AGU is Changing to eLocators

I mentioned this in a side comment in an earlier post this month and since then I have been waiting for an official announcement from AGU making this public knowledge, which I have not seen yet. As my time as EiC is about to end, I’m using my penultimate post to let you know what the editors know: AGU will shift away from issue-based pagination to eLocators for all of its journals, starting in January 2020. If I see an announcement from AGU HQ about this (probably in an Eos article, maybe as AGU news or a From the Prow or Editors’ Vox post), I’ll include the link in the comments below.


While I am old-fashioned enough to like issue-based page numbers, I think that this is a really good move. The biggest reason for me: you will know your exact reference listing the moment that the paper is accepted, because the eLocator is based on the GEMS manuscript number, just like the eventual DOI.

We were told that the exact format of the eLocator will be this: a lowercase “e” followed by the last 5 digits of the manuscript number. So, for my grad student’s recent paper, the manuscript number of 2019JA026636 becomes an eLocator of “e26636” and a digital object identifier of The only confusion is that most AGU journals have 6 digits after the two-letter journal designation, so you will have to drop the leading zero (or one, as GRL is about to roll over into that sixth digit). There is also the yearly rollover, if your paper is accepted in November or December that the publication year could be the following year, but there is no way around that. Overall, though, I think it will mean less citation errors because this eLocator is much simpler than a seemingly arbitrarily assigned page number range.

Like I said, I think that this is a good thing. It definitely means less work for Wiley, so issues will most likely appear online earlier in the month. Right now, an issue of JGR Space Physics usually appears in the third week of the month, sometimes even the fourth (for example, the November 2019 issue of JGR Space Physics was posted on December 26). We have relatively large issues (50-70 papers a month), and the issue-based pagination took time to do and then double check. No more! While there will still be pagination within the PDF version of each paper, it starts at one for every article, so it doesn’t matter if the final published version of a paper has ten or eleven pages, this uncertainty will not influence the pagination for the rest of the papers in the same issue. That November 2019 issue, by the way, goes from pages 8173 to 9754, over 1500 pages that the production staff had to make sure was properly formatted and paginated from beginning to end before it was released. JGR Space Physics will once again go over 10,000 pages (and probably over 700 papers).

I really hope that this change leads to issues being officially released earlier in the month, and also to better citation accuracy for papers in AGU journals. I am looking forward to it. I hope that you like it too.


Membership gets you access to the digital archive of AGU journals

Hello from the Fall AGU Meeting in San Francisco. In a recent From the Prow article, AGU Executive Director Chris McEntee revealed a new benefit of AGU membership for 2020: free access to the “digital archive.” This archive being referred to is the collection of journal volumes from 1996 and older.


The story is that a peculiar thing happened on the way to journal digitization. In 2002, AGU went digital, making the online paper the version of record. At that time, they did away with full-issue page numbering (which is being resurrected…that might be tomorrow’s post) and digitized a few years back of all journal content (to the beginning of 1997). A few years later, then hired a company to scan all of the older volumes of all of their journals, completing the digital archive. This cost AGU quite a bit of money, however, to digitize 100 years of journal content and the two-step process created a dichotomy in the PDFs. When AGU partnered with Wiley for the publication of all of their journals, they announced that the newer set of papers, from January 1997 onward, would have a different accessibility deal than the older papers. In fact, there are three stages of accessibility: those papers less than 24 months from publication require a subscription unless the journal is open access or the authors paid extra for open access. From January 1997 to a rolling timeline of 24 months before the present, all of these papers are made open access. From December 1996 on back to the first issue of JGR (actually, Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric Electricity) in 1896, one must have a personal or institutional subscription to get access. It seems a bit strange but I think that they wanted to recoup some of the cost of that massive digitization effort.

With this new announcement, that older digital archive will now be open access with an active AGU membership. This includes all journal content across the family of AGU publications. I commend this move and greatly appreciate the new availability to these older papers. There are many “classics” among this archive and I applaud the move to allow AGU members full access to these seminal papers (and all of the others from the time).

I see another zinger of a line in McEntee’s article: “AGU will also continue to offer a free book annually as another member offering.” Continue?! I know about the free e-book on Writing Scientific Research Articles but is this something different? I will have to ask about this and get back to all of you. By the way, I have a couple of vouchers for this Cargill and O’Connor e-book that I can give you if you ask for it. I think that I can still get more.

Yet another “by the way,” in the “From the Prow” banner image above, that’s the top corner of the AGU building, with a conference room named “The Prow” that has a nice view of DC.

Now There’s a GEMS-to-ESSOAr Link

AGU is implementing a feature in GEMS for authors to seamlessly submit their manuscript to ESSOAr, the Earth and Space Science Open Archive. In case you haven’t heard about ESSOAr, it is a preprint server specifically for our field. It is developed by Atypon with AGU being the lead society behind its creation, and another dozen or so societies on the ESSOAr advisory board participating in its design and implementation (including EGU). My initial blog post about ESSOAr gives some details about this preprint server, and I have written a couple other posts about preprint servers in general.


