Things around us seem to be constantly shifting – political transitions and social movements, the pandemic and our work patterns, our research, and the scientific publishing industry. Any type of change presents us with an opportunity to look back, reflect on what we have accomplished, and plan for where we want to go. This year, as we make a transition on the Editorial Board of JGR: Biogeosciences, we are doing just that. Miguel Goñi has just ended a six-year term as Editor–in–Chief and has been replaced at the helm by Marguerite (Maggie) Xenopoulos, previously Deputy Editor-in–Chief for Limnology and Oceanography.
Biogeosciences: A growing and diversifying field
JGR: Biogeosciences was launched 15 years ago as the seventh stand-alone title in the Journal of Geophysical Research family. It was founded to provide an outlet for AGU’s biogeosciences community to publish innovative science that advances our understanding of how biological, chemical, and physical properties are integrated across all of Earth’s ecosystems.
Over the past two decades, research in the biogeosciences has expanded considerably and the number of papers published in the journal has gradually increased under the steady hands of the first and second Editors–in–Chief, Diane McKnight and Dennis Baldocchi, respectively. Miguel Goñi began his term as the third Editor–in–Chief in 2014 with a major goal of responding to the increased number of submissions and diversity of topics.
When Miguel started, the journal had 20 Associate Editors; he added two Editors – Ankur Desai and Debbie Huntzinger – both now serving their second terms. As we transition to Maggie’s leadership, the journal now has 37 Associate Editors who cover a broad range of areas of expertise that reflect the diversity of the biogeosciences community and types of manuscripts that are submitted to the journal.
Journal statistics: Growth, visibility, and impact
We are happy to report that the journal is in excellent shape. The number of papers submitted has increased from about 300 per year five years ago to over 500 papers per year now. In 2020, 53 percent of submitted papers were accepted for publication. We have an impact factor of 3.4 for 2019 (the 2020 figures will be released in the summer), a five-year rolling impact factor of 4.2, and a total of about 9440 citations in 2019. All those who publish in AGU’s journals are asked to complete a survey about their experience; in 2020 we received an overall satisfaction score of 4.11 out of 5.
Around 10 per cent of published articles are selected for additional promotion, where we seek to share and explain the significance of the research to the biogeosciences community, the broader AGU membership, and the science media. This includes Research Spotlights and Editors’ Highlights published on Eos and our Twitter feed run by one of our Associate Editors, Bill Hammond. All of these efforts increase the visibility and impact of research.
Special collections continue to be an important growth area. We have had interesting collections on topics that have been truly varied, international, and across ecosystems, some of them in collaboration with other AGU journals. We continue to encourage the community to submit proposals for new special collections; just contact one of the editors to discuss your idea.
Leading the way with fair data standards
Recent years have seen a trend towards making data open. Initiatives such as the FAIR data standards were adopted by scientific societies, and we at JGR: Biogeosciences took the lead among the AGU publications to promote data accessibility and sharing.
Our goal has been to make measurements, methods, model results, and code accessible as a routine and established step in the publication process. For the biogeosciences community, sharing data has positive benefits not just for the scientific community but also for the one doing the sharing. Nevertheless, one of the key challenges looking forward is ensuring that all manuscripts published in our journal comply with the FAIR data standards.
Making the journal more diverse and inclusive
The success of the journal is attributable, in great part, to a dedicated and enthusiastic Editorial Board. We are very grateful to those who have served on the board since the inception of the journal over 15 years ago, but we are also delighted to welcome new faces.
We believe that it’s important to be diverse and representative. Today our board quite well reflects the geographic diversity and gender balance of the papers submitted. We currently have almost 40 percent female representation on the Editorial Board. Our Associate Editors are based in China, Australia, Israel, Finland, Germany, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as North America.
We have also been active in leading and participating in workshops for early career authors and reviewers to mentor the next generation of researchers. This includes a recent early career workshop targeted towards the Spanish-speaking research community that Miguel coordinated with Associate Editor Rodrigo Vargas during the 2020 AGU Fall Meeting.
Increasing reviewer and editor diversity is the best opportunity we have to remove bias from the peer review process. The recent civil unrest in the United States and elsewhere against systemic racism and other social movements such as #ShutDownSTEM has given us pause.
While scientific scrutiny is a necessity of peer-review, the system is not perfect and is prone to conscious and unconscious biases. Editors decide who gets to review and who gets published. But we could do more.
Consistent with AGU’s 8 deliberate steps to combat racism, we need to improve our peer reviewing practices to better acknowledge and reduce bias, ensure equitable and fair reviews, and improving research through better, respectful and kinder peer review. We look forward to continuing this conversation over the next few years.
JGR: Biogeosciences has already established a standard of excellence. Going forward, we are committed to maintaining the quality of the journal, publishing innovative and impactful research in a timely manner, ensuring a rigorous and constructive review process, and creating an ever-more diverse and inclusive community of authors, reviewers, and editors.