Get TOC e-Alerts From Earth and Space Science

Three years ago, AGU launched a journal called Earth and Space Science. If you haven’t already, it’s worth the time to sign up for table of content alerts from E&SS. This is easily done by clicking on the link in the in the upper right corner of the journal webpage, here:


            E&SS is a journal that spans the entire AGU scope of disciplines, a lot like GRL but not at that very high, cutting edge, must-publish-immediately level. It serves several functions but here are the top two: (1) it is a place for the publication of cross-disciplinary studies that don’t quite fit the scope of other AGU journals; and (2) it is a place for sharing and describing data sets, methods, and tools that might be of interest to those in more than one discipline.

It just released issue 1 of volume 4, which has a space physics paper in it. Not every issue has a space physics paper, but the others are often worth a perusal. One of my favorite recent articles is this one on the “geoscience paper of the future,” addressing the often-neglected topic of documenting your research, methods, and data. Yes, I have submitted to E&SS and it was published. This two-year-old paper already has 7 citations, so I am going back; I am closing in on completion of another manuscript for this journal.

It’s a fully Open Access journal, which means all papers are free to all readers. The nominal publishing fee is a bit higher than that of JGR Space Physics, $1800 instead of $1000 for a ≤25 Pub Unit Research Article, but this isn’t a fair comparison. JGR Space Physics actually charges $3500 for a new paper to be Open Access. So, really, E&SS is not twice but half the cost of publishing JGR.

I am not trying to persuade you to submit all of your space physics papers to E&SS instead of JGR Space Physics. For one, it doesn’t yet have an Impact Factor and its brand recognition is not fully established. It is a place for publishing descriptions of new methods and data sets for which the paper doesn’t have a substantial new science component. While JGR Space Physics will consider such papers, E&SS allows for an expanded readership beyond just our field, and many methods and data sets have a broader appeal, making E&SS a good journal for such articles. Similarly, if your study crosses over into other fields and doesn’t naturally fit in any particular section of JGR, then E&SS is a good place for that.

So, let me say it again: I highly encourage you to sign up for TOC e-Alerts to Earth and Space Science. It’s relevant and its paper titles are worth the glance each month.

Women Reviewers

While there have been a few good-press stories about women in science lately, with the viral blog post about a woman’s experience at Uber and today’s story about this issue in The Conversation, I thought it was finally time to write up another post on the topic of women and bias in publishing.

Specifically for geoscience and readers of JGR Space Physics, there were two recent Eos articles or relevant, one on scientists at the Women’s March on Washington and another on the obstacles facing women in our field and another. This second article is an especially worthwhile read, including parts of particular interest to scientific publishing. AGU HQ staff wrote an article that just appeared in Nature last month about gender bias in reviewing, finding that women do not serve as reviewers as much as they write first-authored papers. For researchers in their 20s, this gap doesn’t exist, but it slowly widens, almost monotonically, with each additional decade of age.

As you can see from the paper title:


I’ve described the article’s findings too generally. The title nicely links the finding to the cause. That is, the gap is not the fault of the researchers; the review-request decline rate is identical between men and women. It is the fault of the editors, who send out the review requests, and manuscript corresponding authors, who suggest potential reviewers. The proportion of women in these two categories (those getting review requests and those listed as potential reviewers) is lower than the proportion of women in the field. We need to do better. I need to do better.

Science did a related study looking at the proportion of women authors of their papers, finding that it is substantially lower than the proportion of women among potential authors. So, it isn’t just geosciences, but across science as a whole, that a gender bias in publishing exists.

How can we change this? In addition to me and the other editors getting our requests in line with the research population, I have one idea to share here for all of you.

Manuscript corresponding authors: please think about your list of potential reviewers before signing in to GEMS to submit your paper. GEMS asks you for lots of information and you should think about all of these questions before sitting down to submit, but I especially encourage you to put some effort into the potential reviewer list. If we do it “on the fly” while in the process of submitting, then the usual suspects of senior people, often men, will most likely come to mind. These people are often busy and decline. Please spend some time on this list and think about the full range of potential reviewers. It will help you because it helps us find highly qualified reviewers that much faster.

Subscribing to journal e-alerts

Here is one more post in the series about my estimate of the 2015 JGR-Space Physicsspecific Journal Impact Factor and the need for citing recent articles. This could be my last on this for a while. I’m off to the AGU Editors in Chief meeting tomorrow, so there will probably be new topics to discuss here from that meeting.

How do we know about the recently-published literature? How do we put our new studies in the proper context of the latest research in that field? How do we prepare ourselves to be good reviewers and know about the full range of papers that the author should be citing?

Simply relying on our memory will systematically bias our recollection of what papers to cite to the “famous” and “classic” papers, which are usually the older ones. They are the ones we have seen cited more times in the past and the ones we have probably read several times during our career. Unless we make the recent papers fresh in our minds, we will probably not think about them.

On this note, a big thing that I think we can (and should) be doing is subscribing to journal table of content alerts. More than this, we need to be giving them a quick scan for relevant new papers in our fields of expertise and clicking on those articles. I like to download them and collect these PDFs in a “Papers to Read” folder. Most of the time, the contents of this unread-papers-folder expands with time simply expands with time but every now and then I read through one of these papers and move it to my “Electronic Reprints” folder. Okay, clearing out this folder often comes in little binge reading sessions, usually when I am with my laptop but isolated from the internet. At this point, though, I’ve seen the paper at least twice and I hope that something about it sticks in my head, ready to be recalled the next time I am talking about that topic.

Nearly all journals have TOC e-alerts now. At JGR Space Physics, it’s over on the right-hand side on the main website:


            The other big thing we should be doing is not relying on our memory to populate the cited references in the Introduction and Discussion section of a new manuscript, but conducting a rigorous literature search for relevant papers. I wrote a post on that last fall.

Should we do more for our JIF?

In my last post I presented my estimate of the 2015 Journal Impact Factor for JGR-Space Physics. The number is below the all-sections JGR impact factor by about half a point.   I also showed that this section-specific impact factor has been lower than the all-section value for, well, as far back as I calculated it (~10 years). While I am not that concerned, it is a little troubling to think that space physics, as a field, isn’t as good as other fields, like atmospheric science or astrophysics, at citing recently published papers in our new studies.

The ultimate responsibility for this is with the authors of papers. Each of us should be a conducting literature search with every new paper we write, including citation of relevant papers that either build up to the question addressed or place the findings in the context of existing knowledge, in the Introduction and Discussion sections, respectively. As I have written before, please do this with every new paper you submit.

In addition to this, should we who gate-keep and publish the papers, meaning the Editors, reviewers, AGU, or Wiley, be doing more to increase the impact factor of JGR-Space Physics? I guess we could, but it seems a bit unethical and manipulative, as mentioned in the Physics Today article I highlighted earlier this month. We can do something, though, especially the reviewers.

Reviewers, as the expert assessors of the quality of the work, are the best people to be addressing this issue. They should include an examination of the citations in the manuscript, especially the Introduction and Discussion sections, and determine if the study properly motivates the study with respect to existing knowledge of the topic as well as places the findings into the context of other similar or competing findings from other studies.

At the reviewer instructions at GEMS, AGU brings this up to reviewers in two places. First, it is asked of reviewers in the question set they must answer when submitting their review: “Is the referencing appropriate?” GEMS only provides three answers to choose from: yes; mostly yes, but some additions are necessary; and no. By asking the question, though, it really is just prompting the reviewer to think about this aspect of the paper and encourage suggestions of additional relevant papers to cite. The second place is in the question set for the reviewer to think about in the formal review: ” Does this paper put the progress it reports in the context of existing published work? Is there adequate referencing and introductory discussion?” Again, making sure that the reviewer assesses this aspect of the paper.

See the reviewer instructions for more details on this. There is also a 2011 Eos article about writing a good review. This Eos article has a spiffy flow chart about the review process:


It suggests that you read the manuscript up to 3 times. The article states that reviewers are not there to catch “to catch every typo, missing reference, and awkward phrase.” I agree. The reviewer should, however, catch glaring omissions of clearly relevant studies.

This idea of you-don’t-have-to-force-citation-of-everything is reflected in the GEMS questions to reviewers. Neither of these questions listed above explicitly ask the reviewer to look for citations to recent articles, nor is there a requirement to cite some minimum number of recent articles. I am glad, because I think that would be stepping over the line of ethical acceptability. In the process of thinking about all relevant literature on which the manuscript builds, though, the reviewer should also consider the recently-published studies as well as the older, and perhaps better known and more familiar, studies.

