One Small Step

As the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing rapidly approaches, I would like to repurpose Neil Armstrong’s legendary words to, instead, refer to the Journal Impact Factor of JGR Space Physics. Yes, the 2018 JIF scores are out, and I could have written this post three weeks ago, but I was on travel at the GEM Workshop and didn’t take the time. By waiting, however, I get to use a funny but appropriate quote.

The new JIF score for JGR Space Physics is, to 4 digits, 2.821, up 0.069 from last year’s 2.752, which was up ever so slightly from the year before. So, it is climbing, very slowly, each year since the big split when each of the JGR titles received its own score. In fact, all of the various metrics that Clarivate Analytics calculates have been steadily on the rise for JGR Space Physics the last few years.

This is an excellent time for us to remember DORA, the Declaration on Research Assessment, which is publishing-community effort to deemphasize quantitative metrics like the Journal Impact Factor (JIF).

The basic message is that we should consider the stature of a journal based on how it fits within the landscape of journals publishing articles in that field. The DORA statement points out that is especially true when considering an individual researcher for hiring or promotion and assessing their contributions to their field. Instead of relying on metrics about the entire journal, you should consider the person’s individual papers for outstanding singular contributions as well as all of their papers as a collection, assessing their overall impact in the subject. The quality of the journals in which someone publishes matters, and it should be a considered, but the quantitative metrics about the journal should be only one part of that journal quality assessment. Perhaps another thing to consider is the retraction rate, as it has been shown that high JIF scores correlate with higher retraction rates, at least in one field (very interesting that this is a research highlight in Nature, a journal with a high JIF).

Remember that the 2018 JIF is calculated by dividing the citations in 2018 to papers published in 2016 and 2017. As a mean of positive definite values, it is susceptible to a few papers with very high citations, especially for smaller journals. Quoting 4 significant figures for the JIF is not meaningful. Really, we should say that both this year and last year were 2.8.

In other JIF news, Space Weather continues its climb to ever-higher scores, breaking the 3.0 barrier with an astonishing jump from 2.9 to 3.7. Outstanding! This is awesome news for that journal.

There are other journal metrics that take into account other values. One is the Article Influence score and another is the Normalized Eigenfactor Score, both of which take into account the “network” of the journal by considering the JIF of the journals citing a particular journal’s articles. The Article Influence is normalized by the number of papers in the specific journal of interest while the Normalized Eigenfactor Score is normalized by all journal eigenfactors so the average of the normalized scores is one. These are both calculated over a 5-year window, instead of the 2-year window of the JIF. For 2018, JGR Space Physics as an Article Influence score of 0.80 (an “okay” number in the middle of the pack) and a Normalized Eigenfactor Score of 4.8 (well above average).


            Journal size matters when considering these metrics. JGR Space Physics published over 800 papers in each of 2016 and 2017. Our JIF score is barely altered by a few papers with high citations, and it really reflects the baseline trend across the research community in how we cite recent articles. To continue using our sibling journal, Space Weather, as a counterexample, it published 79 and 109 papers those two years, so it can vary substantially more based on the citations to its top-most articles. Because of this size difference, Space Weather’s Article Influence Score is 0.92, slightly higher than that for JGR Space Physics, but its Normalized Eigenfactor Score is only 0.55, an order of magnitude smaller.

The take-away point is that it is really hard to create a fair and comprehensive metric that accurately reflects the importance of a journal. So, feel free to look at the numbers, but don’t put too much weight into any single score, because it was designed in a particular way to highlight a particular aspect of the journal.

Overall, JGR Space Physics is doing very well. Thanks for you continued support of this journal and space physics publishing in general. It could not be done without the army of peer reviewers, and our thank you editorial just appeared in print. Thank you very much! And, of course, I must make the plea, you can still apply to be the JGR Space Physics Editor in Chief.



2018 Outstanding Reviewer Citations

The Eos article is out listing the 2018 outstanding reviewers, as cited by the editors of AGU’s 20 journals. I force the Editors of JGR Space Physics to make these selections as a group decision, so you will not see our individual names as the “citing editor” but rather the generic “Cited by JGR: Space Physics editors” wording. Other journals do it differently but I do this intentionally to provide one more layer of anonymity to these reviewers. Authors whose manuscript was assigned to a specific editor cannot try to guess if this person was one of their reviewers.


You can peruse the full list for all journals within the Eos article, but here are the honorees for 2018 from JGR Space Physics:

  • Nicholas Achilleos, University College London
  • Ingrid Cnossen, British Antarctic Survey
  • Michael Hartinger, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Marina Kubyshkina, Saint Petersburg State University
  • Astrid Maute, High Altitude Observatory, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Takuma Nakamura, Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Frantisek Nemec, Charles University
  • Jack Scudder, University of Iowa
  • Viktor Sergeev, Saint Petersburg State University
  • Vytenis Vasyliunas, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research
  • Rongsheng Wang, University of Science and Technology of China

In addition to saying thank you to these very special 11 referees, we also say thank you to all of the 1358 people that served as manuscript peer reviewers in 2018 for the journal. Collectively, you submitted over 3000 reports. This journal could not exist without you. Thank you very much!

