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.

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            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.

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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.

 

The New AGU Journals App

AGU and Wiley have just released a new mobile device app for AGU journals. I have now downloaded it and surfed around a bit on it. My quick assessment can be summed up by the neighborhood boy in the movie, The Incredibles: “That was totally wicked!

They have had an app for mobile devices since before I became EiC of JGR Space Physics, and it has even undergone some upgrades. This is an extensive redesign. They have integrated all of the individual journal apps into a single app, and my initial experience with it was fantastic. Here is the sample screen shot they provide about it:

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See the wheel at the bottom? Spin it to select your journal (or swipe left or right on the screen to move one by one). All of AGU’s 20 journals are there now. They also included Eos content in it, too, so you have full access to AGU news and highlights; it’s the Society News entry in the journal wheel (and in the upper left menu).

The image above is the “small device” layout of the app, i.e., for a phone. Here’s another screen shot, from my tablet, showing the “big device” layout of JGR Space Physics page within the app:

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I like it bit better on the bigger device but both versions of the app worked well for me.

The app still has the “roaming” feature, which I find extremely convenient. It means that once you initiate a connection through your institution’s network, you will be “logged in” for full access (whatever your institution has) for the next 3 months. When you first open the app, you will get this screen:

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            If you or your institution has a subscription to AGU journals, then click the top button. If you don’t have such access but want to buy it now, then click the second button. If you just want to use the app to read free content (Eos and the Open Access papers in the journals), then click the third button. If you click the first button, then click your method of access, probably either institutional or personal subscription. You will then need to log in to the Wiley Online Library to get access (or create an account, if you have never done this before). A very nice thing about this process is that this roaming set up is now down entirely through the app, at least for me as I configured it this morning. This was not the case before, where we had to use a browser window to go Wiley Online Library to turn on roaming and then go back to the app to complete the roaming connection, all while connected to your institution’s network. You will still have to refresh the roaming every 90 days, which is the inconvenience that we must endure to prevent access fraud and abuse, but this renewal is now much easier.

Once roaming is set up, you can then access AGU journal content through the app as if you were at that subscribing institution, regardless of where you are. This was a powerful feature of the old apps and I am glad that it is still a feature in this new app. I can now log in from home, the coffee shop, or wherever I have wifi access (for my tablet, at least) and read a journal article as if I were in my work office.

I am really looking forward to using this app.

More On Plain Language Summaries

For over a year now, AGU has been including the option of a Plain Language Summary with manuscript submissions to any of its journals. This can be about as long as a regular Abstract to your paper, but should be written so that those outside of space physics can understand it. From the AGU text requirements page, the definition goes like this:

“The plain language summary should be written for a broad audience. It should be free of jargon, acronyms, equations and any technical information that would be unknown to the general public. The purpose is to explain the study to the public. A good summary should state the general problem, what was done, and the result.”

This description should be ingrained in all of us, not just those submitting papers in the near future but also anyone reviewing a manuscript for JGR Space Physics or another AGU journal. Yes, if you are asked to review a paper and it has a Plain Language Summary, then please read it and comment on its quality. This should be considered as an essential part of the review process, just like assessing the Key Points and keywords that the authors have provided for the paper.

AGU now has more information about these Plain Language Summaries to help you write a good one. For me, this advice about creating a Plain Language Summary comes down to the final bullet point: take the time to do it right. This is not something that you should crank out during the GEMS submission process. That not only will just be an initial draft of what it could be but also won’t be vetted by your coauthors. Their name is on the paper too, and the Plain Language Summary is published with the paper, right below the official Abstract, so you should definitely include your coauthors in its creation. Please do not just change a few words from your regular Abstract, but instead write it from scratch and edit it to make it appealing to a nonspecialist audience.

Here is the nice graphic from that webpage, by @JoannaScience:

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She did a cartoon for one of my Editors’ Vox articles. This graphic above pretty much sums up how space physics Abstracts are understood by non-space-physicists. Our niche of AGU has to work especially hard at communicating our work to the public; learning how to write a good Plain Language Summary is an excellent start.

AGU has put together a page with some really good Plain Language Summaries. Have a look to see the kind of summary that resonates.

For now, this paragraph is optional, and I have been told that roughly 20% of manuscript submissions include a Plain Language Summary. Writing a good Plain Language Summary, however, greatly increases the chances of your paper being highlighted by AGU in some way. AGU HQ staff read every Plain Language Summary for all accepted papers across all AGU journals. If they come across a good one. At 20%, this is about 5 summaries per day. When they come across a really good one, the paper will, at the very least, receive a social media highlight. They might work with the journal Editor that handled the paper to create an Editors’ Highlight for the paper. Or, it might even be the initial nugget of a Research Spotlight or Editors’ Vox article about the paper. The point is that the paper could be elevated to receive a highlight regardless of what the reviewers and editor thought about its highlight worthiness. If you write a good highlight, then your paper will have an increased chance of receiving special highlight attention from AGU.

While I have not seen stats on whether the various highlighting that AGU does for papers results in more citations, I have seen the stats on page views and full-text downloads, and the link is clear and extremely favorable. Traffic towards the paper is typically greatly enhanced with a highlight. So, it is in your best interest to spend some time on the Plain Language Summary.

 

 

Toolkit for Promoting Your Paper

In the lower-left corner of the Author Resources page is a link called “How to Promote Your Paper.” This page has lots of good advice for authors on this topic. While I have written about the Plain Language Summary before and I probably will again in the near future, there is one thing on this page that I would like to bring to your attention today. It is the Toolkit for Authors on how to improve the impact of your paper. There is even a version in Japanese and perhaps other versions, as well.

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            This 4-page PDF is packed full of advice on how to structure your paper for maximal discoverability. Specifically, it uses the acronym SEO, Search Engine Optimization, and gives you clear advice on things you can do to improve your paper’s chances of rising to the top of an internet search.

Specifically, here is a synopsis of “the 4 easy steps to SEO” as defined in the document:

(1) Keywords: pick 15-20 keywords, avoiding repeats and test them out to see if similar papers are found

(2)Title: keep it to 15 words or fewer and use 2-4 keywords in the first 65 characters

(3) Abstract: place essential things first and focus on a few of the critical keywords

(4) Links: add a link to your paper from your institution’s website and a Wikipedia page

Those are things to do during manuscript preparation or just after acceptance. Once published, then the document suggests that you share a link to your article with friends in the field and even on social media. Not to the point of annoying people, but a quick email to colleagues will improve the changes that some of them will remember it when they write a paper on a similar topic.

Wiley, the publisher of AGU’s journals, wants you to have a successful and highly cited paper, so they offer tools to help with this. For instance, the JGR Space Physics website helps you monitor the impact and reach of your paper. On a paper’s main page, there is a listing of citations to it (as counted by CrossRef) and the article’s Altmetric score. Wiley offers a service called Kudos that will help you write simple language about your paper, share your short blurb, and track its impact in terms of downloads and citations.