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:




Hurricane Special Session

I am very saddened to hear about the loss of life in Texas, the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall this past month. There is also tremendous loss of life in Bangladesh due to the severe flooding happening there. And we can’t forget the huge earthquake off the coast of Central America. I hope that survivors can find a way to make their way through the chaos left behind from these disasters.

We can already be thinking about what to learn from these beasts of nature. Specifically, AGU has created a late-breaking session for the Fall Meeting about these large and devastating hurricanes. Originally, it was just about Hurricane Harvey, but the scope has been expanded to include Irma.


            The first author rule is relaxed for late-breaking sessions. Even if you have submitted one already, you can submit another to this (or any other) session created after the original submission deadline.

Space physics can participate in this session. Storms in the troposphere produce atmospheric gravity waves that break in the lower thermosphere, heating this region and creating ripples in ionospheric density. Sometimes magnetic fields are shaken, creating ULF waves that propagate into the magnetosphere. Harvey is particularly intriguing because it parked itself for such a long time, allowing this energy coupling to influence a particular spot for an unusually long time. There are probably other lower-upper atmospheric connections of interest.

The deadline for this session is October 31, so you have time to do some preliminary analysis before making a decision about an abstract submission.

AGU HQ staff and the journal EiCs are already discussing the possibility of a joint special section about new science findings from these hurricanes. I have no details on that yet but, if you pursue a study on this topic, then please keep an eye out for this special section. Even if it doesn’t materialize, then please consider submitting such papers to an appropriate journal, like Space Weather, Geophysical Research Letters, Radio Science, or JGR Space Physics.

Take Care With Authorship

AGU has information posted about the rights and responsibilities of authors. I’ve written about this a few years ago, but there is more news to share, so I’m writing another post about it. But first, a recap: at the Author Resource Center there is a link a short Eos article on AGU’s Authorship Guidelines. The main point distills down to two quotes from the article: “only those who have significantly contributed to the research and preparation of the article should be listed as coauthors,” and “all of these coauthors share responsibility for submitted articles.” As a first/corresponding author, it is up to you to decide what constitutes a significant contribution to either the research or the manuscript preparation. As a coauthor, it is your job to read the paper and agree with its content.

I have a cautionary tale for you about authorship. Back in February at the AGU EiC Meeting, we discussed several real (but anonymized) case studies of sticky ethical situations for editors. One of them was about authorship, in which an editor received an email stating that this person saw a draft of a now-submitted paper with additional authors listed on it. Should the editor follow up with this person, with the first (or corresponding) author, or with the now-removed potential author? Or do nothing? An interesting point was made by AGU staff – if the issue rose to the level of a legal proceeding, an unpublished draft of a manuscript is a document that could be subpoenaed as evidence. Woah.


The website from which is came has nothing to do with science; I just like the picture and think its very appropriate for this topic.

So, I have this advice for you: add authors to the manuscript only after they have confirmed their acceptance of such a role. That is, just use “…and possible additional coauthors” in the draft, and as coauthors confirm their role, then insert their name into the list.

Here is another related point about this: if you add or subtract authors after the initial submission of a paper, then you must indicate this within GEMS – there will be a question and a text box specifically about this – and explain why the person’s role has changed. Please don’t just restate that you have added so-and-so to the list, but give a reason. Unfortunately, authorship malfeasance exists and AGU must check this to ensure proper authorship ethics on papers in AGU journals. If you do not adequately explain an authorship change, then either AGU staff or the Editor will send you an email and the paper will be held until this is resolved.

For more on authorship ethics, there is a link at the Author Resource Center to a page about this topic. AGU is also a follower of the standards from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).


Postcards from the Field of Space Physics

AGU has a blogosphere, of which I have written about before.


            There is one that I didn’t write about in that post, however, because it didn’t exist then: The Field. These are blog posts in the 300-500 word range written by those who are “doing their science thing” away from the office and, well, out in “the field.” By field here, I think they really do mean anywhere outside of your normal office or lab, because the posts cover a wide range from Antarctica to the journey out to a remote field site to a classroom for outreach activities.


            There seems to be a dearth of space physics posts on this site. We do lots of cool “out of the office and lab” work, so I highly encourage you to think about stretching beyond writing articles for JGR Space Physics and try a submission to The Field. If you feel the urge to contribute a story to this blog, then please click on the “let us know” link near the top of the right-hand column of that blog’s main page and send them your idea for a post. They (the AGU staff in charge of this site) will work with you to get your story polished for posting. Be sure to take lots of pictures. The posts on this page are full of them.

Intimidated by writing a full page or two about your journeys? There is a similar yet even easier version, which has been around for ~3 years now: Postcard From The Field, AGU’s Tumblr account. Here you can submit your photo and caption. It’s short, it’s easy, and there are precious few space physics “postcards from the field” on this site. A different blog, The Plainspoken Scientist, had an article about the Tumblr account, in case you want to know more details.


            Yet another AGU blog venue for your non-JGR-Space Physics writing is GeoSpace. This site posts articles about cool science topics across Earth and space science. Again, we could use some more space physics posts in this stream.


            Happy writing!

S.141 just passed the Senate!

