space Physics. At the meeting, however, Brooks Hanson, the Director of Publications for AGU, asked me to extend my term for an additional two years. After a few days of thought and conversations with my wife, I said yes.

So, you have me here for not one but three more years as the EiC of JGR Space Physics.


            I asked all 4 of my Editors if they wanted to continue, and they also all said yes. You have all 5 of us for 3 more years.

The main reason that I am accepting this extension is that I think that there is still multi-year work to do to improve the quality and impact of the papers in the journal.  We had a great discussion at our JGR Space Physics editorial board meeting in San Francisco, and I would like to see the outcome of the analytics we requested and the implementation of strategies to maximize journal influence. More on this in the blog posts to come over the few days or weeks.