I’m Glad I Wrote This Blog

This is my last day as Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, and so the last day of me writing this blog on being EiC of this journal. This is also post #300; I made it to this conveniently round yet arbitrary number of articles on this site. Over my six years in this role, that’s just about one post per week, which is what I was hoping for when I started it. So, yay for me, I maintained my average and achieved my goal. I occasionally took a month off (often January) or, once, even longer, but as this is an extra thing that I tacked on to my EiC duties, I promised myself to never apologize for taking a break from it. I didn’t then and I still won’t.

Overall, writing this blog has been a very positive experience for me. The response from the community has been overwhelmingly supportive and so I kept it going. In thinking back, I only received one complaint, just after my first SPA newsletter announcement about the existence of this blog. The person lamented that I was creating starting yet another place for announcements to the community and that I should instead just go through the normal channel of the SPA newsletter. This person failed to see the irony of their comment – they only knew about my blog because I submitted a “blog highlights” announcement to the SPA newsletter! This person has not been a corresponding author on any manuscripts in the journal throughout my term as EiC, though, so perhaps my blog is not for them.

I knew that it would not be for everyone. It is for those that want to know the latest on publication policy and common practices. Those that really want to see the posts as they appear have subscribed to new content alerts (there are about 60 of you) and the rest of the community is reminded of this blog’s existence with my monthly SPA newsletter blurbs. That’s worked out pretty well, accumulating just over 122,000 page views. That’s ~1700 views per month over the 6-year timeline, which I’ll take as a big win for increased communication and transparency.

Those were my main reasons for starting this blog and writing all of the posts – communication and transparency.  I had ~90 posts that first year, having a lot of topics regarding AGU publications about which the community was inquiring and that I was discovering through my insider EiC role. Since then, I have averaged ~40 each year, enough to keep your attention (I hope) without boring you with minutiae (I hope). Like a journal article, a blog can also have a least publishable unit. I wanted to stay above that threshold and so I just didn’t post anything when I didn’t have something I deemed important enough to write about. Three hundred posts at ~500 words each is a book, and I might convert these posts into a bound volume in 2020.

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all of you that have written or talked to me over the years offering suggestions and ideas for blog posts. This has been a tremendous help for gauging relevance in what to write about here. Some of these suggestions turned into discussions with AGU HQ staff, advocating for changes in publication policy. I am particularly proud of the role that the space physics community played in removing preprint servers as dual publication, as documented in a series of posts in late 2014. You not only changed the policy but AGU has fully embraced preprint servers as a means of increased scientific communication, to the point that it spearheaded the creation of ESSOAr, a preprint server just for our field.

I occasionally went off of the topic of publication policy and journal news. This usually was to voice my support for combating sexism and other bias in the scientific workplace. I think my first post on this was my November 2014 recap of Dana Hurley’s Eos article, Women Count. I’d say that this culminated in my June 2016 post about my grad student and sexist microaggressions, with several others that same summer on the topic. I’ve continued this theme ever since, with occasional posts on how diverse teams lead to better solutions to science problems (race, gender, nationality…the more diversity the better) and how we should fight bias in our interactions with each other, including some on being cordial and gender neutral in our publication-related correspondence. So, yes, I tied it back to publications, a bit. As long as I had this platform to the community, I wanted to use it for a cause I feel passionately about and wanted to promote. Thanks, Dana, for your Eos article that spurred me towards this series of posts.

Oh, another thing to say to everyone: don’t choose the outgoing editors when submitting a manuscript to JGR Space Physics. Today is my last day as EiC, but I will still be listed as an editor while the papers that I assigned to myself make their way towards final accept-or-reject decisions. Starting tomorrow, though, when Michael Balikhin is EiC, he will only have 3 editors to whom he can assign new manuscripts: Viviane Pierrard, Natalia Ganushkina, and himself. The other 4 editors – Yuming Wang, Larry Kepko, Alan Rodger, and me – will no longer be taking new manuscript assignments. Because we will still be editors for a few more months, our names will still appear in the list under the “select your editor preference” pull-down menu in GEMS. Please, don’t bother picking us, as Dr. Balikhin will not be assigning any new papers to us.