Perhaps not all of you closely follow the U.S. Congress. Okay, I don’t either. There is one, though, that the readers of JGR Space Physics should know about, and specifically its positive progress that I’d like to celebrate. Yes, some good news from Washington, DC, this past week: the Senate passed by unanimous consent Senate Bill S.141, the “Space Weather Research and Forecast Act”. Tuesday was the momentous day and it has now been referred to several committees in the House of Representatives.


            The full text of the bill essentially dictates, with a bunch of “shalls”, that government agencies should implement the National Space Weather Action Plan and be thinking about space weather influences within their scope of activities, including this:

“(1) BASIC RESEARCH.—The Director of the National Science Foundation, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Secretary of Defense shall continue to carry out basic research activities on heliophysics, geospace science, and space weather and support competitive, merit-based, peer-reviewed proposals for research, modeling, and monitoring of space weather and its impacts, including science goals outlined in Solar and Space Physics Decadal surveys conducted by the National Academy of Sciences.”

CBO has done a cost estimate for the implementation of this Act, with the biggest item being that NOAA should launch a “SOHO replacement” with a coronograph to image CMEs for space weather prediction. This bill isn’t a budget allocation so it comes with no new money, just mandates to several agencies.

A vote by “unanimous consent” means that they did not actually take a vote, and not even really a voice vote. What it means is that everyone in the chamber at that time agreed enough to not object and demand a real vote. Pretty cool that no Senator opposed this bill, a bill which contains the words “coronal mass ejection” and puts our science front and center. If you want to watch it, then here is the C-SPAN video; go to 1:46 to see Senator Peters talk about space weather on the Senate floor (~10 minutes). It’s nice to know that our field is appreciated by at least a few lawmakers. This is a nice follow-on to AGU’s Earth Day special collection of Commentaries on the societal relevance of Earth and space science. If you haven’t read it yet, then I highly recommend checking out the Cassak et al. article in JGR Space Physics.

Keep up the good work!

More Acceptance of Singular They

Two more writing style guides have officially accepted the usage of “they” as a replacement for “he/she” and all the other singular gender-neutral pronouns out there. In their newest editions, both the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook include this usage of “they.” The main usage for the JGR Space Physics crowd is in responses to anonymous reviewers. Manuscript authors can and do guess, but the when it comes down to writing the responses to the referee reports, please do not assume a male reviewer. Using “they” instead keeps is free of sexism.


            The “singular” adjective just means that “they” is standing in for an individual person, and because you do not know their gender (hey, see, I just used it!), “they” is becoming an acceptable pronoun choice in this context. Furthermore, even though it’s being called the “singular they,” you still use plural verbs with it. This is what we do with “you.” We don’t say “you is” even when referring to a singular you, we still say “you are.” The same is true for “they.” Please make it plural and write “they are” or “they were” or whatever verb you choose.

I’ve written about the singular they before and several other times about gender-neutral wording. Please don’t assume the masculinity of your reviewer, or in any writing where the person’s gender is unknown. This is offensive to me and, probably, to most women in space physics who don’t need the bro culture bias.

Once again, I have to thank Grammar Girl for letting me know about this. I often listen to podcasts when I jog and earlier this month she had one devoted to this topic. In fact, most of the content of this post is straight from her podcast. It’s worth repeating here. I’m even reusing her very nice graphic.

The March for Science


The March for Science is tomorrow, April 22, 2017. This is happening on Earth Day 2017, along with many environmental events like local cleanups, tree planting, and park restoration. It’s going to be a big day for getting out and doing something for the planet. Yesterday, AGU released their cross-journal Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries on the value of science for society, so this is a follow-on to my post on that, discussing something that you can do, this weekend, to help promote science.


            I’m participating in the Ann Arbor satellite version of the March for Science. We’ll meet at the University of Michigan “Diag” at noon, hear some speeches, and then walk a circuitous path through campus and downtown Ann Arbor. Here I am with my sign and my AGU-sanctioned March for Science T-shirt:


Yes, as a sponsor of the March for Science, the organizers made shirts with the AGU logo on the back. Sweet!

I really hope that it will be a good day. As outlined in the Marcher Pledge, the organizers are putting the emphasize on the positive benefits that humanity gets from scientific advancement. In addition, the Principles and Goals page is definitely worth the read and goes into even more detail about the objectives of the march. This is the right place to put the focus. Science does a lot for making life better, plus there is just the cool factor of learning something new about the universe that we, as a species, didn’t know before.

If you couldn’t tell from my sign, I really like that the March for Science takes diversity and inclusion seriously and has even issued a statement reinforcing this position. Science is better when the group tackling a problem comes from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives. While the institutions where they got their PhD is one form of diversity in the group, this isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people of different genders, races, ethnicities, religious affiliations, hometowns, home countries, and different personal histories. We need to be inclusive of this wide spectrum of people in our research groups and help each member to fully participate and contribute to the solution. This is something that strive to achieve in my research group and with editing JGR Space Physics. I am glad that this is one of the core principles of the March for Science.

You can still sign up to walk on Saturday, either in DC or at one of the more than 600 other Marches for Science around the world. You don’t have to do this step but it really helps the organizers know what kind of crowd to expect and therefore plan a better event.

Finally, if you were still waffling about whether to go to the March, PHD Comics has a flow chart to help you decide.


Addendum:  here is a picture of me at the March for Science with the final/augmented version of my sign:


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.