Plain Language Summaries

Since early fall, all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics, now have the option at submission of including a Plain Language Summary of the work. This is intended for promoting the work to those beyond the specific discipline. I hope that you write one for every new submission. I mentioned this yesterday as one of the submission details that you should add to your manuscript template. This will make you think about it long before you are halfway through the submission process at the GEMS website and reach this text box and suddenly have to come up with words for it. Do it as your write the paper, and have the coauthors critique it and hone the wording of this paragraph. I think that this is an important development for AGU journals.

My unscientific reading of a bunch of manuscripts tells me that most Abstracts in JGR Space Physics are written at a level that can be understood by most others who conduct some kind of research across the broad field of space physics. That said, I think that not many beyond this discipline would really understand most of our Abstracts. AGU has recognized that this is a problem; scientists often write with themselves in mind for the readership, and this means that Abstracts contain too much detail and field-specific technical content for others to truly understand the work. This is a particularly acute problem for space physics, but even for other science disciplines within the AGU umbrella, various reasons (terminology, methodology, or the nuances of what is meaningful and important) make cutting edge scientific results difficult for the non-expert to decipher.

For most journals, this isn’t a big problem, as the readership often includes only those in the field. For journals like GRL or Earth and Space Science, however, which include papers from across all AGU sections and science disciplines, this poses a problem for the full journal audience (i.e., all of AGU) to at least get the basic premise and major findings of those papers not in their specific field.

In addition, AGU would also like to promote the papers in its journals beyond the normal intra-discipline readership circles. For a long time, AGU staff have been writing Research Spotlight articles about a few selected papers from each journal each month. This is time-consuming for them and they don’t have the budget to increase the workforce dedicated to it. The Plain Language Summary is a way for the authors to provide a concise write-up of the work for people outside of the immediate field. This promotion of papers goes beyond the scientist membership of AGU, too. It extends to science writers and journalists, science enthusiasts, and even science skeptics.

AGU has put a length limit of Plain Language Summaries: they can be 200 words maximum. This is a bit less than the 250-word limit on the “regular” Abstract for a manuscript in JGR Space Physics. You should strive to remove jargon and technical terms, remove complicated phrasing, leave out the details, and focus on the big idea of the paper. In this short write-up of your work, convey the reason you conducted the study, one or two key points about the methodology, one or two key findings, and a quick summary of the implications. A sentence or two per section of the paper, tops.

This isn’t just extra work for you, greater reach for our science results and helping scientists communicate their findings more broadly is something that AGU is actively promoting. Note that AGU has a blog dedicated to this topic called “The Plainspoken Scientist.”


            Plain Language Summaries just became available for JGR Space Physics a couple of months ago and I haven’t actually seen one in print yet. I hope that they clearly display it with the paper, near or even above the technical Abstract. In my quick survey of recent submissions, it looks like over half of new manuscripts are including something in this GEMS text box during submission. That’s great! I hope that you will take this seriously and write well-crafted summaries of your work for the non-expert. I welcome this addition to the overhead of submitting a paper to an AGU journal because, over the long term, I think that it will help our field and the science literacy of the world.


More Manuscript Template Tweaks

This year, AGU released new manuscript templates in Word and LaTeX for paper authors to use, which I wrote about this summer, and in September I had a post on some easy tweaks to make them a nicer for reviewers and editors. This month, I had the opportunity to work through the GEMS system as an author and I thought up a few other beneficial tweaks to the templates. These are things that GEMS asks of you, so you might as well be thinking about it before you at the online submission site.


            Here are the 4 additional items that I encourage everyone to start including in your template so that you think about it before you are at the GEMS the submission page. I would insert them before or after the Abstract, below the title and authors but above the main article text.

Paper Type: acceptable paper types for AGU journals are found here. By far the most common for JGR Space Physics is the Research Article, but we consider all of the other paper types (except those reserved for GRL, as indicated). Because the reviewing criteria are different for each paper type, it’s very helpful for reviewers and editors to see the paper type right there, embedded near the top of the article file.

AGU Index Terms: You have to select a primary index term for your paper, plus up to 4 additional index terms. These must be chosen from the official AGU index term list.

Keywords: These are free-form words or phrases that help your paper be electronically discoverable. They can be words from the index term, from the title, or from the main text. You can enter up to 8 words or phrases.

Plain Language Summary: up to 200 words describing your work to those not in space physics. That is, this text should explain the work to a science reporter or scientifically-literate layperson. It should minimize jargon and acronym usage and focus on one or two key points that a smart non-specialist can understand.

This last thing, the plain language summary, is a new request in GEMS as of October. I’ll write more on this in a separate post.

Finally, note that AGU has shuffled the website for author resources content a bit and the manuscript templates now have their own page. This site has checklists for new submissions and revision submissions as well as the template files and instructions on using them. The LaTeX template is also available on Overleaf.

Happy writing!

Defining Plagiarism

Happy Halloween; one of the most bizarre holidays ever invented (in my opinion).

To go with my last post, I’d like to continue the conversation on plagiarism. Lots of people are talking about this topic, , and I have several times before. Here’s a graphic on the usage of the word “plagiarism” in the last 200 years:


How did I make this plot? Google has a site that does this.

Here’s a definition of plagiarism from

plagiarism: an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author:

            It is not just “language” but “thoughts” as well. AGU can and does check for language overlap, and I and the other editors of JGR Space Physics occasionally send manuscripts back to authors for revision before review to have them rewrite text that is too close to already published papers.

Checking for “idea overlap” is very difficult. The closest that we can come to this is if an editor or reviewer notices that references are missing to key studies of direct relevance. If it is published, then you should give those authors credit for the ideas that they have discussed.

So, I have two pitches to the community.

Authors: please include references all relevant papers. Conduct a literature search at AGU’s EASI database, Harvard’s ADS astronomy abstract service, or Google Scholar. You have lots of resources for this. This is an important step in the scientific method that greatly helps to refine your message to what it truly new and original in your study.

Reviewers: please scrutinize the references, especially in the Introduction and Discussion sections, to ensure that key papers are being cited. It’s one of the questions we ask of you (“Is referencing appropriate?), hoping that this spurs you to read the manuscript with this issue in mind.

Because it’s almost election time here in America, grabbed some hat images and I made up some baseball cap designs that I think we all should be wearing, figuratively if not literally.


To Cite or Not

It’s almost Halloween here in America, so it is time to show people in costumes:


However silly they look in this outfits, the message that the text conveys is serious. When in doubt, add a citation. I got this image  here, a site that also has a humorous flow chart for deciding when to cite. Basically, think twice about the content in your scholarly work, and if the idea you are positing came from another source, then include a citation to that source.

Paper Introductions should be full of citations to previous work, demonstrating that the authors have done their homework with a thorough literature search investigating the state of knowledge on this topic. The storyline of the Introduction should focus down from a broad perspective to ever-narrower issues until the specific topic of interest is reach. Sometimes this focusing is fast, just a sentence or two, other times it is several paragraphs. The specific topic should then be rigorously discussed to show that there is a gap in understanding. It should lead to the thesis statement of the unresolved question and why a new study is needed. To get to this point, however, relevant prior studies should be included in this presentation.

Similarly, in the Discussion section of the paper, the new findings should be put into proper perspective with respect to prior studies. That is, this section should also have many citations and a comparison of how the new findings build on those existing findings.

Citation of previous work does not invalidate your contribution to knowledge about that topic. On the contrary, it demonstrates that you are an expert in the fields, are aware that others are working on the same issue, and that your investigation fits within a larger body of work.

Please add citations to relevant work. It’s like raw broccoli: it takes some work to get it down, but once there it’s really good for you.


Don’t Cite Unpublished Work

The title of this post really says it all. Here’s a quote from a document at the Editor Portal (sorry, I don’t have a public link for it), “AGU journals do not allow references to unpublished journal articles.” This includes JGR Space Physics.


            Like the requirement of having open access to the data (observational or numerical) used to develop findings in a study, all scientific understanding on which the study is based (i.e., the cited literature) needs to be available. This does not mean freely available (the paper could be behind a subscription paywall) or even easily available (for instance, print only in an old monograph), but available somehow. Citing unpublished articles, especially the promissory note of “manuscript in preparation,” is forbidden.

Let me make an important clarification to this: unpublished articles cannot be cited in accepted or published AGU journal articles. At initial submission, citing papers that are “under review” or “accepted” is allowed. You need to provide a copy of the unpublished paper as a supplemental document so that the Editor and reviewers can see it and assess the worthiness of the reference. If they are not supplied, then reviewers can and should ask to see such references and the corresponding author should be ready to provide it.  This means authors should confirm with the authors of the cited yet unpublished paper that it is okay to cite their paper and provide it to the Editor and reviewers.

On submission of any revisions, however, these other papers must have progressed to the level of being available online or in print. If not, then they should be removed and the manuscript revised to accommodate that change in referenced literature. If they are still in the revised manuscript, then AGU staff will ask the authors for a justification about the citation and will consult with the Editor about how to handle it. It could be that the other paper is close but not quite through to acceptance. If this can be verified, then we will probably let that through. It could be a companion paper or another paper in the same special section. Again, this is probably okay. If we let it remain, however, and the citing paper is accepted before the cited paper is available, then AGU/Wiley will hold the citing paper until the publication of that other one. If you must cite that paper, then your paper will wait until the other is available. If two papers mutually cite each other, AGU will coordinate publication. They will even coordinate with other publishers, like they did with the MAVEN special section in GRL last November, which came out simultaneously with 4 related papers in Science, all released in phase with a press conference.

For AGU journals, being “in press” means being available. AGU posts nearly all papers at the journal website within 3-4 days of acceptance. Other journals may or may not do this, though, so “in press” is not a guarantee that you can cite the paper. Like I said, AGU will contact other publishers and coordinate, release. Who knows, this might even expedite publication and availability of that other paper.

Finally, citation of some non-DOI references is allowed, especially those that are permanently archived. One example of special relevance to JGR Space Physics is the preprint service. Citing a paper there is allowed, even if it doesn’t have a corresponding peer-reviewed version available yet. Posting to is allowed because these papers are “permanently available” at this site. In the end, it is up to the Editor, in consultation with the authors and reviewers, to decide if the citation to a paper at (or similar service) is acceptable.

This has been enforced at GRL for a while but is relatively new for JGR Space Physics. If you start to see emails from AGU staff asking about these references to unpublished work, now you know why.



Common Tweaks To the AGU Manuscript Templates

A couple of months ago I wrote about new manuscript templates from AGU, in both Word and LaTeX. There are two small issues with these templates, and here I will show you how to change them.

First, in the Word template, line numbering is not turned on by default. You have to do this yourself. It’s easy, though.

  • Under the Format pull-down menu, select “Document”
  • Click on the “Layout” tab at the top of the pop-up window
  • Click on the “Line Numbers…” button
  • Check the box for “Add line numbering”, click the button for “Continuous”, and click “Ok” (and then “Ok” again in the Document window)

Here’s the Document-Layout pop-up menu:


and here is Line Numbers pop-up menu:


            In the LaTeX template, the common issue that I hear people wanting to fix is the line spacing in draft mode. The normal way to do this is to insert this line after the \documentclass command:


where x.x is a multiplier for the spacing between the lines relative to the font size, such as 1.0 for single spacing or 1.2, 1.5, or 2.0 for larger line spacing. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to introduce new macros into the AGU LaTeX templates, so please do not use the line above.

Instead, you have to change the baseline setting in the auxiliary files. To do this:

  • Open the “agujournal.cls” file, either in TeX or text editor
  • Scroll about a third of the way down to the “Font Family Info” section
  • Change the \draftskip setting to some other value
  • Save the file and close it

Here is the section of agujournal.cls that you need to change (line 376):


As you can see, the draft setting is 20, while the font size is 12, so the default is a little more than 1.5 line spacing. If you want single line spacing in your draft document, then change this number to 12. I kind of like a setting of 15, which leaves just a bit of space between the lines but still keeps the text compact.

Of course, when you upload your paper_file.tex document into GEMS (which is not required at first submission, but is required for subsequent “revision” submissions), the GEMS system will use its unaltered agujournal.cls file to typeset your manuscript. This will undo what you just did. If you want the editor and reviewers to see the version with the tighter line spacing, then you have to replace the GEMS-generated PDF file of the merged manuscript document. Another advantage of uploading your own PDF is that you can control the placement of the figures within the manuscript; otherwise, GEMS will append them to the end of the manuscript file, without numbering or captions nearby. So, I strongly urge you to upload your own full-manuscript PDF into GEMS at that step in the submission process.

I hope this helps. If you have other little tricks you do to the templates, then please free free to share them in the comment section below.