Which reminds me: the search for new editors for JGR Space Physics is still accepting applications. There are several positions open, Dr. Balikhin expects to appoint two to four new editors. I have heard that there are several applications are already submitted but the mid-January deadline has not yet passed. It is a large service role but, I think, worth the time commitment. Please consider it as a way to give back to the space physics community.

Thanks for letting me ramble on here. I am glad that I did this blog.


I’ll have at least one more Editors’ Vox article, my thank you to everyone as I pass the mantle to Dr. Balikhin, and maybe another Editor’s Highlight or two from the remaining manuscript assignments in my GEMS workflow. Also, I plan to start a new blog with my large service role that I have taken on here at U-M – heading up the University of Michigan Space Institute. I hope to be doing regular blog posts there, starting in January.

Work hard and be nice! Cheers.


My Top Posts of All Time

It is almost the end of December, when the mantle will be passed to the incoming Editor of Chief of JGR Space Physics, Michael Balikhin. This blog will end soon. So, it is time for a little nostalgia. One of the features of WordPress is that it collects page view statistics. Overall, the total page view count is over 120,000, for an average of something like 56 page views per day, which seems like a pretty good number over and 6-year run of this site. Thank you for reading.

It also tells me the page view stats on each post. The lowest count is 14, for some of my latest ones. For others, the count is over 1000 views. Here’s the list:


            Yes, my two posts on deciphering the manuscript status tables in GEMS have tallied the most hits, over ten thousand each. There is a serious demand for understanding those tables, probably well beyond the space physics research community. Similarly, the next one on the list is my post about Publication Units. Again, this is an AGU-wide policy and people submitting to any AGU journal need to know about calculating Pub Units.

The fourth entry on the list a curious one to me, on acronyms in titles. Over 4000 views. Hmm. I guess people are interested in acronym usage. This goes with entry #13 (the last on this list of post with > 1000 views), on scientific presentations. It is good to be clear in our correspondence with each other.

There are several on this list about the Journal Impact Factor, including two posts on this from 2014, another one from 2016, and my JIF score post in mid 2017 . That’s a lot of top-viewed articles about this one topic. We like journal metrics.

Number #6 on the list is about AGU’s manuscript templates.  Note that the specific Word and LaTeX template links in there are now old; the better page to bookmark is this one, which is updated with links to the latest templates. If you notice issues with these templates, please email AGU pubs staff and let them know. These templates are regularly updated, both as the AGU publication style changes and as corrections are pointed out.

In late 2014, I had a whole series of posts on revision, rejection, and the editorial decision-making process. Entry #9 is the first of these posts, and apparently the most-read of them.

Which brings me to #10, my rather long post about my PhD student leaving space physics, including some advice on combating microaggressions. I especially love the comments that people wrote on this post (scroll down on that linked page), and I have written several other times about sexism, racism, and the need for diversity and inclusion in the space physics workplace (see the pingback links on that page).

Only one more to talk about, and that was about AGU’s data policy. This policy has slowly evolved throughout my term as EiC, or more precisely, as enforcement of this policy has evolved and become stricter. My most recent post on this was in August of this year.

I could keep going, but the 1000 views mark seems like a nice (yet arbitrary) cutoff for this list.

Giving to AGU – One Last Pitch

I have written several times about donating extra money to AGU; I am writing one more time. Why? Because I believe in what AGU does. It is our scholarly society and I want it to thrive.


In addition to paying annual dues, I give to several of the funds. Here are the ones to which I have given over the past few years:

  • Space Physics and Aeronomy Section Fund
  • Carl “Max” Hammond Student Travel Endowment Fund
  • Basu Award Fund
  • Austin Student Travel Endowment
  • Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship in Space Physics Fund
  • Education and Career Services Fund:

Note that I have not given to the “AGU General Fund” in recent years. I target my giving to specific causes within the long list of funds. Here is some more info about the funds I have chosen in recent years:

Giving to the section allows SPA to have flexibility in creating new events and programs targeted at our research community.

The Max Hammond Fund helps first-time student attendees, and was created in memory of a space physicist who died in the 9/11 tragedy.

Giving to the Basu Award Fund increases the annual award amount for the two early career awards that Sunanda and Satimay Basu have set up for our section, the US focused one and the international one.

The Austin Student Travel Endowment is new this year to increase student travel support to the Fall AGU Meeting. Every dollar donated to it by December 31 is matched by Jamie Austin (this is his Austin Challenge), an AGU Board member who believes in the cause of our society. I am told that this Challenge has over $600K donations already, but there is still plenty more room for additional donations that will be matched.

