The Shutdown

As probably everyone who reads this blog knows, the US government is in a partial shutdown right now. This means that roughly 800,000 federal employees are not getting paid right now, about half of which are forced to work without pay and the other half, the “non-essential personnel,” are furloughed and forced to not do anything work related during this time. It is truly awful for many people on several levels. Let’s hope that it ends soon, and I encourage Americans to write to their members of Congress to persuade them to work (even harder) towards the solution you desire.

This shutdown has negative ramifications for JGR Space Physics and AGU publications as a whole. First off, there are civil servants that accepted reviewing assignments before the shutdown and now cannot legally complete this work. Authors are getting frustrated with the extended timeline to manuscript decisions. Second, there are civil servants who are authors or coauthors on papers, and these are not being submitted or resubmitted into the system. We will patiently wait for these manuscript resubmissions, of course, but it is sad to see them sit in the system “waiting for revision.” Third, civil servants cannot respond to review requests, so the editors are having to rely on others in the community to take on this shifted reviewing workload. Without the civil servant researchers, it is taking a bit longer, on average, to find two reviewers for each new manuscript. Fourth, for those that use research tools that are now shut down or turned off, like government websites, computing resources, office space, or lab facilities, you cannot do that work right now. The shutdown of NASA, NSF, and NOAA, just to name a few agencies, is impairing scientific progress. These impacts alone are significant and having a noticeable negative effect on space physics research.


            For JGR Space Physics in particular, one of the editors, Dr. Larry Kepko, is a civil servant at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His editorial duties are part of his official workflow so doing GEMS manuscript processing is off limits for him.   I had a previously declined manuscript, originally assigned to him, just get submitted again, and so I contacted him (outside of his official NASA email address) about editorial work and he explained that he is legally unable to do this work.

Fortunately, this only affects ~10 manuscripts in the GEMS system right now. I have been ramping down his assignments of normal papers has he took on the role of Centennial liaison for the journal, including organizing community invitations for papers to two centennial-related special sections. I see in GEMS, though, that there are some manuscripts “with editor for decision” for the entirety of the shutdown. I am sorry to those authors that have been waiting for decisions on these manuscripts, this is an unpleasant consequence of the government shutdown. If you are one of these authors, I truly regret that this has happened to you and we will get this paper moving through the editorial system again very soon. I have already asked AGU HQ staff to shift some of these manuscripts over to other editors, and will be shifting the rest in the days to come.

For the civil servants and on-site contractors out there – I am wholeheartedly with you in spirit. I was a grad student working at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during the 1995 government shutdown, locked out of the office for 3 weeks right before that year’s Fall AGU Meeting. It was difficult getting the work done and a presentation put together in time for the conference. This new shutdown is now longer than that one, and the stalemate persists with no end in sight. I am very sorry that you are going through this.

For the rest of you, please remember that we are missing a fraction of our colleagues right now, who are not only locked out of their offices but also technically forbidden to do any work. We, the journal editors, might be asking for another reviewing assignment for you at a more rapid cadence than usual. Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience and please seriously consider taking up the mantle of the extra duty as we get through this tough time. Also, manuscripts might take longer to get through the editorial process right now, as we deal with no US civil servants being available for participation in the publication flow.




Outstanding Reviewers for 2017

Every year, AGU asks the editors of each journal to come up with a list of recipients for the reviewing excellence award. We had 1124 manuscripts submitted to JGR Space Physics in 2017, so the editors could choose up to 11 people to receive this award. This is a nearly impossible task, as we had 1,448 different people serve as reviewers for the journal in 2017. To further complicate it, 11 does not divide 5 ways, so it is not an even split among the editors.


            So, first let me say thank you to all of the 1,448 scientists that provided one or more reviews for JGR Space Physics last year. Every single one of you is vitally important to making this journal what it is. Your name is in print in our thank you editorial, which appeared in the June 2018 issue. The journal could not exist without the collective input of so many members of the research community.

There was an Eos article, also in June, listing the 2017 reviewing excellence award winners. I sometimes remember to write a blog post about these awardees, but I also forget to do this on other years. We select these awardees in March, the decision is a groupwide vote after we all suggest 2 to 5 names, but I have to wait until after the Eos article comes out before I announce anything here. This year, I remembered! So, here it is.

            The 2017 awardees for JGR Space Physics are as follows:

  • Maciej Bzowski, Space Research Center, Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Pascal Demoulin, Observatoire de Paris
  • Robyn Fiori, Geomagnetic Laboratory, Natural Resources Canada
  • Michael Gedalin, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
  • James Hecht, The Aerospace Corporation
  • Erin Lay, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Noé Lugaz, University of New Hampshire
  • Robert Marshall, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Evgeny Panov, Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Jack Scudder, University of Iowa
  • Paul Withers, Boston University

DORA and the JIF

No, this isn’t a young Latina’s adventure story about mantequilla de maní (or crema de cacahuate, or one of the other translations for peanut butter). DORA is the Declaration on Research Assessment and is a call to action to put less reliance on the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This is timely because the new JIFs for 2017 were just released this week.

