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!

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:


Earth Day Special Collection

It’s up! The AGU’s Earth Day Special Collection of Commentaries about the awesomeness of Earth and space science is now available. It is a cross-journal collection, spanning all AGU journals, including JGR Space Physics. Yes, we just published a Commentary (Cassak et al.) on relevance of space physics research to “contemporary society.” I look forward to reading the other articles in this special section, including the Commentary from Ray Greenwald in Radio Science and several Commentaries and other articles from Space Weather.

There is also an Editors’ Vox article, authored by Brooks Hanson, AGU’s Director of Publications, and coauthored by all of the Editors in Chief of AGU’s journals, that summarizes the major themes across the scope of this special collection. An AGU press release was just issued about it, too. Here’s the graphic published with the Vox article:


            Earth is beautiful. Learning new things about Earth, and its home in the universe, is beautiful, too.

Space Weather is the natural home for touting the usefulness of space physics for societal needs, and indeed this journal is where nearly all such news, commentaries, and feature articles can be found. We (the journal editors) decided to solicit at least one article for JGR Space Physics, though, because this special collection is important, being published just before the March for Science. This is also a time when the anti-science movement, which has been around a long time and comes from both the left and the right, is emboldened. We thought it was important for every journal to participate in this special section, including JGR Space Physics.

So, we enlisted the AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section’s Advocacy Committee to write an article on societal relevance of space physics. If you haven’t heard of this entity, it was created about three and half years ago to lead and coordinate efforts to remind policy makers about the importance of our science. Their charge also includes motivating the rest of the SPA community to get involved in science policy discussions. They were a natural choice for writing a Commentary for this special section.

The “Technical Reports” Paper Type

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


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.


            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.

Summer 2016 Open Special Sections

Occasionally I post an article here about the open special sections with JGR Space Physics and it’s time I did that again. At the main page for the journal there is a link a little bit down the right-hand column, “Call for Papers”.

There are two or five open special sections right now, depending on how you count them.

“Geospace system responses to the St. Patrick’s Day storms in 2013 and 2015”: March 17 has been an exciting day this solar cycle, with very large geomagnetic storms occurring in both 2013 and 2015. This special section is open to any paper on any aspect of geospace activity during these two storms. Of particular interest to the organizers are coupling across geospace boundaries, especially from the magnetosphere to the ionosphere-thermosphere and down to the mesophere. We even have a special banner logo for it:


The deadline has shifted a month to July 15. This is only a month away, so get writing and get the paper in soon.

“Measurement Techniques in Solar and Space Physics”: in the late 1990s, there was a two-part Geophysical Monograph set on this same topic. It was time to do it again. After a conference in April 2015, the organizers explored options for publishing articles from the presentations. They selected JGR Space Physics. The expectation was ~150 papers across all possible instrumentation methodologies for our field, and so we divided into 4 special sections. One is subtitled “Particles”, another “Fields”, a third one is “Photons”, and a fourth is “Ground-Based and Optical.” We have over 85 submissions (unique papers, not counting revision submissions) and we are expecting quite a few more. The original deadline has past but we have shifted it to allow the remaining papers to come in: it is now August 15. Most of the papers in these 4 special sections are Technical Reports: Methods paper type, which require an original contribution to how we do space physics and a demonstrated applicability to eventually lead to additional understanding of space physics, but the Methods paper itself does not have to include a scientific advancement itself. Also, note that you didn’t have to attend the conference to submit a paper to any of these special sections; everyone with an instrumentation advancement is welcome to write a paper for these collections.

I know that there is at least one proposal in the works for another special section. If you are thinking about it, then please grab the Special Section Proposal Form just a few spots down from “Call for Papers” in the right-hand column of the journal website. Or email me and I’ll send it to you.

Recently Closed Special Sections

To follow on with my last post on open special sections, I wanted to bring them to your attention the special sections of JGR Space Physics that have closed in the past year. A listing of “published” special sections can be found by clicking the “Special Issues” link near the top of the journal homepage. The central column of the Special Issues page gives descriptions and links to those that have recently closed or updated (i.e., a trailing paper finally published). Also on this page is a search mechanism for finding special sections based on their status or designated tags. For instance, clicking the “Accepting Submissions” filter yields “No results available.” This is because, as of today, there are no published papers for any of the five currently open special sections.


In the last 12 months, there have been 6 special sections closed for submissions and either at or nearing full publication of the manuscripts submitted to it. In order of how they appear on the page (as of today), they are:

Pulsating Aurora and Related Magnetospheric Phenomena: covering all aspects of observational, theoretical, and modeling studies of pulsating aurora, one of the major classes of aurora. There are 12 papers in this section.

Low-Frequency Waves In Space Plasmas: includes ground-based as well as satellite observational studies of low-frequency waves, not only in Earth’s magnetosphere but across the solar system. There are 26 papers in this section.

Long‐term Changes and Trends in the Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, and Ionosphere: joint with JGR-Atmospheres, this covers findings and insights on how the middle and upper atmosphere are evolving naturally and due to man-made climate change. There are 10 papers in this section.

Origins and Properties of Kappa Distributions: includes studies on the physical mechanisms leading to kappa distributions in plasma and wave distributions, and the non-equilibrium thermodynamics that describes these populations. There are 19 papers in this section.

Variability of the Sun and Its Terrestrial Impact VarSITI: VarSITI, SCOSTEP’s new international research program, focuses on three big chains in solar-terrestrial relations: (1) the mass chain in the form of plasmas and particles emitted from the Sun, (2) the electromagnetic chain in the form of fields, irradiance (total and spectral) and flare emissions, and (3) the intra-atmospheric chain representing energy flow and coupling. There are 20 papers in this section.

New perspectives on Earth’s radiation belt regions from the prime mission of the Van Allen Probes: includes not only strictly observational papers focused solely on the Van Allen Probes data sets but also comparative mission studies and related theoretical and modeling studies. There are 41 papers in this section.

If any of these subjects interests you, then I highly encourage you to browse these pages and read some of the papers. It’s one-stop shopping for the latest (and greatest!) on that topic.

Open Special Sections

JGR Space Physics has a number of open special sections right now. You can find them on the main page for the journal at a link in the right-hand column called “Call for Papers” under the Journal Resources heading.


            There are five open special sections right now. I’m going to list them here in the order in which they close, rather than the order they appear on the page or the order they were approved. They are:

“Nature of Turbulence, Dissipation, and Heating in Space Plasmas From Alfvén Waves to Kinetic Alfvén Waves”: papers are welcome on any aspect of electric or magnetic wave phenomena, from large-scale MHD waves to small-scale high-frequency kinetic scale waves. Studies on wave excitation, propagation, wave-wave coupling, and wave-particle interactions are encouraged. The scope is across all regions of space physics, including solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary environments. This special section is open for submissions until 30 November 2015.

            “Inner Magnetosphere Coupling: Recent Advances”: papers are welcome on the interactions within different plasma populations in the inner magnetosphere (plasmasphere, ring current, radiation belts), coupling between fields and plasma populations, as well as effects of the inner magnetosphere on the ionosphere and atmosphere. The emphasis on the coupling processes between the plasma populations, plasma and fields, or inner magnetospheric region with other areas of geospace. This special section is open for submissions until 1 January 2016.

“Big Storms of the Van Allen Probes Era”: papers are welcome that document new understanding of radiation belts and ring current processes during intense magnetic storms. The emphasis is on multi-point measurements from the various satellite constellations operating during the “big storms” from this present solar maximum. This special section is open for submissions until 8 January 2016.

“Energetic Electron Loss and its Impacts on the Atmosphere”: Manuscripts are solicited that report advancements in energy (>20 keV) electron precipitation and their impacts on the Earth’s atmosphere. This special section is being run jointly with JGR-Atmospheres and is open for submissions through 29 January 2016. Authors submit to either journal and the paper is handled independently by that editorial board. The published papers will be listed together on the special section webpage. Here is an example listing from a recent joint section with JGR-Atmospheres.

“Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics”: Original research papers as well as Commentaries (link: Sept Commentaries post) are welcome on the most salient research questions still to be addressed by the magnetospheric physics community. The ultimate aim is to stimulate research efforts on these topics and thus advance understanding of magnetospheric physics in general. Note that Commentaries must be approved by the JGR Space Physics editorial board prior to submission. This special section is open for submissions until 1 February 2016.

As papers in each special section are published, they will be available through the regular journal website as well as through the “Special Issues” link near the top of the JGR Space Physics page. This page also allows you to search for special topics within the entire set of special sections since AGU switched to digital publishing in 2002.

There are a couple of others that I know about that are currently in the drafting and approval process. I’ll write another post on those in the near future. If you have an idea for a special section, then please feel free to contact me. The form for special section proposals is available at the main JGR Space Physics website down the right-hand column.

New Scope for JGR Space Physics

We have a new “aims and scope” statement for JGR Space Physics. It reads:

JGR: Space Physics is dedicated to the publication of new and original research in the broad field of space science. This embraces aeronomy, magnetospheric physics, planetary atmospheres, ionospheres and magnetospheres, solar and interplanetary physics, cosmic rays, and heliospheric physics. Science that links interactions between space science and other components of the Sun-Earth system are encouraged, as are multidisciplinary and system-level science papers.

JGR: Space Physics welcomes theoretical, numerical, or observational manuscripts as well as submissions on new instrumentation, numerical models, or analysis methods, as long as such papers include an illustrative example demonstrating direct and timely relevance to space research. Authors are strongly encouraged to make very clear in their manuscript the new science or technology contribution to the field.

JGR: Space Physics also encourages the members to the space science research community to submit proposals for topical reviews, commentaries, and special collections to the Editors.


The old scope was quite brief, basically a short version of the second sentence. This new scope clarifies the full range of topics included in the journal as well as the types of papers that can be submitted. Here are some notable changes from the old version.

We have dropped the word “external” in front of “solar physics.” We are encouraging the submission of papers that span the entire breadth of phenomena that influence solar, interplanetary, and planetary space environments. This includes processes within the convective zone of the Sun that influence the solar magnetic field and solar atmosphere.

We have included explicit mention of multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and system-level science studies. As long as there is relevance to a core discipline within space science, then papers including connections to other fields, or even focused on something beyond the normal scope, are welcome.

Not every paper has to have a significant original scientific contribution to space science. JGR Space Physics accepts submissions of several other types of papers for which the publication criteria do not include this “high bar” of original research. First, there are Technical Reports, oriented towards either “data” or “methods,” that should describe a new resource or capability that others in the community should find useful. These papers must include a discussion that demonstrates how it could be used to advance understanding of space physics but it does not have to include the scientific advancement in the Technical Reports paper.

Another paper type in this category is the Topical Review. Again, this does not have to include an original research component, in fact they shouldn’t, but it should include a discussion of the relevance and timeliness of compiling the review now. Note that these are not meant to be as lengthy as a Reviews of Geophysics article, nor written for the broader audience of that journal, but rather focused on a particular issue and written for those in the field. Note that these need editorial board approval before submission; please send us an email.

Finally, there are Commentaries, about which I have recently written. A Commentary is a short “perspectives” article that addresses a particular space science topic and does one of the following: explain the importance of that issue, synthesize recent developments, discuss a controversy, or provide context around an unresolved mystery. They can also be used to provide a scientific evaluation on a recent meeting, a classic paper, or a notable anniversary or event in the field. Until we see how they work in this journal, we are requiring editorial board approval before submission. Like topical reviews, send us an email.

The last thing mentioned in the new scope are special collections, also known as special sections or special issues. These also require editorial board approval, but there is actually an AGU form available for these. The list of published special collections is here and the list of open special collections is here.

Commentaries in JGR Space Physics

JGR Space Physics has a new paper style: Commentaries. These are very short articles providing context on some timely topic of general interest to the space physics research community. Example topics might include the following:

  • A recent publications or set of publications, or special issue/collection in JGR Space Physics or any other journal
  • A recent meeting, session, or workshop (without being a report of that workshop)
  • An update of a classic, historical, or highly cited paper (can be the same or a different author) or group of papers
  • A notable anniversary or other event

The emphasis for Commentaries is on context and perspective. It should discuss the broad, important questions of the topic and set the background for the readers. It is essentially an opinion piece, giving the perspective of the author on the chosen subject. For example, regarding special sections, the organizers have the option of writing an Introduction, which is essentially an invited Commentary. This new paper type allows for anyone to provide a similar type of viewpoint paper on the matter addressed by the special section.

The key point is providing context to the rest of the space physics community, addressing the question, “what should we care about this topic?” So, on that note, I am including the graphic from the AGU Space Facebook page site as a multipart image that captures the scope of our discipline:


            What is a Commentary not? It should not be a listing of papers in a special section and a recap of findings. It should not be a reporting of session or presentation titles from a meeting. It should not be a repeat of conclusions from a classic paper. It should not an announcement for an upcoming event or an account of what happened at some event.

Furthermore, a Commentary should not be confused with a Comment. A Comment is a critique of a single paper and is usually accompanied by a Reply from the authors of that original paper. A Commentary should not be so specific as to call into question the methodology or findings of just one paper. In general, a Commentary is not a critique of individual work but a defense of a whole subject; providing additional thoughts on why a particular topic is interesting for community consideration and investigation.

The basic format, as specified by AGU, is as follows:

  • There is a strict limit of 6 Publication Units, a typical length might be ~2000 words and 1-2 figures/tables
  • The first paragraph or two should identify the key issue and provide context on its importance
  • The main body should give the details of the chosen topic but remain at a level that provides broader impact and awareness of the issue
  • The final paragraph should identify still unresolved questions and ideas for future work
  • Jargon specific to a small sub-discipline should be avoided or explained

I have three other points to make about Commentaries. First, there are no publication fees for Commentaries. That’s right; they are free to the authors. AGU would like to launch this new paper type and get us thinking about big-picture context and communicating personal perspectives on timely issues in our field.

Second, they should be submitted through the GEMS site and will go through the regular review process. We might opt to send it to only one reviewer, as we often do with Comment-Reply pairs and special section Introductions. They will be sent out for peer review, though.  Select “Commentary” in the paper type pull-down menu.

Finally, Commentaries, at least those submitted to JGR Space Physics, require approval by the Editorial Board. Please email me or any other Editor of the journal and we will discuss it and get back to you with our decision and possibly feedback and guidance about it.

Come to the TESS Meeting

The Triennial Earth-Sun Summit, or TESS, is rapidly approaching. This is a new meeting for the space physics community: a joint venture between the Space Physics and Aeronomy section of AGU and the Solar Physics Division of AAS. I am sure that many people have been involved in planning this new conference, but I know that Jim Klimchuk, a solar physicist who has just served as AGU’s SPA President, was instrumental in bringing the leadership of the two communities together to make this meeting happen. I would like to strongly encourage everyone in space physics to attend TESS this year and help make it a great meeting. It’s not too late to decide to go, either: the abstract submission deadline was shifted to February 24, so you still have time!


There are a lot of common physical processes between solar research fields and those of the rest of the SPA scope of subjects: plasma physics, the transition from collisional to collisionless transport, ion-neutral interactions, energetic particle acceleration, magnetic reconnection, wave excitation and wave-particle interactions, and the relationship between plasma, currents, and magnetic fields, just to name a few. Not to mention the traditional “one-way” interactions of solar EUV/X-ray impacts on planetary upper atmospheres and solar wind influences on planetary magnetospheres and ionospheres; a meeting like this can help Earth and planetary scientists better understand the origins of these driving phenomena on the systems they study.

To relate it to JGR Space Physics, I really hope that this meeting spawns new collaborative investigations and eventually papers submitted to the journal. I think that this meeting will be a fantastic opportunity for cross-disciplinary discussions that hopefully will lead to new insights and research initiatives. I am greatly looking forward to this meeting, not only for myself as a researcher but also in my role as Editor-in-Chief. I will have my eye out for special section opportunities, but if you would like to suggest one as a follow-up to this (or any other) meeting, then please feel free. The form is here.

As the “triennial” in the name implies, the SPA and SPD leadership would like this meeting to become a regular every-third-year event on our schedule. However, I think that “Earth-Sun” is a little limiting…I don’t think that the plan was to exclude planetary space environment scientists from the exchange, and in fact a number of the invited speakers are planetary experts who will almost certainly discuss the connection to planets other than Earth. So, I would like to make a special call to planetary scientists to consider attending TESS: please feel welcome to submit at abstract.

Note that TESS is organized a little differently than a “normal” AGU meeting. With this first one being managed by AAS, they are largely following their format of not scheduling special sessions but rather having “open” abstract submissions. The conference organizers will sort the submissions into sessions and produce a meeting plan based on what people will talk about. I think it will work out just fine and allows a lot of flexibility to organize cross-cutting sessions that hopefully serve the purpose of bringing the communities together.

Finally, I’d like to make a plug for the location. Indianapolis is a enjoyable city with a great walking downtown area with lots of restaurants, shopping, and local attractions. I visit Indy occasionally and I like it a lot. I hope that you do too. SPD apparently had a meeting there recently and liked it so much that they suggested it for the inaugural TESS conference. Good choice!