Recent covers of the 19 journals that AGU currently publishes.
Recent covers of the 19 journals that AGU currently publishes. Credit: AGU

The American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) journals have grown recently in a variety of ways that provide more content and context for readers and better visibility for authors. First, as noted in a recent From the Prow post, submissions to AGU journals grew 16% in 2015 (to a total of 13,021), and year-to-date submissions are up an additional 8% in 2016 (to a total of 8192 through 31 July 2016).

The number of published articles has correspondingly increased; AGU published 5761 papers in 2015 in 19 journals. Although the increase was seen across nearly all titles, submissions have risen most in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), AGU’s largest journal; the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeochemistry (JGR: Biogeochemistry); and the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems (JAMES).

One of AGU’s newest open-access journals, Earth’s Future (EF), is also seeing a surge in submissions following its indexing in Journal Citation Reports last year and receipt of its first impact factor, 5.62. Compared to the impact factors of other AGU journals that publish new research, the impact factor of Earth’s Future ranks just below that of JAMES, which is also open access. Global Biogeochemical Cycles (4.5) and GRL (4.2) closely follow EF. (Reviews of Geophysics has the highest impact factor, 11.4). Earth’s Future has recently added an editor focusing on natural hazards and is seeking submissions for special issues on energy and on the food-water interface.

Even with the broad growth in submissions, AGU editors have improved upon our journals’ average times to first decision.

Even with the broad growth in submissions, AGU editors have improved upon our journals’ average times to first decision.

Most journals are now returning papers that have been through peer review to authors in less than 2 months after submission, led by GRL (at just under 1 month, on average); JGR: Space Physics; Space Weather; and Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. Data for all AGU journals are available here. As noted recently in Eos, GRL editors, although remaining committed to prompt decisions, are now using a “major revisions” option for the journal’s manuscripts to encourage better papers that fit GRL’s criteria for timeliness and impact.

As AGU journals grow in quantity and quality, AGU Publications and are also providing more context around the science that we disseminate. Online, AGU is providing resources and links to our journals’ content, as well as related discussions elsewhere.

All AGU journals are producing more special issues than before, with a focus on providing broad views of Earth and space science.

  • Water Resources Research celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a special issue that included papers looking toward the future of the field, particularly those on the interface between hydrology and society.
  • JGR: Planets is celebrating its 25th anniversary later this year with a collection of overviews written to be accessible to a broad audience.
  • JGR: Space Physics is publishing a special issue exploring “Unsolved Problems in the Magnetosphere,” also described here.
  • Earth and Space Science is featuring a special issue on “Geoscience Papers of the Future,” highlighting and demonstrating how to practice reproducibility for figures, open codes, and open data. It is described further in an AGU blog post here.

Most of our journals are also contributing to a special issue on integrative Arctic science.

Many AGU journals are also expanding invited commentaries covering particularly notable research topics and results as well as the interface between science and society. Space Weather has long included commentaries, as has Earth’s Future since its launch in 2013. Water Resources Research has been publishing a series of commentaries, called “Debates,” that explore areas in hydrology of broad and active discussion. These commentaries are all provided as open access for readers and without any fees for authors. What’s more, all commentaries discussing recent research are organized together in a collection that can be accessed from any journal home page.

For some time, has been featuring AGU papers, selected by the editors of each journal, in Research Spotlights written by journalists. Research Spotlights are among the most widely read items on AGU’s journal editors now complement these spotlights with short “Editors’ Highlights” about other selected papers. Editors’ Vox, part of the commentary section on, discusses still more papers. For example, the Reviews of Geophysics editors frequently feature in this section question-and-answer interviews with journal authors as a way to provide a broad introduction to important comprehensive reviews.

Readers can discover these types of paper-specific content, as well as related AGU press releases, news stories in, and posts on AGU’s blogs by means of a paper’s “related content” section.

Readers can discover these types of paper-specific content, as well as related AGU press releases, news stories in, and posts on AGU’s blogs by means of a paper’s “related content” section, which follows the references online. An icon marks any paper listed on the journal home page that has one or more pieces of such related content. Each journal home page also offers a feed of all recent enhanced content. We plan to expand the related content to include other AGU content, for example, journal covers and related, recorded meeting presentations on AGU On-Demand. Altmetric ratings and listings also add context to AGU journal content by linking to other news stories, blogs, and social media posts that reference the article.

In addition, the related content section of every AGU paper now lists papers across all journals in Wiley’s library that are most similar in content (this list is updated as new content is published).

JGR: Planets is now asking authors, if they so choose, to provide plain-language summaries of their papers. The journal will include these summaries in the online and PDF versions of articles below the formal abstracts and use them increasingly for social media and other outreach. Although such summaries remain optional, we hope that many authors will provide them. AGU offers some recommendations here about how to write these pieces. We will soon extend this plain-language option to the other AGU journals.

These many efforts to enhance content and context for AGU journal articles complement the already free availability of all new AGU content 24 months after publication and the expansion of open-access across AGU journals.

AGU journals collectively represent a wide and rich view of Earth and space science, which forms a foundation for addressing many relevant issues in society, extending from small scales to global. Expanding access to and understanding of this science not only fosters new interdisciplinary research but also helps increase public understanding of science and awareness of its important role in society.

—Brooks Hanson, Director of Publications, AGU; email:


Hanson, B. (2016), AGU journals: More content and more context, Eos, 97, Published on 09 August 2016.

Text © 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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