DORA - logo@2x_withblack

            I particularly like the “general recommendation” of DORA:

  • Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.

It is a simple yet powerful message – the JIF (or any other journal metric) is not a measure of the quality and impact of any individual paper in that journal.

For 2017, the JIF for JGR Space Physics is 2.752, which is ever-so-slightly higher than last year’s JIF. A few notes about it:

  • Remember that the JIF is calculated only from citations in one year to papers published in the previous two years. It is an average of a highly skewed, non-Guassian, positive-definite distribution of a very small subset of full journal content.
  • I like to only quote the JIF to two significant figures, so this year’s value is 2.8, which, due to rounding, appears as a small improvement over last year’s 2.7 value.
  • There are other journal metrics out there and I haven’t yet seen these values for 2017.
  • The JIF for Space Weather is 2.9, the first time that that journal’s JIF is bigger than the JIF for JGR Space Physics. Way to go, Space Weather!
  • AGU’s few-year-old journal Earth and Space Science received its first JIF this year, coming in at 3.2. Awesome job, ESS!
  • The journal had significant growth in terms of papers published from 2015 to 2016, up by 42, which is more than 5%. The Scholarly Kitchen just had a post a couple of weeks ago stating that journal growth lowers JIF. So, the fact that the journals JIF went up means that the citations outpaced the negative impacts of growth.
  • Historically, the citation rate to articles in JGR Space Physics are rather constant with time, so that a ~10 year old paper has ~29 citations, on average. This is just how our research community likes to cite papers and it would take a massive cultural shift to alter this trend.
  • JGR Space Physics historically has a “cited half life” of at or above 10 years, which means that a 10-year-old paper with X citations will, on average, end up with roughly 2X as its eventual total citation count.
  • Nearly all papers in JGR Space Physics receive at least one citation, which is not the case for nearly half of the papers in the vast Web of Science database.

In summary, I think that the journal is doing very well. Thanks for continuing to support it. Finally, while the post was mostly about the new JIF, I’d like to leave it where I started, on the positive future outlook of DORA, in which we put the JIF in proper perspective according to its strengths and weaknesses as a journal metric, and especially stop using it to assess individual research articles or investigators.

New Editors for JGR Space Physics

The editor search for JGR Space Physics is done and the search committee has selected two new editors for the journal: Natalia Ganushkina and Viviane Pierrard. These two are highly qualified for the role and the final decision was quite difficult. We think that they will serve the space physics research community very well. With my amazing photo-editing powers, I have added them to our group picture:


            Remember that AGU is rapidly approaching its 100-year birthday in 2019, and there are many plans for celebrating this existence milestone. I have appointed one of the JGR Space Physics editors as the coordinator of our Centennial activities – Larry Kepko. So, he has been pulling back from “normal” editing assignments in order to arrange our Grand Challenge paper set and organize a collection of historic perspectives from and about the pioneers of space physics. I think that Dr. Ganushkina will be picking up a lot of this workload of manuscripts on the outer magnetosphere and tail, storm physics, and substorms.

We also receive many submissions on inner magnetospheric topics, especially the radiation belts. Dr. Balikhin and I handle most of these manuscripts, but the volume is large. Because we also cover papers in other disciplines within the journal scope, this is heavy load. In addition, I would like to do more of my editor-in chief duties that sometimes get the short end of my attention, like long-range strategic planning, publications policy discussions, and communication (like paper publicity and this blog). Plus, I am now an editor liaison on the AGU Meetings Committee, which is a very interesting position but takes additional time. I think that Dr. Pierrard will be picking up a lot of the rebalanced workload of inner magnetospheric manuscripts. She will also help us better connect with the solar physics community.

The biggest selection criteria applied by the search committee were expertise in their research field, demonstrated reviewing excellence or editorial experience, and an editorial philosophy that blends well with the existing team. The search committee also took into account geographical, disciplinary, gender, and racial diversity/breadth in their decision. In fact, AGU is making a concerted effort to increase representation of women on its journal editorial boards, and JGR Space Physics was one of only two AGU journals with an all-male editor crew. The search committee happily included this criterion in its deliberations.

Note that these two new editors are being appointed for 4 years, so they will continue to serve after I rotate off late next year, when my term as EiC ends along with the terms of the 4 other editors. This timing is intentional in order to ensure some editorial continuity between EiC terms.

We had many excellent candidates and, I would like to reiterate, it was a very difficult decision to select only two. AGU does not limit the size of our board but the search committee made the downselect to the originally-advertised two positions so that the next EiC has some flexibility in selecting new editors for their team. There are definitely some in the candidate pool that I will be encouraging to apply for the EiC or Editor positions that will open up in a year or so.

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.