Want Some Salt With That Metric?

I’ve become a fan of the Scholarly Kitchen. It’s a multi-author blog produced by the Society for Scholarly Publishing. They have daily posts about academic publishing across a wide range of topics, including some useful categories for JGR Space Physics readers, like peer review, discovery and access, and a category simply called academia.


While at the AGU EiC meeting this week, a link to a just-posted Scholarly Kitchen article was circulated on the trustworthiness of journal metrics. The author rates the various journal metrics according to their completeness, transparency, and veracity. She uses a clever scale…the “grains of salt” with which you should take each of the metrics. It goes well with my recent posts on metrics.

And the winner is…CrossRef, which only requires a pinch of salt. ISI and Scopus should be taken with a cup of salt, Download Statistics with a bathtub of salt, and Google Scholar and Research Gate with a classroom full of salt. Yeah, she really doesn’t like Google Scholar for scholarly metrics.

The author is Angela Cochran, who is the Journals Director for the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Past-President of the Council of Science Editors. She knows what she’s talking about on this subject.

I like one of the comments on the article about defining a new SI unit for skepticism, the pinch. A cup of salt is then a kilopinch, a bathtub a megapinch, and a classroom is a gigapinch. Clever.

CrossRef is what is used by Wiley for the “Cited By” link on each paper for all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. Here’s a recent example article with a healthy number in the “cited by” tab. When a publisher prepares a paper for production, they check the references for compliance with the database of known scholarly literature. Once published and online, that paper’s link is sent to CrossRef, which resolves the reference tags against its vast database, ensuring that the citation from the new paper is counted in the “cited by” list for each cited reference in it. The system is fast and the linkages are automatically made. CrossRef is a non-profit organization to which nearly all publishers contribute and subscribe, meaning that the database is as robust as possible and yet focused only on scholarly content.

CrossRef does not take the next step of generating an Impact Factor or CiteScore, which are proprietary creations of Thomson Reuters and Elsevier, respectively. What you get with CrossRef is a near-instantaneous update of the “cited by” number and paper listing at the Wiley site for your papers in AGU journals, and you can trust that it is the most accurate count of citations to your paper from other scholarly publications. That’s okay with me. We need to be dishing out kilopinches (or more) of salt with those other metrics, anyway.

JIF and CiteScore

This week, Physics Today published an article on the Journal Impact Factor and the new CiteScore index. Both are average citation values within a certain year to papers published in a few preceding years. The main difference between the two are that the JIF uses citations to papers in the prior two years while CiteScore includes citations to papers in the previous three years. The other main difference is that Elsevier, the creator of the new CiteScore index, is making everything about the creation of the values open, while Thomson Reuters only makes the formula and numbers used available to subscribers, and the actual list of citations is kept proprietary.


            As the Physics Today article notes, the values are similar for most journals between the two indices, but some shifting is evident, especially among the top titles. For JGR (all sections combined), the values are almost identical, with the 2015 Impact Factor being 3.32 and the CiteScore being 3.39 (to two significant digits, which I don’t like to do).

Also as noted in the Physics Today article, the similarity in how they are calculated suggests that the complaints about JIF are largely applicable to CiteScore. Okay, it includes another year, but Thomson Reuters already produces a 5-year Impact Factor, so CiteScore splits the difference. Both are susceptible to the size of the “highly cited tail” of the paper distribution in a journal, especially if the number of citable items is relatively small. Also, both are susceptible to manipulation, if publishers were to unethically push authors of new manuscripts into citing papers in their journals.

I find it bewildering that there are ~5% of journals in existence with a CiteScore of zero (as reported in the Physics Today article). This means that there was a year in which there were no citations to any of the articles published in that journal for the prior three years. I have not looked up the names of these journals to look for a trend or commonality but, regardless…wow. Thanks again for reading and citing the papers in JGR Space Physics!

Not One But Three

As I went to the Fall AGU Meeting this month, it was finally hitting me that I was entering the final year of my Editor-in-Chief term for JGR Space Physics. At the meeting, however, Brooks Hanson, the Director of Publications for AGU, asked me to extend my term for an additional two years. After a few days of thought and conversations with my wife, I said yes.

So, you have me here for not one but three more years as the EiC of JGR Space Physics.


            I asked all 4 of my Editors if they wanted to continue, and they also all said yes. You have all 5 of us for 3 more years.

The main reason that I am accepting this extension is that I think that there is still multi-year work to do to improve the quality and impact of the papers in the journal.  We had a great discussion at our JGR Space Physics editorial board meeting in San Francisco, and I would like to see the outcome of the analytics we requested and the implementation of strategies to maximize journal influence. More on this in the blog posts to come over the few days or weeks.

Pubs Booth at Fall AGU

I’ve gone through the schedule for the Fall AGU Meeting, and once again it will be a full week where I am occasionally supposed to be in several places at once. There is one place where I know I will be a couple of times, and that is the AGU Publications Booth.

Last year the Publications Booth was in the poster hall in Moscone South. Note that this booth is different from the AGU sales display in the main exhibitor hall. The Pubs Booth is a smaller, single countertop stand and banner with no books or journals for sale. It is set up and operated by AGU Pubs staff specifically to answer questions about publishing scientific results with AGU.


            They ask the Editors in Chief of all of the AGU journals to sign up for times when they will be at the Pubs Booth. Here are the times for the space physics EiCs:

  • Me (JGR Space Physics): Tuesday 11 am – noon and Wednesday 11 am – noon
  • Delores Knipp (Space Weather): Wednesday 8-9 am
  • Phil Wilkinson (Radio Science): Monday 11 am – noon and Thursday 10-11 am
  • Mark Moldwin (Reviews of Geophysics): Monday 1:30-2:30 pm

Stop by and say hello!

I look forward to seeing you at the Fall AGU Meeting, which is now less than a month away.

Finally, join the meeting on social media: #AGU16

Women in Planetary Science Blog

Well, the USA just had its Brexitesque upset vote. Good luck, America. Good luck, World. The one good thing for me last night was that, as I was staying up late anyway, I decided to worked on manuscripts in my queue. It turned into a productive time as I occasionally glanced at the TV, watching the election results come in.

In support of scientific inquiry and in honor of great women, I’d like to share with you the Women in Planetary Science blog. In particular, I would like to point you to the “51+ Women in Planetary Science” list. The first name on the list is my personal favorite, Claudia Alexander. I overlapped with her as U-M PhD students back in the early 1990s. She was assigned to be my grad student mentor, something the departmental grad student organization arranged at that time. It was great talking with her and knowing her over the years. The community suffered a loss with her unfortunate death 16 months ago.


            There are many other great names on the list, and the links on their names take you to a post of their story and their words of wisdom and advice for others. I encourage everyone to take some time today and read through these articles. They are amazing.

Three Sigma People

This afternoon I attended Thomas Zurbuchen’s “Take Off Reception” at the University of Michigan. In case you didn’t know, he was selected by NASA as their next Associate Administrator for Science, and starts at NASA HQ next Monday (October 3). This is a pretty big deal for space physics and I thought that readers of this blog should know about it. There is a nice write-up about it here.


            I knew far less than half of the people in the room. Thomas made many friends across campus during his time as the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and then as Associate Dean for Entrepreneurship of the College of Engineering. He inspired and ignited change for the better at Michigan, and, if today was any indication, I think that he will be missed by a lot of people.

Maybe 10 years ago, we were walking back from lunch one day and he asked me, “What is the most compelling question in your field right now?” I hadn’t thought about that topic very much, at least not recently, and I stumbled out some answer. The two inferences I made later that day still stick with me: know the big questions in your field and work towards answering one of them. There is a broader piece of “life advice” in there, too: have a plan for greatness and strive towards achieving it.

Some time after that, we were again walking back from lunch and he made a comment along these same lines that profoundly struck me. I don’t remember the exact words, except for these: three sigma people. The comment was this: be one. Again, I clearly recall the inference I made later: work towards being one of those people that sets the top end of the curve. In whatever endeavor you choose to undertake, make it count and make a difference.

On the Solar and Heliospheric Research Group poster board outside Thomas’ office, there was (is?) a Wanted poster for “Discontented People.” He didn’t want to work with people who were content. Content to slide by. Content and comfortable in their current level. Content in what they know. No, not for him. He wanted people who were yearning for something, had ambition, were energized and enthusiastic, and eager to take on a challenge; people who are working to make the world a better place.

He knows that he had fantastic teams around him in his various roles here at U-M and appreciates their commitment and effort. In his farewell remarks at the reception today, he mentioned it again: a diverse team leads to excellent solutions. There are some people that think that bringing together people from many backgrounds leads to destructive interference, but that’s wrong; very often diverse perspectives yields synergistic results. Thomas saw this happen many times. I agree wholeheartedly.

Have I told you that I love my job? I do, and a big reason is that I get to meet amazing people along my journey. People like Thomas Zurbuchen. I will miss seeing my friend in the hallways of the Space Research Building.

Good luck, Thomas, and may you continue to succeed in your next adventure.


AGU’s Blogosphere

Have you discovered AGU’s blogosphere?  It’s part of the new look and feel of the online version of Eos. I mentioned the blogosphere in a post about a year ago on communicating science, and the Editors’ Vox I pointed out in my last post is an AGU blog, but I haven’t really promoted the full blog suite here yet, and I should, because there is lots of good stuff there for JGR Space Physics readers.


I’d like to take this post and go through the list.

  • GeoSpace: basically about any science topic within the AGU umbrella, this is the closest one to a space physics blog in the list. It occasionally has a post about our field, and you can contribute ideas for posts to the writers.
  • The Plainspoken Scientist: tips on how to be a better scientist, especially how to be a better communicator of your science, both to other scientists and to the general public.
  • The Bridge: connecting science and policy, this blog is not by a single person but a team, including guest contributors. Yes, you too and write a blog post!
  • GeoEd Trek: an education research specialist talks about geoscience education and outreach, science communication, and technology tools in the classroom and in research.
  • Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal: written by an on-air meteorologist, he has new content every few days covering the gamut of AGU disciplines.
  • From a Glacier’s Perspective: a glaciologist professor talks about her work, with lots of amazing pictures of ice formations.
  • The Martian Chronicles: a few people associated with Mars missions post here several times a week on what’s up at the Red Planet.
  • Magma Cum Laude: can you guess? A volcanologist tells us about her adventures in work and life.
  • Terra Central: by “an environmental scientist working in the private sector,” his job sounds very close to what my wife used to do, helping industry and government clients comply with environmental regulations.
  • Georneys: covers a wide spectrum of geology topics, including some fun themes like “Bad Geology Movies.”
  • The Landslide Blog: his summary captures the content very well: “commentary on landslide events occurring worldwide, including the landslides themselves, latest research, and conferences and meetings.”
  • Mountain Beltway: by another prolific poster, this one on structural geology usually has many photos and graphics, often including his lens cap for size perspective.
  • The Trembling Earth: again, can you guess? Right, earthquakes!

And one more, not officially part of the Eos blogroll but from AGU HQ:

  • From the Prow: articles from the AGU chief executive officer, Chris McEntee, the AGU president, Margaret Leinen, and others from the top layers of AGU.

Happy reading!

PhD Comics Rejection Letter

Some midsummer editorial humor for you.


            Does ours sound like this? Do people read our “decline” letters with this red text commentary running through their heads? Even if they do, it’s a funny comic. I smiled at it, and I hope you do too.

I like PhD Comics but I don’t subscribe or visit the website very often, so thanks to all of those that pointed it out to me (okay, there were two of you).



LWS TR&T Feedback Request

A few months ago, I let Alexa Halford, a member of the NASA LWS TR&T Steering Committee, write a guest blog post requesting input for the creation of the TR&T Focused Science Topic (FST) list for next year’s ROSES call. That process went well, and the TR&T Steering Committee is now on to the next stage, which is gathering community feedback on the draft FST list. Alexa asked to write another guest blog post about this, again based on her longer post at her blog. Here it is.


Urgent! Comments on LWS TR&T FSTs are due July 18th 2016

First off, Thank you all for submitting research topics earlier this year! We had a total of 57 proposed topics and many more comments. The living with a star steering committee met back in May and we tried to collate the topics into themes which became the 15 Focused Science Topics (FSTs) that we plan to submit to NASA headquarters. You can find the FSTs here.

But before we submit these FSTs, we need your help! We would love to get feed back from the community on the FSTs. Do you like them? Did we miss something? Does that sentence even make sense? Let us know what you think (by July 18th). Later this year we will take these comments and edit the current draft FSTs before finalizing  and  sending them off to NASA headquarters. You can comment until July 18th on individual topics or on the entire document. As you may remember from past years, headquarters will then decide on if they want to use these proposed FSTs or others, combine them or edit them  before turning them into ROSES FY17 calls. So make sure your voice is heard and help us make these the best Focused Science Topics our field has seen!

Thanks so much for your involvement with this process! Personally, I think we have a great set of FSTs (that I’m sure can be improved with your help) and that in large part is due to the strong community involvement we saw this year. Thank you!

Women in Space Physics

Here in America, the last two weeks have seen several stories of losses and victories over sexism in society. On the dark side, there was the campus rape, with the Stanford student who does not deserve to be named, the relatively light sentence issued by the judge in the case, and the student’s father minimizing the heinous act as “20 minutes of action.” There were, however, the courageous people that stood up to this sexism, including the victim herself and her powerful courtroom speech, the two grad students that caught him in the act, and the millions on social media standing up for the victim.

There was also Hillary Clinton, clinching the delegates needed to be the first female (presumptive) nominee of a major political party. Regardless of what you think of her, this is a huge step for the United States. The presumptive nominee from the other major party, however, scoffs at her electoral success with sexist drivel, most notably saying that Clinton is playing the woman card. Yeah, this:


            Why I am writing about this on my JGR Space Physics EiC blog? Because sexism still exists in our field. As a white man in a position of authority in space physics, I feel compelled to bring this up.  I’ve written about this before here, one on Women in Science and several on Gendered Wording in correspondence, but it is time to write another post on it, not only for the stories above but for this reason…

My exceptionally intelligent grad student, Lois Sarno-Smith, is leaving academia. Her “Reason #3” deeply concerns me: blatant sexism in our field. She has noticed it among us. I have noticed it among us. You, perhaps, also, have noticed it among us.

It manifests itself in several ways. Perhaps most commonly, sexism insidiously creeps into our everyday conversations. Little things we say, idioms of our regular lives, carry connotations that promote sexism. Have you ever heard someone say “man up” or “that was ballsy” or “you throw like a girl”? Phrases like this implicitly assume men are superior to women; they should be purged from usage. We need to be more careful in how we speak because words matter, not only in the workplace but also in every aspect of our lives.

Because there are so many men in space physics, there can be a “bro culture” where it is considered acceptable to tease, taunt, swear, and make sexual innuendos. These interactions are not welcoming to a diverse assembly and they make others beyond the “in group” feel uncomfortable. Bro culture is perhaps most common among a late-night drinking crowd, but it can occur anywhere, including during “regular work meetings.” I have seen an otherwise normal research conversation suddenly veer into bro culture language. What I didn’t pay enough attention to was that others were cringing at the inappropriate tangent. We need to do better at keeping our professional lives at a professional level.

We still carry sexism in discussing how people look or dress. Actually, I am amazed we even talk about how people dress or look in the workplace. “Beauty” should only be used towards a sophisticated piece of hardware, an elegant section of code, or a scientifically significant figure, not the figure of the person who created the device, code, or plot. We need to catch ourselves before making comments about someone’s appearance and ask ourselves if the comment is really appropriate for the office. Usually, it isn’t.

Another way is the stereotype that women are bad at math, which creates a “stereotype threat“. If not addressed and dispelled, the pressure to overcome the stereotype can hurt performance on assessments of that skill. It is a very real and documented issue, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce this effect.

There are others, but I will mention just one more: inappropriate advances. While office romances occur in nearly every setting, senior men should not be hitting on junior women. It is an abuse of power and, unless it is one of the very rare instances of consensual and mutual attraction, it creates a hostile work environment for the woman. Every workplace has a power hierarchy, and those above others in this structure have the extra responsibility to ensure that the workplace is safe rather than threatening and uncomfortable. I don’t understand the desire to spoil a good working relationship with the weirdness of romance and the potential of a breakup. Many times, such relationships work out just fine, but the initial advance is often inappropriate.

A special note for space physics: your “workplace,” a word I have used repeatedly above, extends well beyond the physical walls of the building that houses your desk. We collaborate with people at other institutions and, at conferences, regularly discuss our findings with people from across the world. Our “workplace” is the entire space physics research community, or at least that part with which we regularly interact.

I am guilty of sexism in my interactions with space physicists. I hope that my transgressions are behind me now, though, as I am more aware of the problem and am now actively working to address it. When you see sexism, even in its seemingly benign forms, call it out. Like the Stanford rape case, it should not fall on the victim to notice that something is wrong. Those witnessing the words or deeds should also feel empowered to address the perpetrator. Furthermore, we should be comfortable discussing this issue. There is a stigma that those who are harassed should just “toughen up” and “deal with it.” No. Sexism hurts, and our field will be better off if we openly address it and decrease it. Raising awareness of the problem and allowing victims to safely tell their stories is a necessary step towards identifying and correcting the root causes of the problem.

As two other women in my research group are leaving soon to start Assistant Professor jobs at other universities, I am hopeful that we can overcome sexism in space physics. I would like to think that space physics is more gender-neutral and minority-welcoming than in the past, but, clearly, we still have a long way to go. Please be part of the solution.