Start Authorship Discussions Early

While on our AGU Pubs trip through China last month, a good piece of advice that AGU Senior VP Brooks Hanson made in his “author advice” presentation was to start conversations about authorship early in the research process. As a researcher goes through the scientific process, the person will most likely discuss the research with colleagues or even get help and resources from colleagues. The interaction could be at the initial stage, when they see something strange in the observational or numerical data and have those initial conversations about what it could be. The interaction could occur at the literature search stage of seeing of the weird thing is already explained by some previously published study. That is, the term “literature search” could be asking a colleague down the hall about a topic and following whatever leads they suggest. The interaction could be at the time of developing the initial hypothesis of what is happening in this strange thing. It could also be in the formulation of the experiments to test that hypothesis, or in the act of conducting those experiments (whether they be data analysis tasks, numerical model runs, new lab or field data collection, or a new theoretical derivation). Or, the interaction could happen very late in the process, at the stage of writing up the study for presentation or publication.

There is a very broad spectrum for this level of interaction of the researcher with all of these different people. It could be participation in a group meeting, where the person chimed in with a few comments or suggestions. It could be a 5-minute talk in the hallway. It could be an hour of flipping through plots on a screen together. It could be writing a new chunk of analysis software or a new subroutine in a model. It could be making plots. Not only should the time involvement be considered, but the significance of the involvement should also be considered. A five-minute conversation that completely changed your thinking on the subject might be worth coauthorship, while many hours of regular participation in a group meeting at which you mentioned the work might not rise to the level of coauthorship. As a research community, we’ve been making this judgment for a long time but, even still, there are no hard and fast rules on what contribution warrants coauthorship.

Dr. Hanson’s advice: broach the question of authorship early. With the CRediT list of author contributions handy, as well as the AGU ethical guidelines of who should be an author, including AGU Council’s thoughts on this topic, researchers should have frank and honest conversations with colleagues making contributions to their work. When you think that someone’s involvement is rising to the level of coauthorship on the eventual presentation and publication of the work, then talk with them about it. Most of us wait until the paper is written before we start to have these conversations with those outside the immediate “primary author” core group (which could just be one or two people). Author role #10 on the AGU page above is worth repeating here:

Author_Guideline_number10

All coauthors are responsible for the “quality and integrity of the submitted and published manuscript.” Which means that, to be a coauthor, you pretty much have to participate in the “writing – reviewing and editing” CRediT role. That could be your only involvement, but those that participated in the “conceptualization” of the study should also review and edit the manuscript before submission. If someone isn’t prepared to take on the reviewing and editing task, then their contribution has to be very strong in one of the other contributor roles to warrant coauthorship.

So, researchers honing in on results worthy of a manuscript:

  • Make an agreement with potential coauthors, saying something like this: “I think that what you’ve contributed so far warrants coauthorship on my future paper, but there is still more for you to do to get your name on the paper – please read the paper.” You should extract from them a promise to read and comment on the manuscript; without it they probably should decline to be a coauthor.
  • Offer coauthorship to all colleagues that significantly contributed to the work. Think about who impacted the research at each stage of the scientific process and offer them the chance to be a coauthor, with, or course, the additional work of “reviewing and editing” the manuscript.

The question still remains, what amount of interaction rises to the level of a “significant scientific contribution to the work?” I’ve addressed it here but it’s a subjective judgment call.

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New AGU Style Guide

As reported by Brooks Hanson in his Editors’ Vox article last week, AGU is unveiling a new style guide for papers next month. The last major change was in early 2014 when AGU dropped the print version of nearly all of its journals and then made the switch from double to single column in the PDF formatted version of each paper.

The major change is the adoption of and adherence to APA Style. I had to look it up, too: APA is the American Psychological Association. It is already used across quite a few scholarly journals, including most of those published by Wiley, so this will help their production staff and reduce the inadvertent errors sometimes introduced in this final publication step.

apastyle_header_tcm11-193894

            For you, the authors of AGU papers, the biggest changes are with citations and references. First, the adoption of APA style means that AGU is making the switch from brackets around citations to parentheses. Second, we get to use an ampersand, &, when citing a paper with only two authors. Third, when a paper has 8 or more authors, the reference list should include the first 6 names, then an ellipse, and then the last author’s name. Yes, that’s right, if there are only 8 names, then just the seventh name in the list is replaced with a series of dots. There are a few other small changes, but these are probably the most notable ones. Okay, one more little thing: APA style recommends usage of the serial comma, so I am happy guy.

AGU as two useful websites for you on this, the brief guide and the full style guide. I think that it should be an easy transition.

One notable deviation from APA style: the use of “et al.” for citing papers with 3 or more authors. AGU will continue its custom of using “et al.” after the first author’s name for all citations to such papers. The official APA style, however, says to list all coauthors on first citation of each paper. I am glad that AGU is not following this formatting rule.

New manuscript templates are not yet available. I’ll have another post on this when they are ready and online, which should be later this month. Wiley staff will start implementing the APA style on papers accepted in AGU journals starting September 1.

Remember, AGU accepts initial submissions in just about any format so you don’t have to switch right away. At some time in the near future, though, these new guidelines will become the norm. So, you should try to follow them as soon as you can.

 

Transparency In Authorship Roles

There is an ongoing discussion about if and how to change the way we attribute authorship on academic publications. I wrote about it long ago but the discussion is still going on. Here is a recent development: AGU Past President Marcia McNutt (the current president of the National Academy of Sciences) and AGU Publications Director Brooks Hanson are coauthors on this paper arising from a recent NAS workshop. Click on the “Preview PDF” button just below the author list to see the full manuscript. It’s not policy yet, but they want feedback, so please feel free to leave a comment on the preprint site or even contact the authors.

The main point: AGU, and many other leading scientific societies and academic publishers, would like to move towards a new model of authorship. Specifically, all authors on a paper would click items in a pull-down list of possible author roles. Even more specifically, the academic publishing leadership is honing in on CRediT, Contriubtor Roles Taxonomy, as the “best available” list of authorship options. More details on CRediT can be found here.

CASRAI-logo

            CRediT was developed by CASRAI, the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information, is a nonprofit group with the mission of creating uniformity in academic research, not just standardization in paper authorship roles but CV content, research data management, research output types, and other academic research related activities. ORCID is working with CASRAI and the thought is that your ORCID account would list this information alongside each of your papers.

As far as I know, each author would still get full credit for every paper in their h-index and other such research impact metrics. This makes me like it much better than I used to, because I don’t think that author credit should be reduced when additional authors are added to a paper. That might cause people to omit coauthors that deserve to be listed. However, I like the role designations, as it would hopefully reduce honorary authorship additions, which is a bad practice I hope all of you avoid.

Here is a good article about this proposed change in authorship attribution. I think that this line really clarifies the need for adopting this change: “The project will help to improve accessibility and transparency around who did what to support peer reviewer selection and help researchers identify suitable potential collaborators.” That is, it’s about enabling future work. For example, a reader likes a certain methodology used in a paper, but the list of coauthors alone isn’t that helpful in knowing who came up with this. The reader can look at the CRediT role listings and contact the authors that actually came up with the methodology.

This change is above my pay grade as an editor of a specific journal. So, if you have feedback on the general process of academic paper contributor role taxonomy, then contact the authors of the paper linked above. I do, however, have some small say in how quickly it is adopted at JGR Space Physics. If you have input on this specifically for JGR Space Physics, then let me know.

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.

courtroom_evidence

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).

 

The “Technical Reports” Paper Type

During our reviewing and publication of the special sections on Measurement Techniques in Solar and Space Physics,

MTSSP_webpage_title

the JGR Space Physics editors sometimes received questions about the appropriateness of “instrument papers” in this journal. The fact is that JGR Space Physics has accepted Technical Reports: Methods and Technical Reports: Data paper types for many years. The fraction of such papers, though, has been small, with most papers in this journal being the Research Article paper type. When we accepted the proposal for the MTSSP special sections, we knew that reviewing the expected ~150 manuscripts on space instrumentation would be a bit different for those receiving the reviews. It’s not a paper type that we normally get, so some in the space physics community were a little confused about this paper type being in this journal.

Paper_Types_banner

            I’ve written about the Technical Reports paper type before, but since we’ve reassessed what we want for this paper in JGR Space Physics, it is good to remind the space science community about the expectations for a manuscript in this paper type. The paper must describe a significant original contribution to the field, but this new contribution is the method, technique, or data set. Yes, that’s right: it does not have to include an original contribution to our scientific understanding of the space environment, as is the case for a Research Article paper type. It has to be applicable to scientific study of the space environment, but does not have to actually include such a study.

That said, the manuscript must have these elements:

  1. A section at the beginning why to I need to study the relevant aspect of space physics. You must motivate the publication of this technical advancement in JGR Space Physics by convincing readers that the science area to which it pertains is interesting.
  2. A series of clear statements about the novel elements of the method, technique, or data set. You must place the technical advancement in the context of existing technology or data in order to convince readers that the report contains an original and significant contribution in this area.
  3. A section on what new science is likely to accrue. You must include “at least one illustrative example,” to quote from the paper type description website above. This section closes the gap between the earlier two “must have” sections. That is, given the the current state of scientific discovery in the relevant subdiscipline of space physics and the cutting edge aspects of this new technique or data set, you must then discuss how this new technique will eventually lead to better scientific understanding.

So, authors: if you are writing a Technical Reports manuscript, then please ensure that it includes these three elements.

Also, reviewers: if you are assessing the publishability of a Technical Reports manuscript, please carefully consider these three elements.

AGU has a relatively new journal that is specifically targeted at this manuscript type: Earth and Space Science. Just entering its fourth year, E&SS spans all of AGU’s scientific disciplines, especially requesting papers on “methods, instruments, sensors, data and algorithms” for our field and across the AGU discipline spectrum. I had a recent blog post about signing up for E&SS table of content e-alerts.

A final point to make: Technical Reports paper types are limited to 13 Publication Units rather than the normal 25 for a Research Article paper type. This is to keep the description of the new method, technique, or data set focused. Extra figures and explanation can be put into the online Supplemental Information accompanying the published paper, if needed. You can go over a bit, though and no one should complain or send it back. That is, this limit is not a strict cutoff but is more like a guideline.

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:

peerreviewguide-flowchart

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.”

plainspokenscientist

            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.

 

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:

plagiarism_usage_googlebooks

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

Here’s a definition of plagiarism from Dictionary.com:

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.

citations_election_hats_small

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.

nounpublishedrefs

            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 arxiv.org preprint service. Citing a paper there is allowed, even if it doesn’t have a corresponding peer-reviewed version available yet. Posting to arxiv.org 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 arxiv.org (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.

 

 

Paper Publicity

In every decision letter from an AGU journal, including JGR Space Physics, now has a paragraph about publicizing your paper. Specifically, the wording looks something like this:

The “Publicity Information” link is in the lower left corner of this page, under the “Resources” heading. You get a page with this heading:

JournalPublicity

            There are two kinds of information on this page: the first paragraph is on how AGU might promote papers in their journals. I had a post a few months ago on how the JGR Space Physics webpage has several features intended to highlight and promote some papers, but this list mentions some others, like social media posts and Eos Research Spotlights.

The rest of the page describes the process of working with the AGU Public Information Office to make a press release, press conference, or some other more formal announcement about your study. If you think that your paper is worthy of a press release, then please contact this office immediately after acceptance, or even after the first revision decision, so they can start working with you on the best way to promote the findings to the public and the press. One of the things they might do is to “embargo” the manuscript, i.e., not post the accepted preprint version of the article on the JGR Space Physics website, until there is an official announcement about it. Nanci Bompey, the AGU Public Information Manager, is very good at working with both the press and with authors to market Earth and space science findings beyond our own community. She and her team can help, so please don’t be shy about promoting your work.

Let me stress again, though, that the embargo is critical to retain the anticipation and excitement around the official release of the study. So, if you want to pursue this route for one of your papers, then please fill out their form either during the editorial process or immediately after acceptance.