I am told that this new transfer from GEMS to ESSOAr would occur right after the quality control check by AGU staff. As it is sent to me for editor assignment, the author will get an email asking if they want a PDF of the manuscript to be uploaded for public availability to ESSOAr. If they agree, it would then be forwarded to the ESSOAr editorial board for approval before being posted. A serious submission to JGR Space Physics should not be denied from ESSOAr.

I am excited about this and I agreed to let JGR Space Physics be one of the first journals to pilot this option. It goes live next Monday (June 17).

I hope that you like this new feature and I hope that you confirm simultaneous submission to the ESSOAr preprint server. Posting to a preprint server is not considered dual publication by AGU and overlap from manuscripts at such servers is ignored in the cross-check report. The historical average is that ~70% of manuscripts submitted to JGR Space Physics eventually being accepted, simultaneous release at ESSOAr will make your study available to readers a few months sooner than the current editorial-publication timeline.

Also regarding ESSOAr, after you log in with your ORCID account info (via the button in the upper right of the page):


you can conduct searches. After you run a search, you can then save it by clicking the “search-plus” icon in the upper left:


You can then set the frequency of receiving new content alerts from ESSOAr with these search terms. Like getting an email from Wiley with the JGR Space Physics table of contents (they send out three levels of TOC alerts: accepted, early view, and issue info), you can also get content alerts for new manuscripts uploaded to ESSOAr. I hope that you take advantage of this feature and the earlier availability of manuscripts submitted to JGR Space Physics.




New Cover Look

AGU has been changing the design of the cover layouts for all of its journals over the past year. Perhaps you’ve noticed. The cover of JGR Space Physics now looks like this:


Just for reference, the outgoing format looked like this:


There are some differences to notice. One is that the name of the journal is bigger – JGR Space Physics stands out better with a lot of white space around it. They have changed the dimensions of the cover art graphic, too – instead of a portrait-shaped block between two blue bars, it is now a landscape-style block with a curved upper limit. They have also moved the AGU logo from the footer to the header, making it more visible. They have also eliminated the “swoosh” logo from the upper right.

This is not only the cover art but also appears as the thumbnail graphic in the electronic alerts for the monthly issue table of contents, the early view notices, the accepted article announcements. If you don’t already get these alerts, it is easy to sign up or manage them across all AGU journals.

I have been picking the cover art since the beginning of my time as EiC, that is, since January 2014. This is a bit ironic because they stopped printing and mailing the paper version of JGR Space Physics just a year or two before this. Before that, it is was the monochromatic cover, giving JGR Space Physics its other name as JGR Blue.


I think it’s nice to have cover art. I keep track of what I pick in order to try to balance disciplines and image styles on the cover. Of the 61 selections I’ve made so far, the breakdown is 19 for ionosphere-thermosphere, 17 for magnetosphere, 14 for planetary space environments, and 11 for solar-heliosphere topics. Of the image style, I’ve picked 20 model output graphics, 26 data figures, 12 schematics, and 3 photos. Yeah, we don’t have many photos to choose from.

Each month I quickly glance at every figure in every paper in that issue, downselecting to a few (usually 5-10) and then somehow choosing from there. The runner-up images go on the image carousel on the journal webpage. I also carefully consider all of the author-contributed graphics. The acceptance letter informs you that you can submit a specially-made image for consideration as cover art. Some months I don’t get any such submissions and other times I get several. I think the most I’ve ever had is four, which makes the decision very hard because those are usually the really good ones. If you want to just submit one of the graphics from the paper, that’s fine. I will see it regardless in my quick search but your submission will ensure that it gets my attention. These author-submitted graphics do not have to be something from the paper, though, just related to it. It can be a completely new graphic that more artistically presents what is in your paper, or even just highlights the scientific topic.

We don’t take a lot of photos with our work but perhaps we should, because other journals have a lot more of those on the cover. GeoHealth, AGU’s newest journal, has had nothing but photos on its cover since its initial issue. I don’t know if a picture of “Dr. Space Scientist” sitting at their desk is compelling cover art, but GeoHealth regularly has people on its cover, like this:


I would think seriously about putting such images on the cover of JGR Space Physics, so please think about those field or lab photos the next time you get a paper accepted, and submit a good one for consideration as cover art. Or any graphic that you want to submit – I will consider everything you send.


Reprise of the New Reference Format

A year ago, I wrote about AGU’s new style guide for formatting papers in its journals. There was also an Eos article about this change there is even a brief guide available. It’s been a year, so let’s recap the change and see how it has been going.


            For the most part, this new format follows the style guide from the American Psychological Association (APA), which is a rule-set that has been slowly taking over as the format of choice for scholarly publishing. The big change that most people notice right away is in reference and citation formatting. But, you know what, AGU’s use of italics for citations in the main text was an anomaly in academic publishing. Nearly every other journal in solar, space, and planetary physics had already made the switch to the APA style, some of them decades ago. I can point to example papers that show the APA style in use for Annales Geophysicae, Space Science Reviews, JASTP, Solar Physics, The Astrophysical Journal, Earth Planets and Space, Planetary and Space Science, Icarus, the Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate, and Advances in Space Research. Yeah, there were many journals already doing this! There are still a few publishers of space physics articles that are using superscripts for citation callouts, like Nature, Science, and Physics of Plasmas, but as for the space physics journals using italics for citations…um, yeah, just the AGU journals, as far as I can tell. In addition to this compatibility pressure from the other journals within Earth and space science, most of Wiley’s other scholarly journals were already using this style, so this change should help their workflow and reduce production errors.

There is one deviation from the official APA style guide being enforced by AGU. The APA style says that the first citation of a paper with up to 5 authors should list all authors. Subsequent citations of papers with 3 to 5 authors should then just use the “et al.” designation after the first author’s name. AGU doesn’t do this first usage expansion of the author list; citations of all papers with 3 or more authors get to use “et al.” after the first author at every instance in the paper. This deviation is much appreciated!

Authors: if you are trying to follow APA style and are expanding author lists in the main text beyond two-author papers, then please stop. You don’t have to do this. You can just use “et al.” instead, even at the first usage.

There is one exception to this author name list guidance. When there are two papers by the same first author in the same year, and the coauthor lists are different within the first 6 names, then, instead of using the “a” and “b” designations after the date, the coauthor names should be listed until the two papers are uniquely identified. As far as I can tell, this is the only time when more than two author names should ever appear in a citation in the main text in an AGU journal. Unfortunately, the papers will have the multiple-name citations at every cite-listing of this paper throughout the article.

For an example of this, see the first paragraph of the Introduction of this paper – there are citations to two Eastwood et al. (2017) papers, but those two papers have different second authors. So, there in the first paragraph, is a citation to “Eastwood, Biffis, et al., 2017”, which looks a bit odd to readers that are used to the old style. If the two papers had the same author list (through the first 6 names), then they would have used the “a” and “b” designations after the date. Note that the Owens et al. (2017) paper, also cited in the first paragraph, has 3 authors, but it is simply “Owens et al. (2017)” because the article only cites one paper by this author from that year. This is the AGU deviation from APA style kicking in.

Why the cutoff at 6 authors for this usual citation method? In the reference list, APA style has a particular rule set for how many authors to list. For papers with up to 7 authors, you should list them all. For papers with 8 or more authors, you should only list the first 6 names, and then put “et al.” in place of the 2 or more names remaining. It used to be that you would list up to 10 authors, and for papers with 11 or more, you only listed the first author and replaced everyone else’s name with “et al.” Now, we will see the first 6 names before “et al.” kicks in. If you are author #7 on an 8-author paper, then, well, sorry, but you are like author #2 on an 11-author paper in the old formatting style.

There is one more thing about citations in the main text that is different from before, and which is causing some angst with space physicists. It is the rearrangement of the citations within a single cluster of paper references. The old style was to list them chronologically, while the APA style lists them alphabetically. Yeah, when you are grouping a bunch of citations together in the main text, the oldest is not necessarily listed first, it could be anywhere in the grouping, depending on the first author’s last name. It is possible to pull one of the citations out and force it to be first in the grouping, with a “see also” between the seminal paper and the other citations in the group. We have to change how we write, at least a bit, if we want to highlight the initial discovery papers or seminal papers on a topic.

Authors: if you object to how a Wiley production staffer rearranges your citations (i.e., into alphabetical order), then change the sentence around so you make it a running text citation:

…was addressed by Smith (1997) and Jones (1999).

rather than a parenthetical citation:

…was addressed (Jones, 1999; Smith, 1997).

Wording changes like this can be done during production.

I am hearing some complaints about the new look. I sympathize with those that are having a difficult time adjusting to the new citation and referencing style. Citations will no longer pop out in their italic font the way they used to. We might occasionally see more than one author name in a citation, and not just for two-author references. We will see a lot more ampersands in papers now, as “&” is replacing “and” for parenthetical citations of two-author references. We have to get used to a new look to papers in JGR Space Physics and other AGU journals, and we might even have to learn to write sentences in a way to highlight certain papers in a group citation.

If you are vehemently against it, then I can take your concerns up the chain at AGU HQ. In addition, you can complain to a member of the AGU Publications Committee, which is the group that sets policy on things like this. There could be additional deviations from APA style adopted, I don’t know. I am pretty sure that the new style is here to stay, though.