AGU Centennial

The American Geophysical Union is turning 100 years old next year. The society has launched a major campaign to celebrate this triple-digit milestone of existence. They even have a nice logo:


Details of the design of this logo are explained here.

There will be special events at both the 2018 and 2019 Fall AGU Meetings, one kicking off the festivities and the other wrapping it up. Note that the 2018 Meeting will be in Washington DC, with tours of the renovated now-net-zero AGU building. One of the big activities going on right now is the AGU Narratives Project, a joint activity with StoryCorps to record conversations about our experiences conducting Earth and space science.

JGR Space Physics is participating in the Centennial in several ways. Firstly, AGU is asking all of the journals to have a series of papers on Grand Challenges in their field. We are working on this. Secondly, we are making plans for a written version of the AGU Narratives project, a collection of papers from the pioneers of space physics. JGR Space Physics actually had a special issue on this exact topic over twenty years ago. There was also a book, a couple years later, entitled, “Discovery of the Magnetosphere.” We will be doing this again. We are also actively taking part in and coordinating with the AGU Centennial celebration planning.

To lead all of this, I have appointed one of the journal editors, Larry Kepko, to be the coordinator of our activities. He has fully embraced this role and is coming up with some good ways to have space physics to be integrally involved in the Centennial celebrations. If you have questions or comments about this, you can contact either him or me.

To make time for this, Dr. Kepko is pulling back a bit from the normal duties of being assigned “regular” submissions to the journal. I will still be assigning him a few papers, but far less than before. So, when you submit a manuscript, you can still request him as your preferred editor, but there is less chance that I will assign it to him because I am intentionally keeping his manuscript workload down.

This new role for Dr. Kepko, combined with a slowly increasing number of manuscript submissions over the years, is the need for adding two new editors to the JGR Space Physics board. The announced application deadline was yesterday (February 23), but you can still submit for a couple more days. I am off to the Editor-in-Chief meeting, which will occupy my time for the first half of next week. So, the deadline is unofficially extended until February 28. On March 1, when I am back in my office, I will start coordinating with the others on the search committee to begin the selection process. So, there is still time to apply for this position. If you have any questions, then please send me an email, or contact any of the current editors.


Annotating Manuscripts with

A few months ago, AGU introduced a new feature in GEMS – annotating the merged PDF of the manuscript. Senior AGU Pubs staff wrote an Eos Editors’ Vox article about it. AGU has partnered with, an online annotation tool, so that reviewers can highlight text and insert comments. Editors can then add additional comments before making a decision about the paper. The comments are labeled “reviewer 1,” “Editor,” etc., so that the author can identify which of the assessors made the remark. During the revision process, authors can respond to these comments directly in the annotated PDF.


            I have used it a couple of times and I have seen ~10 reviewers use it over the last few months. I think it works really well, so it is it time to publicize this feature and make the community aware of this powerful resource.

When you agree to review a manuscript, you will see this new section on the review page:


It’s just below the link to retrieve the paper and the link for submitting your review. When you click on it, you get a new browser window with the manuscript PDF:


This page already has several sections of text highlighted with example comments written. There are controls across the top bar for navigating around the document. When you highlight some text, a small pop-up window appears below it with the word “annotate” in it:


This opens a text box in the right-hand column in which you can type your comment:


The “You” at the top indicates the originator of the comment, then the highlighted text is repeated, and then a box for writing your comment, including rich text features like inserting hyperlinks, images, and LaTeX-based equations. Along the bottom of the text box is a row of buttons for specifying the type of remark you are making. Is it an overview comment? Pick “Summary.” Do you want to designate it as a “major” or “minor” concern? Go for it. Are you suggesting a small English usage correction? Then pick “Edit.” Are you suggesting a new reference or two, or commenting on a figure? Click that button, then. Finally, there is a “Confidential?” button that you can click if the remark is just to the Editor and not meant for the author. I promise to look through the comments and read these.

Back on the main reviewer page, you can actually see if there are annotations on the “annotated merged PDF.” It should appear as a new link, “Show Summary Table,” like this:


When you click on this, all of the comments in the PDF are shown:


Nice, huh?

Note that you still need to click the link on the main reviewer page to complete the review:


You should answer the pull-down-menu questions and fill in any comments you want in the review text box. It is helpful if you, at the least include a sentence like, “Please see my detailed comments in the online annotated PDF.” This reminds the Editor to go to the annotated PDF and see your comments there. It is also helpful to include a short paragraph summary of your review there. In fact, you can make your review a hybrid of the two, with major comments in the review text box and specific comments embedded in the annotated PDF.

In addition to the Eos article and this blog, there are also more detailed author instructions, reviewer instructions, and even editor instructions at the AGU website. The website also has a really good tutorial. Also, one caveat: it is an interactive web-based tool, so you have to be online to use it.

Also, this whole thing is optional. You don’t have to use it. So far, I’d say that most reviewers do not use it. But most reviewers could be using it, so please consider it. Many reviews include line-identified comments, and this new feature should be easier than typing the location coordinates into your review.

New JGR Space Physics Editor Search

We seek two new Editors to join the board of the Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics. These are additional positions that will expand the editorial board from five to seven. The deadline for application submissions is 23 February 2018.


            Applicants should be dynamic, well-organized, independent-minded, and even-handed scientists with robust knowledge of space physics. As editor you should be committed to further strengthening JGR Space Physics as a leading journal in this field and be proactive in attracting innovative contributions in traditional disciplines and in emerging areas. Applicants from all fields of space physics across the journal’s full aims and scope are welcome.

Editors have several job duties. First and foremost is handling the reviewer assignments and decisions for manuscripts submitted to the journal. You could also be called upon for consultation about manuscripts assigned to other editors. There is an expectation of promoting the journal, especially at conferences you attend, and helping to write highlights of selected papers published in the journal. We hold regular teleconferences throughout the year, as well as a full editorial board meeting at the Fall AGU Meeting, to discuss management and strategic goals of the journal. The expected time commitment of a JGR Space Physics editor is ~5 hours per week.

The term for these new editors would be 4 years with a flexible start date soon after selection. This term extends past the end date of the other editors, creating a bridge to the next Editor in Chief and board. Questions regarding the scope of work and editorial philosophy should contact me. AGU has written guidelines to editors. The search committee is committed to diversity and highly encourages women and minorities to apply. The journal serves a world-wide community of space physics researchers and international applicants are welcome.

If you would like to be considered for one of these Editor positions with JGR Space Physics, please send your curriculum vitae with a letter of interest via email to If you would like to nominate a highly qualified colleague, then please send a letter of recommendation to the same email address. Please make sure that you specify “JGR Space Physics Editor Search” in the subject line of the email.

      Review of applications will begin immediately after the submission deadline. Again, the deadline for applications is 23 February 2018.

DEI Pledge

As most readers of this blog probably know, JGR Space Physics is a journal of the American Geophysical Union. AGU strives to be a society for Earth and space scientists across the world, but one country is right there in the name…America. In light of recent comments by the President of the United States, I feel compelled to respond with a post. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in America, it is a perfect time to push back against racism and other forms of bigotry. I think that silence makes us complicit and I, for one, detest our president’s position.


            When tackling a problem, a diverse workforce brings together many perspectives and makes for a better solution. The USA prides itself on being the world’s melting pot, accepting immigrants from everywhere. A diverse population has helped to make America “Great.” This is exact what the inscription on the Statue of Liberty promotes. Yet, there has always been an undercurrent of racist, bigoted, prejudiced, and/or sexist attitudes in America, with some of the “already privileged” being skeptical and scared of the rise of the “under-privileged.” These feelings are based on ignorance, though. Each time, the rise of an under-privileged group works out well for America. Scientific research, in particular, loves diversity in the workforce.

As a white male of Norwegian descent, I know that I have led a privileged life. I am sure that, who knows how many times, I have benefited from the racism and sexism of others. While I cannot change my past life trajectory, I can steer the future.

So, I pledge to mindfully apply myself towards being a strong supporter of implementing practices at my work and in my daily life that increase diversity, equity, and inclusion. That last phrase is often shortened as DEI. Perhaps you’ve heard that acronym. It’s a good one to know, and I strongly encourage you to adopt a DEI mindset.

For JGR Space Physics authors and reviewers, one way to do this is to practice the Platinum Rule in your interactions with each other and suggest a diverse set of potential reviewers. In the workplace, it can include identifying and confronting Bro Culture and sexist microaggressions. Little by little, we can do a lot.

AGU is working on this too. It has been a strong position of AGU Presidents, and AGU has a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force working right now to review current policy and recommend changes.

            Keep the gates open. Challenge racism, sexism, and bigotry. Promote diversity.

