Transparency In Authorship Roles

There is an ongoing discussion about if and how to change the way we attribute authorship on academic publications. I wrote about it long ago but the discussion is still going on. Here is a recent development: AGU Past President Marcia McNutt (the current president of the National Academy of Sciences) and AGU Publications Director Brooks Hanson are coauthors on this paper arising from a recent NAS workshop. Click on the “Preview PDF” button just below the author list to see the full manuscript. It’s not policy yet, but they want feedback, so please feel free to leave a comment on the preprint site or even contact the authors.

The main point: AGU, and many other leading scientific societies and academic publishers, would like to move towards a new model of authorship. Specifically, all authors on a paper would click items in a pull-down list of possible author roles. Even more specifically, the academic publishing leadership is honing in on CRediT, Contriubtor Roles Taxonomy, as the “best available” list of authorship options. More details on CRediT can be found here.


            CRediT was developed by CASRAI, the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information, is a nonprofit group with the mission of creating uniformity in academic research, not just standardization in paper authorship roles but CV content, research data management, research output types, and other academic research related activities. ORCID is working with CASRAI and the thought is that your ORCID account would list this information alongside each of your papers.

As far as I know, each author would still get full credit for every paper in their h-index and other such research impact metrics. This makes me like it much better than I used to, because I don’t think that author credit should be reduced when additional authors are added to a paper. That might cause people to omit coauthors that deserve to be listed. However, I like the role designations, as it would hopefully reduce honorary authorship additions, which is a bad practice I hope all of you avoid.

Here is a good article about this proposed change in authorship attribution. I think that this line really clarifies the need for adopting this change: “The project will help to improve accessibility and transparency around who did what to support peer reviewer selection and help researchers identify suitable potential collaborators.” That is, it’s about enabling future work. For example, a reader likes a certain methodology used in a paper, but the list of coauthors alone isn’t that helpful in knowing who came up with this. The reader can look at the CRediT role listings and contact the authors that actually came up with the methodology.

This change is above my pay grade as an editor of a specific journal. So, if you have feedback on the general process of academic paper contributor role taxonomy, then contact the authors of the paper linked above. I do, however, have some small say in how quickly it is adopted at JGR Space Physics. If you have input on this specifically for JGR Space Physics, then let me know.

Postcards from the Field of Space Physics

AGU has a blogosphere, of which I have written about before.


            There is one that I didn’t write about in that post, however, because it didn’t exist then: The Field. These are blog posts in the 300-500 word range written by those who are “doing their science thing” away from the office and, well, out in “the field.” By field here, I think they really do mean anywhere outside of your normal office or lab, because the posts cover a wide range from Antarctica to the journey out to a remote field site to a classroom for outreach activities.


            There seems to be a dearth of space physics posts on this site. We do lots of cool “out of the office and lab” work, so I highly encourage you to think about stretching beyond writing articles for JGR Space Physics and try a submission to The Field. If you feel the urge to contribute a story to this blog, then please click on the “let us know” link near the top of the right-hand column of that blog’s main page and send them your idea for a post. They (the AGU staff in charge of this site) will work with you to get your story polished for posting. Be sure to take lots of pictures. The posts on this page are full of them.

Intimidated by writing a full page or two about your journeys? There is a similar yet even easier version, which has been around for ~3 years now: Postcard From The Field, AGU’s Tumblr account. Here you can submit your photo and caption. It’s short, it’s easy, and there are precious few space physics “postcards from the field” on this site. A different blog, The Plainspoken Scientist, had an article about the Tumblr account, in case you want to know more details.


            Yet another AGU blog venue for your non-JGR-Space Physics writing is GeoSpace. This site posts articles about cool science topics across Earth and space science. Again, we could use some more space physics posts in this stream.


            Happy writing!

EiC for RoG

AGU regularly has several open editor searches going on. You can find the announcements here.


            Right now there is one of relevance to our field: Editor in Chief of Reviews of Geophysics. The ad for this post is about halfway down. Yes, after ~8 years, Mark Moldwin is stepping down from this position. The search committee is formed (no, I am not on it) and they are actively pursuing potential candidates for this job. The application deadline is May 31, so you still have ~2 weeks to put together a compelling letter of interest about why you want the job and would be a good EiC for that journal.



            Reviews of Geophysics is entirely by invitation only and, as the name implies, the portfolio is entirely comprised review articles. Note that JGR Space Physics occasionally publishes topical review articles, like this one or this one, written last year for the MTSSP special sections. There is an important difference between the reviews in the two journals. The reviews in JGR Space Physics are written for experts in the field, while the reviews in RoG are written for everyone in AGU. The level of detail and use of jargon is different, or at least should be. RoG only publishes a couple papers per month and spans the entirety of the AGU discipline breadth, so the number of space physics papers is perhaps one or two a year. Being its EiC will definitely stretch you beyond your normal scientific boundaries. Also, RoG‘s Journal Impact Factor has been above 10 for quite a few years running, now; it is the top AGU journal in this metric. So, the search committee is looking for a rather special and dedicated leader to take over this post.

Mark is quite willing to talk about his experience as EiC of Reviews of Geophysics, so if you have any questions about it, then please contact him directly. If you have general questions about editing an AGU journal, then feel free to contact me. To submit your application, follow the directions in the link above.

The AGU Building

My job as EiC of JGR Space Physics occasionally takes me to AGU headquarters, including this week. The meeting, however, was not at the normal AGU HQ facility at 2000 Florida Avenue, but was at the temporary home of AGU off Thomas Circle (about a mile south, a few blocks northeast of the White House). That’s because they have started the renovation of the AGU HQ building. They have set up a special website where you can learn about the project and follow the progress. For even more info, last year AGU CEO Chris McEntee wrote several From the Prow articles about the building renovation project.


            They are making it a “net zero” building with 100% of the building’s energy needs created on site. That’s pretty cool, especially for a climate science society. It will also have better meeting facilities and “sunlight penetration” than the old version. There will even be an “AGU member lounge” in the building, so that whenever you are in DC, you can stop by and have a place to sit and work.

Here’s a picture (from the website) of the crew of architects, engineers, and contractors leading the renovation project:


AGU is happy to say that this group is ~50% women, a rarity in the construction business.

For those of you concerned about the solar system inlay on the sidewalk outside the building: they have to dig up some of the planets, but they will all be replaced. The solar system sidewalk will still be there.

The temporary space is smaller than the normal facility, by about a third. The staff is kind of crammed in to Cubicleville right now (that’s a word):


It’s quite a bit tighter than they are used to. Wish them luck as they get through this. They hope to be back in the renovated building by this time next year.

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.