Please apply to have my job!

The announcement is out!  A search committee is formed! My successor is being sought!  Applications are now being accepted for the Editor in Chief position of JGR Space Physics.  Here it is at the top of the GEMS login page:


            If anyone out there wants to know more about this position, then please contact me.  I am very willing to talk with anyone about what this job entails.

Note that the editor search webpage also lists the opening of the EiC for Space Weather.  Yes, both Delores Knipp and I are rotating off this year. 

The deadline for applications is the end of this month – May 31.  You have 4 weeks to decide if you want to apply.  The application process is relatively easy, with only two documents requested – a letter of interest and your curriculum vitae. No letters of recommendation (or even names of potential letter writers) are requested.

The quick overview of EiC-specific tasks:

  • Assign every new manuscript to an editor. This takes maybe a minute per paper as I check the title and abstract, the author list and affiliations, any notes from HQ, and suggested preferences.  I sometimes follow the author’s preference but not always, usually for load balance. Note that we have over 1000 new manuscript submissions every year to JGR Space Physics, so this task is usually less than half an hour per week.
  • Organize and moderate the quarterly editors’ telecons and annual full editorial board meeting at Fall AGU. These are to discuss policies, best practices, changes to GEMS or other workflow issues, and any other topics we, the editors of JGR Space Physics, need to decide on as a group.
  • Respond to questions from other editors. This includes questions from the other JGR-Space Physics editors as well as EiCs of other AGU journals. This can be done through email or inside of GEMS with the “consultation” feature. This is a mechanism for editors to discuss manuscripts, either tough ones for which we would like a second opinion, or to decide whether to do a “reject and refer” decision. I probably average about one of these per week.
  • Respond to questions from the research community. This can be about a particular manuscript or review, or about publication policy, or suggestions for improving the publications workflow or websites.  I probably average about one of these per week.
  • Attend the annual EiC Meeting. In February or March, AGU has a 2-day meeting for all 20 of their Editors in Chief to think about more long-term, strategic issues of publication policy and best practices.  This is occasionally joint with the AGU Publications Committee.
  • Promote the journal. This includes attending science meetings and seeking out researchers to organize special sections, writing Editors’ Vox articles for Eos, and any other way you want to do this. For me, this included creation of this blog.
  • Serve on the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section executive committee. Yes, being EiC of JGR Space Physics comes with membership on the SPA ExecComm.  This is one in-person meeting each year, usually Sunday evening before the Fall AGU Meeting, and then several telecons throughout the year.
  • Help out AGU in other ways. For me, this has included a weeklong trip to China to promote AGU journals, serving as an EiC liaison to the AGU Meetings Committee, and, right now, serving on the Fall Meeting Program Chair search committee.
  • Choose the issue cover art. Near the end of every month, I get an email with the “forecast report” of papers to appear in that month’s issue.  I then scan through every figure in every paper, plus the author-supplied suggestions, for a single graphic to use as the cover art for that issue. This takes about an hour.

There are probably more things on this list that I am not thinking of right now. If I think of more, then ’ll post it in the comments below.

In addition to all of those duties, there are also the things that all editors do for the manuscripts assigned to them.  I’ll write up a summary of those duties in a separate blog post (or several, this could be long). There are also perks to being EiC; I’ll write those into a blog post as well.

Update on the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act

Hey, space physics peeps, good news – the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation just passed the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act. News coverage is light but all positive. I am pleased that one of my senators from Michigan, Gary Peters, is the leading sponsor of this bill. This bill passed the Senate in the previous Congress, and even made it through committee in the US House of Representatives, but was not brought to the full House and therefore has to “start over.” It is now S.881 in the 116th Congress. With the change of party leadership in the House, it hopefully has a chance of making it through to eventual signing by Trump and becoming law. Let’s hope that it does!

Senate bill S881

            Note that this is not an appropriations bill with new spending behind it, but rather directs many government agencies to take space weather effects into account in their planning to mitigate the negative influence from natural hazards. The Congressional Budget Office has done a cost estimate for the 2017 version, if fully implemented. The only thing that it requires is the development and launch of a “SOHO replacement satellite” with a coronograph to see coronal mass ejections, which CBO puts at $227 million.

Another key request in the Act is the full implementation of the Space Weather Action Plan, of which there is a just-released updated version. Among other things, SWAP advocates the continuation of basic research activities in “heliophysics, geospace science, and space weather.” That SWAP lists heliophysics and geospace science as different activities is unfortunate, but lists of three are nice so I understand why they wrote it this way. It endorses peer-review for selecting the funding of science by federal agencies and it recommends following the Decadal Survey process for defining future priorities.

If you are a US citizen, then please encourage your Senators and Representatives to vote for this bill.

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.