Top-10 Papers of 2015

It’s been suggested to me that I should occasionally use this space to list the “top papers” in JGR Space Physics. I did this once but that was a while ago. As 2017 came to a close (on December 30, to be specific), I surfed to Web Of Science and downloaded the citation information with the “publication name” search term “Journal of Geophysical Research Space Physics.” I did this for papers published in a few selected years: 2015, 2012, and 2007; so, 2, 5, and 10 year-old papers. The 2015 papers will be skewed a bit due to the proportionately large age difference from January 2015 to December 2015, but this is a year included in the Journal Impact Factor, so I thought I’d include it here. Also, not all of the 2017 citations to papers are included in WoS yet, especially from papers published late in the year. Still, these citation values are fairly complete and can provide insight into top papers in these years.

Yeah, this is how I spend my Saturday evenings. Don’t worry about me, though, it didn’t take that long.

I’ll spend a few posts here in January analyzing these citation reports. I won’t go into too much detail, as I know that there is a detailed manuscript on this topic in works. Top 10 lists are good to share, though, as are some basic stats on citations for these specific years.

For this first post, here is the list of Top-10 Most Cited Papers published in 2015 in JGR Space Physics:

  1. Kurth et al, Electron densities inferred from plasma wave spectra obtained by the Waves instrument on Van Allen Probes, 79 citations
  2. Livadiotis, Introduction to the special section on Origins and Properties of Kappa Distributions: Statistical Background and Properties of Kappa Distributions in Space Plasmas, 53 citations
  3. Astafyeva et al., Ionospheric response to the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day storm: A global multi-instrument overview, 50 citations
  4. Saikin et al., The occurrence and wave properties of H+-, He+-, and O+-band EMIC waves observed by the Van Allen Probes, 43 citations
  5. Jaynes et al., Source and seed populations for relativistic electrons: Their roles in radiation belt changes, 39 citations
  6. Li et al., Statistical properties of plasmaspheric hiss derived from Van Allen Probes data and their effects on radiation belt electron dynamics, 35 citations
  7. Saur et al., The search for a subsurface ocean in Ganymede with Hubble Space Telescope observations of its auroral ovals, 33 citations
  8. Engebretson et al., Van Allen probes, NOAA, GOES and ground observations of an intense EMIC wave event extending over 12 h in magnetic local time, 32 citations
  9. Li et al., Upper limit on the inner radiation belt MeV electron intensity, 31 citations
  10. Ni et al., Resonant scattering of outer zone relativistic electrons by multiband EMIC waves and resultant electron loss time scales, 29 citations

These authors all get a gold star for writing a highly-cited paper:


If you need more gold stars, you can buy them for yourself here, where I got the image.

I am not sure if there are any lessons to learn from this list, but it is fun to share it and commend these authors on a job well done. Here are a couple of other tidbits about the list.

The truly surprising one on this list, at least to me, is #2: the special section preface.  Over 50 citations to a preface in just under 3 years is, well, amazing. If you have a look at it, though, then you will quickly realize that it is a tutorial on the topic of Kappa distributions in space plasmas, with 82 references to papers published in a wide range of years, from 1862 to 2014. It’s really a topical review.

Also, 6 of the 10 are about the Earth’s radiation belts or plasma waves relevant to this particle population. This is not surprising given that, in 2015, NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission was just finishing its prime mission phase, with a full scan of local time of data available for analysis. The continued success of this mission’s data set for scientific discovery has propelled radiation belt papers to the top of this list. The top-cited paper (Kurth et al) is not included in this count of 6 but is related to the topic, being a study of the thermal plasma density in Earth’s inner magnetosphere from this same mission. Because the thermal plasma density is a critical controlling factor for plasma waves and wave-particle interactions, it should probably be added to the count, making it 7 of 10. It was a good year for radiation belt papers.

Manuscript Submission Webinar, In Chinese

This is for Chinese-speaking researchers who wish to learn more about publishing in AGU journals. Our very own Yuming Wang, Editor of JGR Space Physics, and Minghua Zhang, the Editor in Chief of JGR Atmospheres, were the featured speakers on a webinar now available from AGU. It can be found on the Author Resources page in the section “For International Authors.” It’s the third entry in the section, “Webinar: Tips for a Successful Manuscript Submission [Chinese].” Yes, the webinar is entirely in Mandarin Chinese, not only the speaking but also the text on the screen. The video is an hour and ten minutes long.


            Note that the link above will eventually take you to a separate page at, where the webinar is archived. You will have to fill out the form for a free registration in order to watch the video. There are actually two screens of questions, the first is your name and contact information and the second is about you as a researcher. It is very easy and quick to register. You will be asked to make up a password for your registration; this is so that you can go back in to the BrightTALK system and see other webinars available from Wiley and AGU.

I like and respect both of these webinar speakers very much.  Minghua was one of the editors traveling with the AGU Pubs crew on our trip through China in October. He lives in the USA now but he grew up in China and, during that trip, I heard him pass on lots of good advice for authors whose first language is not English. I have now worked with Yuming for four years as an editor of JGR Space Physics. He is very thoughtful and I am sure has plenty of useful tips about manuscript preparation, submission, and publication.

For international authors, writing a manuscript for submission to an AGU journal perhaps can be intimidating and even frustrating. I am glad that AGU sponsors these webinars and I hope that you find it useful.

Free e-Book on Scientific Writing

I have a free e-book for you: Writing Scientific Research Articles by Margaret Cargill and Patrick O’Connor.


I am not the source, just the conduit. This is compliments of AGU and Wiley. They have little credit-card-sized “coupons” for downloading and accessing a copy of this book. There is a special code on the back of each card coupon, so each person needs their own card. I think; I haven’t actually tested this, because I only needed one copy.

They actually offered this e-book a couple of years ago. I read it, liked it, and took a bunch of notes. I should pass some of the key points on to you here in this blog. Well, I have, but not specifically as a recap of this book. If you would like the full version from the original authors, then please find me here in New Orleans at the Fall AGU Meeting. I have a small stack of these cards in my pocket. I can probably get more if I run out.

As a teaser, the section headings:

Section 1: A framework for success – typical research article structures

Section 2: When and how to write each article section – a method for writing the first draft

Section 3: Getting your manuscript published – submitting and resubmitting

Section 4: Developing your writing and publication skills further – specialized writing topics, strategies, and advice

Section 5: Provided example articles – for reference, called out throughout the book

I liked the book a lot and found myself agreeing with nearly everything they suggest. I highly recommend it. Find me and I’ll give you a coupon card.

Giving Tuesday 2017

Today has been designated Giving Tuesday, at least here in the USA. This comes on the heels of Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. I’m not quite sure why Sunday was skipped over; a leftover from a bygone time when stores were not open on Sundays, I guess.

Many non-profit organizations are using today as a special 24-hour publicity campaign to raise funds. AGU is one of those organizations. You can find out more about their particular campaign here.


That link takes you to the main page about the Giving Day campaign; the direct page for individual donations is here.

I am not paid by AGU to make this announcement; I do it because I believe in what AGU does for our research community. I personally like to give to several of the accounts listed in the “student” and “special” funds categories on the “donate” page. Unfortunately, the website is set up to select only one fund from each category, so if you want to give to more than one fund in a category, then you have to do a separate order for each. It’s fast, though.

I’ve talked about this a number of times. AGU used to have it on the Thursday during the Fall AGU Meeting, but now they’ve moved it to align with the national Giving Day event. There are lots of good funds to which you can designate your donation, including some specifically for space physics, like the new Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship. And yes, AGU still has the incentive program that provides extra funds to the section leadership, depending on the percentage of membership in that section that make above-normal-membership donations to AGU (of any size into any fund).

Donating to AGU doesn’t influence the publications process; it will have essentially no effect on JGR Space Physics. It will not help your paper get published. It does, however, have big importance to the “extra” things that AGU does for our community, like travel grants for students and those in developing countries, outreach and public engagement to increase scientific literacy and awareness, and prize money like the Basu, Scarf, and OSPA awards.

Trip to China

In mid-October I went to China on a publications-awareness-building trip with AGU CEO Chris McEntee, AGU Senior VP for Pubs Brooks Hanson, JGR-Atmospheres Editor in Chief Minghua Zhang, and GRL Editor Andrew Yau. It was a full week of visiting universities and research institutes; 4 in Shanghai and then 3 more in Wuhan. We met many people conducting research in the broad swath of “geoscience” fields from students just beginning their projects to well-known senior members of the community.

I’d like to say thanks to all of our host institutions. The people we met were fantastic and it was a pleasurable week talking with so many researchers at all of these locations. I had a wonderful time visiting your country and your workplaces, I was well fed at every stop, and the hospitality was excellent. Shanghai and Wuhan are delightful cities and I highly encourage others to visit when given the opportunity. It was a really nice week.


Me and my new Shanghai Jiao Tong University mug


I’d also like to thank my travel buddies. Minghua, Andrew, Brooks, and Chris, you are an excellent human beings. I am really glad that I got to spend that week with the four of you.