For the last one on my list, here is the description from the website: “This fund supports teacher workshops, student programs, and diversity initiatives.”

Maha Ashour-Abdalla was a longtime space physics faculty member at UCLA. After her untimely death a few years ago, this fund was established in her memory to give out scholarships to women starting graduate careers in space physics.

For the last one on my list, here is the description from the website: “This fund supports teacher workshops, student programs, and diversity initiatives.”

These are just the ones I like. There are lots of funds that AGU has created and they continue to create new ones. Go to the AGU Giving site and, a bit down the page, click on the “Funds” tab, and start scrolling and clicking to learn more.

Finally, AGU has an incentive program for donations based on the percentage of the section’s membership that gives (to any AGU Fund). If 5% or more of a section’s membership donates to AGU, then AGU contributes $1,000 to $5,000 to that section (from the general fund). Any level of gift to any AGU Fund contributes to this percentage of participation.


New Editor Search for JGR Space Physics

The incoming Editor in Chief of JGR Space Physics, Dr. Michael Balikhin, has opened a search for new editors of the journal.


The application process is quite easy…send a letter of interest and a curriculum vita to pubmatters@agu.org with “JGR: Space Physics” in the subject line. The hard part is the letter, as this should convey your willingness and enthusiasm for wanting this rather large service role. You should also comment on any previous editorial experience you have had. If you don’t have such experience, then comment on times when were faced with a similar role of assessing the acceptability of another person’s work, perhaps in a managerial situation or with proposals.

Applications will be accepted until mid-January, 2020. Yes, this is past the end time of my editorship and that of several current editors for the journal. Without immediate replacements, the number of editors will drop temporarily down to three. I think that consideration of the applications will start as soon as they are submitted, with the hope that all positions are filled by the end of January. I don’t think that he has a target number of new editors that he wants to appoint, but it is probably at least two. Space physicists from all disciplinary fields within the scope of the journal are encouraged to apply. For discipline breadth that complements that of Balikhin and the other two continuing editors (Drs. Viviane Pierrard and Natalia Ganushkina), I would guess that there is a high chance of appointing editors in the fields of ionosphere-thermosphere physics or planetary space environments. But again, researchers from all space physics fields are encouraged to apply.

This is a four-year appointment, the same as Balikhin’s EiC appointment, going through December 31, 2023. For more info on what it means to be an editor, AGU has written guidelines for the roles of a journal editor. Also, I have written quite a bit about the editorial workflow here at this blog.

Please consider applying and if you would like to discuss the position, then please feel free to contact me. If you want to talk in person, I am already in San Francisco for the Fall AGU Meeting and will be here through the last session on Friday.

At the AGU Building

I’m at AGU HQ for the Meetings Committee meeting. Yes, such a thing exists, and yes, I am on it, as an editorial liaison between publications and meetings. It was an excellent meeting, talking about strategic directions for AGU.

The AGU building has undergone a renovation over the past 2+ years and staff are now fully settled into their new spaces back at 2000 Florida Avenue. I like this building. They have turned it into a net-zero energy building, which will be fully completed very soon, once the solar panels are installed on the roof. It includes an urban twist on geothermal energy and plant-centered air purification, electrochromic windows, rainwater collection and usage, and a massive recycling and reuse effort as part of the renovation. Here is a view from the top floor “Prow” conference room:


Okay, it’s a gray day here in DC today. Maybe not the best at selling it, but trust me, it’s a nice view.

You can learn more about the renovation of the AGU building and all of its innovative technologies and features. More pictures and info are at these two blog posts from March 2019 and May 2017, too. Once fully complete, energy usage and production can be remotely followed on a virtual dashboard, so you can see how AGU is doing towards its net-zero goal. I am told that this renovation is a first-of-its-kind in DC (renovating a commercial building to be net-zero) and it is serving as a model for other urban renovation projects.

Remember, too, that the first floor has a very nice member lounge, so if you are ever in DC, feel free to stop by AGU HQ and hang out. The first floor and lower level have meeting rooms that can be reserved, too. In fact, next year, there will be several Chapman Conference here in the big first-floor room! I think that this is a great move for AGU, opening up the building to the society membership and the local community.