Geology & Geophysics Editors' Vox

Book Publishing in the Space Sciences

An analysis of books in the space science disciplines: AGU’s portfolio, how we compare with other publishers, and how we could grow.

By , , , and

AGU has been publishing books for over six decades on topics across the Earth and space sciences. The four members of the AGU Books Editorial Board from space science disciplines decided to look at our own backfile of books and at other scientific publishers to better understand the landscape of book publishing in these disciplines and use these insights to form a plan for expanding our range of space science books over the coming years.

Space science books in AGU’s portfolio

Our investigation started with our own backfile, focusing on AGU’s flagship and longest-running series, the Geophysical Monograph Series. 256 volumes were published from its launch in 1956 to the end of 2020, of which, 63 were related to space science topics, with six volumes (Vol. 1, 2, 7, 141, 196, and 214) combining both Earth- and space-related topics in the same volume.

For the next step of our analysis, we divided the space sciences into major topic areas according to four AGU Sections – Aeronomy, Magnetospheric Physics, Planetary Sciences, and Solar & Heliospheric Physics. We decided to combine Aeronomy and Magnetospheric Physics into a single category of Geospace.

Over the entire lifetime of the Geophysical Monograph Series, the proportions of space science books with topics exclusively focused on geospace, planetary sciences, and solar/heliospheric physics are 51%, 7%, and 3.5%, respectively. The remaining 38.5% are books with an interdisciplinary character, that is, they combine the major topic areas in the same volume. (The six books that combine Earth- and space-related topics are not included in these numbers.)

Venn diagram showing the number of space sciences books published in the Geophysical Monograph Series from 2011 to 2020 by topic.The Venn diagram focuses on the 12 books published in the past decade (2011-2020) (Not included are two books (vols. 196, 214) that combined space and Earth science topics).

Books with a geospace focus are the largest segment (vols. 199, 201, 215, 220, 244, 248) and six additional geospace books have an interdisciplinary focus (vols. 197, 207, 216, 222, 230, 235).

No book has been published in the Geophysical Monograph Series solely focused on planetary or solar/heliospheric topics during the decade, although a five-volume Space Physics and Aeronomy collection was published in spring 2021 outside the bounds of this analysis.

How do we compare to other publishers?

Of course, AGU is not the only society or publisher producing books in the space sciences, so we decided to look at the distribution across major scholarly publishers using the same topic division as above. We made our best efforts to survey the enormous book market using various web tools, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these statistics. Also note that AGU entered a publishing partnership with John Wiley & Sons in 2013, thus we are treating Wiley and AGU as one entity in the charts below.

Three pie charts showing proportion of books in published by major publishers in the space sciences from 2010 to 2020.

The charts suggest that certain publishers have developed a reputation in particular fields, with existing series or collections that draw return book editors/authors and attract new people. It is important that an editor or author finds the most appropriate publishing partner for their book project who can offer the production services, marketing, and distribution they are looking for. We hope that scientists across all these disciplines will consider AGU-Wiley, as we have a lot to offer.

Where are we heading?

Chart showing current publication rate and aspirational growth for space sciences books in AGU’s portfolio.AGU/Wiley have published on average 1 to 2 books per year over the last four decades in the space sciences, with a spread of 0 to 4 books per year. This is a modest publication rate which we would like to increase.

The graph shows the current distribution (orange) shifted by two books per year to a proposed distribution (yellow). During this decade, we would like to see on average 3 to 4 books published per year, but occasionally even more if possible.

We would also like this growth to be more balanced across all fields in the space sciences to move away from the skew towards geospace books seen in the past. By adding one book each on planetary and solar/heliospheric topics, already we would achieve our goal. Hence, we want to grow in these areas, and we are putting enhanced efforts into our outreach to the planetary and solar communities, which might help shift the distribution as indicated in the graph.

How to achieve our goals?

Overall, we wish to engage the space science communities in publishing more books with AGU-Wiley. To achieve our goals, we are actively engaging in outreach by proposing book titles to prospective editors/authors. Nonetheless, our backbone is still the unsolicited approach by scientists with new book ideas. For example, we hope that the new planetary and solar spacecraft missions currently in operation (as well as those being planned) may yield results, analysis, and reviews that could be suitable for publication in book format.

Although we have numerical goals for growing the number of space science books in our portfolio, our focus remains on quality over quantity. After all, books should be useful and in demand by the science community.

We want to encourage scientists who have never considered to publish a book. The process of organizing and writing/editing a book is very rewarding and increases one’s own network of scientific collaboration and reputation. Please contact any member of the Editorial Board from the space sciences directly or email [email protected], if you have ideas for new books.

―Andreas Keiling ([email protected]; ORCID logo 0000-0002-8710-5344), Bea Gallardo-Lacourt (ORCID logo 0000-0003-3690-7547), Xianzhe Jia (ORCID logo 0000-0002-8685-1484), and Valery Nakariakov (ORCID logo 0000-0001-6423-8286), Editors, AGU Books

Citation: Keiling, A., B. Gallardo-Lacourt, X. Jia, and V. Nakariakov (2021), Book publishing in the space sciences, Eos, 102, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO159662. Published on 16 June 2021.
Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Except where otherwise noted, images are subject to copyright. Any reuse without express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited.