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.

AGU Giving Day 2016 is Thursday

AGU Giving Day is upon us again. They did this last year about this time, too. This year it is this Thursday, December 15, during the #AGU16 Fall AGU Meeting.


Look for the volunteer brigade in green T-shirts for more information and directions to the kiosks:


            I make a donation to AGU every year. Specifically, I really like to support the SPA section as well as several of the student and international travel grant funds. Yes, you get to choose the specific funds into which your gift is credited. AGU has a long list of funds, so have a look; I hope that there is one that catches your interest as a place where you can help our community. When you are ready, visit one of the kiosks in the various Moscone Center lobbies on Thursday, or go online to the campaign website.  I love my job and I am glad that AGU exists as a scientific society within which space physics has found a good home. I love the international flavor of the meetings and the fact that so many students can attend.  So, I give to AGU to help create the community in which I want to participate.

Note that when you give as an individual, you are helping out the AGU section with which you are primarily affiliated. AGU has a Section and Focus Group Incentive Program to encourage member giving. As the percentage of SPA membership that participates increases, AGU makes a larger contribution into the section-specific account. Of AGU’s 60,000+ members, ~2800 have SPA as their primary affiliation. So, it only takes ~140 people for the kickbacks to start kicking in.

In addition, AGU is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and while I am not qualified to give tax advice, this designation makes it eligible for tax-deductible gift contributions. If you are working in the US at a level above postdoc, then my guess is that your income is such that you are able to make a $50 or more donation to AGU (and therefore count in the incentive program). I hope that you are also willing.

As a special incentive this year, a gift of $20 or more will secure a vintage AGU t-shirt (while supplies last). They will have these at all of the donation kiosks around the Moscone Center.


Pretty fun, eh? I’ve already given this year but I might give again on Thursday just to get one of these.

AGU’s New Journal: GeoHealth

AGU has a new journal that’s now accepting articles, GeoHealth.


The Wiley website for the journal is here and there is a nice write-up about it at the AGU Publications pages here. There was also an Eos article about the launch of this journal and a From the Prow blog post by the AGU CEO Chris McEntee a year ago, when AGU started working towards this journal concept. Here’s the banner ad that you might have seen above a paper at the Wiley website:


            The full aims and scope statement:

GeoHealth, a new fully Open Access journal, will publish original research, reviews, policy discussions, and commentaries that cover the growing science on the interface among the Earth, atmospheric, oceans and environmental sciences, ecology, and the agricultural and health sciences. Key topics will be the impacts of global change on human and agricultural health and disease and ecosystem health and services, a wide variety of global and local issues will be covered, including air pollution, use and impact and environmental persistence of herbicides and pesticides, radiation and health, water pollution, and geomedicine. Many of these topics are of critical importance in the developing world.

Like the other journals, it has a “swoosh” logo. Simple yet clear:


            The Founding Editor of GeoHealth is Rita Colwell. Yes, that Rita Colwell, the former Director of the NSF. She is now a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, in their Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.

While it is only tangentially relevant for most JGR Space Physics readers and authors, I thought I would publicize it here because it is the first new journal launch in a couple of years, since Earth and Space Science in December 2014. Also, publication fees are waived for all eventually-accepted manuscripts that are submitted by January 31, 2017. Yes, it has a GEMS website up and running.

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.”


            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.


More Manuscript Template Tweaks

This year, AGU released new manuscript templates in Word and LaTeX for paper authors to use, which I wrote about this summer, and in September I had a post on some easy tweaks to make them a nicer for reviewers and editors. This month, I had the opportunity to work through the GEMS system as an author and I thought up a few other beneficial tweaks to the templates. These are things that GEMS asks of you, so you might as well be thinking about it before you at the online submission site.


            Here are the 4 additional items that I encourage everyone to start including in your template so that you think about it before you are at the GEMS the submission page. I would insert them before or after the Abstract, below the title and authors but above the main article text.

Paper Type: acceptable paper types for AGU journals are found here. By far the most common for JGR Space Physics is the Research Article, but we consider all of the other paper types (except those reserved for GRL, as indicated). Because the reviewing criteria are different for each paper type, it’s very helpful for reviewers and editors to see the paper type right there, embedded near the top of the article file.

AGU Index Terms: You have to select a primary index term for your paper, plus up to 4 additional index terms. These must be chosen from the official AGU index term list.

Keywords: These are free-form words or phrases that help your paper be electronically discoverable. They can be words from the index term, from the title, or from the main text. You can enter up to 8 words or phrases.

Plain Language Summary: up to 200 words describing your work to those not in space physics. That is, this text should explain the work to a science reporter or scientifically-literate layperson. It should minimize jargon and acronym usage and focus on one or two key points that a smart non-specialist can understand.

This last thing, the plain language summary, is a new request in GEMS as of October. I’ll write more on this in a separate post.

Finally, note that AGU has shuffled the website for author resources content a bit and the manuscript templates now have their own page. This site has checklists for new submissions and revision submissions as well as the template files and instructions on using them. The LaTeX template is also available on Overleaf.

Happy writing!

Pubs Booth at Fall AGU

I’ve gone through the schedule for the Fall AGU Meeting, and once again it will be a full week where I am occasionally supposed to be in several places at once. There is one place where I know I will be a couple of times, and that is the AGU Publications Booth.

Last year the Publications Booth was in the poster hall in Moscone South. Note that this booth is different from the AGU sales display in the main exhibitor hall. The Pubs Booth is a smaller, single countertop stand and banner with no books or journals for sale. It is set up and operated by AGU Pubs staff specifically to answer questions about publishing scientific results with AGU.


            They ask the Editors in Chief of all of the AGU journals to sign up for times when they will be at the Pubs Booth. Here are the times for the space physics EiCs:

  • Me (JGR Space Physics): Tuesday 11 am – noon and Wednesday 11 am – noon
  • Delores Knipp (Space Weather): Wednesday 8-9 am
  • Phil Wilkinson (Radio Science): Monday 11 am – noon and Thursday 10-11 am
  • Mark Moldwin (Reviews of Geophysics): Monday 1:30-2:30 pm

Stop by and say hello!

I look forward to seeing you at the Fall AGU Meeting, which is now less than a month away.

Finally, join the meeting on social media: #AGU16

Women in Planetary Science Blog

Well, the USA just had its Brexitesque upset vote. Good luck, America. Good luck, World. The one good thing for me last night was that, as I was staying up late anyway, I decided to worked on manuscripts in my queue. It turned into a productive time as I occasionally glanced at the TV, watching the election results come in.

In support of scientific inquiry and in honor of great women, I’d like to share with you the Women in Planetary Science blog. In particular, I would like to point you to the “51+ Women in Planetary Science” list. The first name on the list is my personal favorite, Claudia Alexander. I overlapped with her as U-M PhD students back in the early 1990s. She was assigned to be my grad student mentor, something the departmental grad student organization arranged at that time. It was great talking with her and knowing her over the years. The community suffered a loss with her unfortunate death 16 months ago.


            There are many other great names on the list, and the links on their names take you to a post of their story and their words of wisdom and advice for others. I encourage everyone to take some time today and read through these articles. They are amazing.

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:


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

Here’s a definition of plagiarism from

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.


To Cite or Not

It’s almost Halloween here in America, so it is time to show people in costumes:


However silly they look in this outfits, the message that the text conveys is serious. When in doubt, add a citation. I got this image  here, a site that also has a humorous flow chart for deciding when to cite. Basically, think twice about the content in your scholarly work, and if the idea you are positing came from another source, then include a citation to that source.

Paper Introductions should be full of citations to previous work, demonstrating that the authors have done their homework with a thorough literature search investigating the state of knowledge on this topic. The storyline of the Introduction should focus down from a broad perspective to ever-narrower issues until the specific topic of interest is reach. Sometimes this focusing is fast, just a sentence or two, other times it is several paragraphs. The specific topic should then be rigorously discussed to show that there is a gap in understanding. It should lead to the thesis statement of the unresolved question and why a new study is needed. To get to this point, however, relevant prior studies should be included in this presentation.

Similarly, in the Discussion section of the paper, the new findings should be put into proper perspective with respect to prior studies. That is, this section should also have many citations and a comparison of how the new findings build on those existing findings.

Citation of previous work does not invalidate your contribution to knowledge about that topic. On the contrary, it demonstrates that you are an expert in the fields, are aware that others are working on the same issue, and that your investigation fits within a larger body of work.

Please add citations to relevant work. It’s like raw broccoli: it takes some work to get it down, but once there it’s really good for you.


Reviewer Awardees for 2015

In re-reading my post from earlier this week, I went back and checked and realized that I did not have a post listing the awardees of the 2015 Editor’s Citation for Excellence in Scientific Refereeing. Each year, AGU’s journal editors get to select a few people for this award. By a few, I mean a few: up to 1% of the total number of manuscripts submitted to the journal that year. For JGR Space Physics, we had 1190 manuscript submitted in 2015, so we were able to select 12 people for this award.


            This is an amazingly hard decision because so many people write outstanding reviews. Plus, there is the perennial decision of how to weight various criteria, like how many reviews someone did, their average time to submit a review, their highest or average rating (yes, we rate referees on every review), or the importance of a single review to the decision on a particular manuscript. Plus, at JGR Space Physics, we make this a group editorial decision, so all 5 of us deliberate and vote on the list.

For 2015, our 12 awardees are (in alphabetical order):

  • Eric Christian
  • Ingrid Cnossen
  • Xueshang Feng
  • Ryochi Fujii
  • Manuel Lopez Puertas
  • Paul O’Brien
  • Minna Palmroth
  • Natalia Perevalova
  • Viktor Sergeev
  • Kazue Takahashi
  • Bruce Tsurutani
  • Angelos Vourlidas

THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your outstanding service to the journal and to the research community.

I’ve said it before but it needs to be said again: I would also like to thank all of the 1,506 people that served as reviewers for JGR Space Physics in 2015. AGU rules limit our awardee number to 12, but I am grateful for the time and effort put in by every single one of you. Thanks!