At each institute, Dr. Hanson would give a talk about publishing in AGU journals. This would start with a few slides about the scope of AGU and its 20 journals, author demographic info, and some updates about AGU’s latest endeavors in scientific publishing. Then we transitioned into more of an author workshop mode, discussing the desired elements in a manuscript submission to an AGU journal. This is where the presentation gave way to conversation, with questions from the audience and with the editors chiming in with stories and advice. We spoke with full rooms at every institute, with the crowd varying depending on the size of the room, from ~30 to ~200.

Here are a few of the key highlights that kept recurring in our “advice to authors” tips:

  • Talk to an editor. If you are unsure of whether your paper is suitable for a particular journal, feel free to contact an editor of that journal and ask. Some studies fall on the borderline between journals, or you might be questioning whether your result is significant enough for a particular journal. Either meeting an editor in person at a conference or sending them an email is a way to help you sort out which journal is the most appropriate for your work.
  • Write a cover letter. For AGU journals, this is just a text box entry during the GEMS submission process, so it is straightforward and easy. This is a great opportunity to explain why your study should be in this particular journal. Less than half of submissions include a cover letter, which is a missed moment to positively influence the editor’s assessment of your manuscript.
  • Write a clear Abstract and Key Points. Editors send the Abstract to potential reviewers, so this is a paragraph used to entice these people to accept the reviewing assignment. I strongly recommend making the finalization of the Abstract as one of the last things you do before submission, ensuring that it clearly yet concisely conveys the motivation for the study, the highlights of the methodology, the key findings, and mention of the significance of the results for the field. Similarly, the Key Points are displayed on the journal website table of contents, so these are one of the first things that potential readers will see, using their clarity and significance to assess whether to read the full article. Please make the drafting of the Key Points an element of paper writing, not something done at the last moment as you upload the paper into GEMS.
  • Have a friend critically read the manuscript. Coauthors should be stepping up to this role, but even beyond that, it is highly encouraged to form a small group of “writing buddies” who will read each other’s papers. Getting feedback from someone not intimately involved in the research is usually highly beneficial to the paper’s chances of eventual publication.
  • Spend time on the Discussion section. This is where the results of the new study should be placed in the context of what is already known, making the case that the new findings are a significant original contribution to the field. Far too many papers cut this section short, instead jumping straight to the summary and conclusions. A weak Discussion section can sink an otherwise compelling study.
  • Scholarly writing is hard, so practice it. Academic writing for journals is a learned skill; no one has a natural-born talent for this task. Just about everyone struggles with scientific writing, has had to completely rewrite whole paragraphs or even sections in the editing process, and has had papers rejected. Even experienced writers get forgetful of the proper technique for good science communication. Do not be discouraged; you are not alone in your pain. What helps? Practice. Making scientific writing a regular habit will improve your ability to write well.

That’s a good start. I’ll write more on this in the coming weeks.

Heliophysics Division Director

We need a Heliophysics Division Director at NASA HQ. The application submission deadline is October 13, just under two weeks away. I would like to urge solar and space physicists that are senior to me to seriously consider this position.


            I know what you are saying to yourself: why would someone from outside of NASA HQ ever consider this job? Over the last ~6 years, we had two such people go to HQ from the outside only to have them not last through their Senior Executive Service probationary first year and leave the post. The most recent holder of this position, Steve Clarke, came from within NASA HQ and, while doing a great job for Heliophysics, only stayed a couple of years (he is now at OSTP).

One key difference is the presence of Thomas Zurbuchen at NASA HQ. He has been the NASA Associate Administrator in charge of the Science Mission Directorate for a year now. According to his recent Facebook post, he loves his job and fully appreciates the high quality team running the SMD activities at NASA HQ. He is committed to the success of NASA, which includes the success of the Heliophysics Division, and wants a qualified expert and leader in that post.

When he was a professor here at U-M, I worked regularly with Thomas on a number of academic and research activities. I told you a bit about that when Zurbuchen left for NASA HQ last year. If you would like to know more about my experiences working with Thomas and my perspective on what I think it would be like to have this position working with him at HQ, then please contact me. One email address for me is just below my picture in the right-hand column, and my office contact info is here.

We need a strong and capable solar and space physicist in this post. I urge those qualified for the position to think about this opportunity. Don’t let the past dissuade you; whoever is selected, Zurbuchen will want that person to thrive.

Here is the ad as it appeared in one of our e-newsletters: