Editor Preference Selection

When submitting a manuscript to JGR Space Physics, one of the optional steps is to indicate a preference for editor.

JGRSpace-editor-list

I am writing this post to tell you a few things about this selection:

  1. After the manuscript goes through its quality control and compliance checks with an AGU HQ publications staffer, it appears in my GEMS workflow. I see every paper submitted to JGR Space Physics. After I read the author list, key points, and abstract, I then assign it to an editor. If I assign it to myself, then it stays in my workflow. If I assign it to someone else, then it is out of my hands. This takes somewhere between 30 seconds and a few minutes for each paper. Sometimes I follow up with an email to the editor, if I saw something about the manuscript that I think the editor really needs to know.
  2. You don’t have to pick anyone from the list. Just leave it at “none/no preference” and I will assign the editor based on the topic and the relative workloads of the editors.
  3. Selecting someone is no guarantee that I will assign it to that editor. I could give it to someone else. I consider each request seriously but cannot always honor them.
  4. Please don’t pick an editor at the same institution as you or any of your coauthors. And yes, I treat all of Goddard Space Flight Center as one very large institute, so he is conflicted with everyone working there. And also yes, if you work for one of the usual contractors at GSFC, then I will check your address to see if you are there or somewhere else. If you work at Goddard, then please do not pick Kepko as your preferred editor; I will ignore that request.
  5. The two new editors, Drs. Viviane Pierrard and Natalia Ganushkina, are available for selection. I am slowly ramping up their assigned-paper rate to match that of the other editors, so please feel free to select their names.
  6. Please don’t select “Test Editor” from the list. This is there for, well, testing, as well as for Editorial manuscripts involving all of the editors, like the annual Reviewer Thank You. This is an obvious statement, but just to be clear: if you choose it, then I will ignore that request.

There is also an optional step for selecting an editor with whom you are conflicted. Those I nearly always honor. The conflict can be institutional (you or a coauthor are at the same place as an editor), professional (that editor has criticized your work in the past), or personal (you have had a bad experience with that editor). Please leave a note about the conflict. Only an AGU staffer and I will see those notes; please know that we keep them confidential. If you indicate that you have a conflict with me, well, then just leave the notes section blank!

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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.

AGU_Style_Guide_banner

            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.

Data Set Repositories

AGU’s enactment of an open data policy for all papers in its journals has moved up a notch. The current enforcement of the policy is that “available upon request from the author” is no longer allowed. The data that you use in a paper, on which you are advancing our understanding of the space environment, must be available to others. Remember, “data” is not just observed values but numerically generated values as well.

For many observational data sets, openness is required by the major US funding agencies, NASA and NSF. In fact, even for small grants, they now require data management plans about how the data produced by the project will be stored and made accessible to others. NOAA has a lot of its data freely available through several avenues. If you do simulations at the CCMC, then your run output is available to all at that website. That is, for many things, we can simply list a website and call it good.

The issue is for small data sets, like laboratory experiments or temporary instrument installations, and in-house simulation results. Authors using such data need to make the numbers available to readers without the reader being required to go through the author. Furthermore, the website where the data are available needs to be a permanent and independent repository, not the author’s personal site. We need others to be able to independently check our results, reproduce our plots and tables, and verify our claims.

For those at big institutions, like me, such places are creating open repositories for their researchers. For instance, the University of Michigan has a site called Deep Blue. We are putting data bricks there from specific, published papers.

Many have asked about “public repositories” that will accept a data brick accompanying a journal article. There are several. AGU is associated with COPDESS, the Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences, which is an organization that maintains a list of scientific repositories. It is easily searchable and includes heliophysics and space physics as taxonomy groups. One data base listed there for space physics is NCEI, the National Center for Environmental Information, which has this for its data archive submission front page. AGU also recommends general ones like  ZenodoDryad, or Figshare – each can assign a DOI for deposited data. Github is becoming a common place to share not only code but also code output.

Data_Repositories_small

            The AGU Data Policy FAQ page has a lot of good information about current implementation and additional suggestions of repositories willing to host your data.

Another question that I get is, “how much to upload?” My common answer is, “As much as you can.” Seriously, though, some numerical simulations produces hundreds of GB of output, and some statistical surveys of observational data can cover several TB of values. I don’t want to quote all of the policies for every data repository but there are some out there that will take very large data sets. The minimum set should be “those data used in the paper.” This includes the values behind any plot, table, or value in the paper.

Unconscious Bias in Space Physics

I attended the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit meeting a couple of weeks ago, and there was a very good plenary session on unconscious bias in space physics. The presenters were the authors of the Clancy et al. paper in JGR Planets on bias in astronomy and planetary science. They summarized the findings of that paper, which quantified the extent of women and minorities reporting feeling unsafe or encountering a hostile work environment in these science fields. The numbers are not encouraging, with 80% of women experiencing some kind of sexist remark and two-thirds of women-of-color hearing racist remarks in the workplace. Furthermore, over a quarter of women have felt unsafe in their current position because of their gender or race. This is disturbing to me that the numbers are so large in 2018.

Unconcious Bias Plenary Handout title

            Fortunately, the conversation is not ending with the TESS plenary session. The organizers created a handout that was available to everyone at the session and online with the session description. I highly encourage everyone to read this tri-fold pamphlet. They encourage people to take the Harvard implicit bias test and read through the materials at the U of Arizona’s StepUp! by-stander intervention program. The sheet is filled with tips on how to identify and minimize implicit bias. Two of the biggest things that individuals can do immediately: amplify minority voices is group discussions (but don’t he-peat) and avoid making sexual remarks in the work environment.

As for JGR Space Physics, fighting implicit bias can be done in several ways. The first is to be cordial in your correspondence, especially to early career researchers like graduate students, and to apply the Platinum Rule in your interactions with others, thinking about how they want to be treated and considering the interaction from their perspective. Authors, please use gender-neutral pronouns in responses to anonymous reviewers. Reviewers, consider using one of the links in the handout for quantifying gender bias in writing. Finally, I hope that you all make a personal DEI pledge to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. People leave the field because of sexism in the workplace, and for our discipline, the workplace includes manuscript correspondence. I occasionally hear from advisors whose students have had a bad interaction with a reviewer.

Thanks to the TESS meeting and session organizers and for coordinating this panel discussion. Let’s continue to strive to do better to reduce implicit bias in space physics.

The Moldwin Paper on Citations

Mark Moldwin and I recently published a Commentary on, well, hopefully the title says it all: High-citation papers in space physics: Examination of gender, country, and paper characteristics. He obtained the article information for every paper published in JGR Space Physics in the year 2012, including the citation count as of June 2016 for each paper, and then classified the papers according to, you guessed it, gender, country, and paper characteristics. There were 705 papers in the journal that year, so this task took quite a while to complete, plus we took some time discussing which parameters to even classify for later use. We then analyzed these results to see which qualities about the paper had a statistically significant connection to citation count. A fairly recent year was deliberately chosen to investigate the factors related to citations early in a paper’s lifespan, a time interval of relevance to the calculation of the Journal Impact Factor. As of today, it is still “in press,” so just the accepted version is online, but the paper is Open Access so it is free to read the full text.

MoldwinPaper_header

            Here are the major findings. These qualities of the paper are correlated with more citations in the first few years after publication:

  • More coauthors
  • More institutions in the author affiliations
  • More countries in the author affiliations
  • More references in the paper
  • A colon in the title

These qualities of the paper had no significant correlation with citations:

  • Gender of the first author
  • Number of words in the title
  • Acronyms in the title
  • Geophysical region names in the title

Keep in mind that the standard deviations are wide, so these findings are not necessarily true when comparing any two papers from the “high” and “low” classes. Welch’s t-test statistic uses the standard deviation of the mean, which is a much smaller number than standard deviation (the spread for any one data point in the set), Any individual paper, regardless of its characteristics, could have a high or low citation count a few years after publication. That is, we did not find a “magic parameter” that clearly identifies what will make a paper get many citations, nor one that easily picks out the low-citation papers.

Furthermore, the underlying distribution of values is not Gaussian – but any subset we considered, there is a long, positive tail creating a non-negligible skew to the histogram – yet the probabilities for significance that we used are based on a normal distribution for the two populations. This is why we used a 99% “highly significant” threshold to determine those qualities that are connected to citations.

So, take all of these findings with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, we think the results are interesting for the space physics community to know. The main conclusions that more authors, institutions, countries, and references increases eventual citations are not particularly surprising, but this is the first time it’s been quantified for papers in the field of space physics.

Two results are surprising to us. The first is that there is not a statistical difference in the citation of papers based on the gender of the first author. Other studies have found such bias in other fields, including in other closely related natural sciences, like astronomy. Unlike those studies of other fields, we did not find a statistically significant difference in citations to JGR Space Physics papers based on that parameter.

We did not expect to find any “title parameters” to be connected with citations and most were not. We were rather amused, however, to find that a colon in the title is linked to higher citations. About 20% of the papers that year had a colon in the title. That’s over 100 papers so this is a decently large sample size. We have guesses but, really, we have no good explanation for this. For those wondering, yes, this finding did indeed influence the title of our paper.

In summary, our advice to potential authors of manuscripts for JGR Space Physics is this: collaborate with others and cite the literature. It’s not a guarantee that your paper will receive above-average citations but, based on our analysis, it might help. Happy writing!