Geology & Geophysics Editors' Vox

Six Years with JGR: Space Physics

The outgoing Editor in Chief of JGR: Space Physics reflects on his tenure and expresses his appreciation to all those who contributed to the success of the journal over recent years.


I love my chosen research field. Like other disciplines within the scope of AGU, space physics is broad and expansive. Take, for instance, the volume covered by this field, encompassing everything “space” from the Sun to the local interstellar medium. Science-wise, too, it ranges across a diverse swath of topics from very small scale physics, like photons interacting with atoms and molecules in planetary upper atmospheres, to very large scale processes, such as galactic cosmic rays propagating through the solar system. It’s a worldwide research community, with scholars working on all continents, Antarctica included, to stretch humanity’s knowledge of the processes governing outer space.

This fondness led to a desire to take on the substantial service role of Editor in Chief of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics. I served in this position for the last six years, and have now handed the mantle over to the next EiC, Dr. Michael Balikhin of the University of Sheffield in the UK.

In addition to keeping the journal going, I approached the job with several initiatives in mind. One was an increased focus on special sections. I think that special sections are good for the community, focusing attention on a topic and spurring progress in that area. The results of my little experiment show that it was, probably, worth the effort to solicit extra special section proposals and shepherd these additional manuscripts through the editorial process. Thank you for rising to the challenge of additional manuscript preparation for these special sections.

A second initiative was increased communication with the space physics community. For this I created a blog, which allowed me to inform the research community about publication policies, practices, guidelines, and news. I also received a lot of correspondence from the community, making this a two-way street, including some feedback that led to changes in policy. I also created the AGU Space Facebook page, where AGU staff regularly post publication news and journal article highlights, plus I have occasionally chimed in.

A third initiative was increasing communication with the rest of the AGU community, raising their awareness of space physics and better integrating space physics with broader AGU activities. AGU really allowed for this through the creation of the Editors’ Vox and Editors’ Highlights sections on the Eos website, and we took full advantage of this. My editors and I have written quite a few features over the years. I even commissioned a cartoon for one of them. We can only hope that this helped the full AGU community to understand a bit of what we do in our corner of “space.”

Cartoon about Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics
A sketch by JoAnna Wendel, commissioned for an Editor’s Vox by Mike Liemohn publicizing a JGR: Space Physics special collection on Unsolved Problems in Magnetospheric Physics, of which most of the published papers were Commentaries. Credit: JoAnna Wendel

We had a notable setback during my term as Editor in Chief. In 2017, Clarivate Analytics, the company that calculates the annual Journal Impact Factor, released separate scores for each of the seven JGR titles. Prior to this, all JGR journals were given a combined JIF score, which had been hovering around 3.4. Our first score for JGR: Space Physics on its own was lower than this, in fact below the arbitrary yet somehow significant value of 3.0. While it has very slightly but steadily risen since then, I was disappointed with the initial score. I am still disappointed that I have not been able to steer the journal towards a higher number. This is, apparently, how the space physics community cites papers, and it will take a community-wide shift in attitude to change this number. That is, if we even want it to shift.

Speaking of numbers, let me recap some numerical highlights of my six years as EiC. 6772 unique manuscripts were submitted—more than 1000 a year—of which 4399 were accepted for publication. When counting the resubmission of revised manuscripts, the total number of papers processed by my editorial team is close to 15,000. I count it a big success that all our editors had a similar rate of accepting papers for publication, close to the full-team average of 65%. 95% of these manuscripts were Research Articles, with a few hundred others sprinkled among paper types such as Technical Reports: Methods, Commentaries, and Technical Reports: Data. Manuscripts spent a median of 43 days in the system from initial submission to first decision by an editor, and only 102 days before a final decision was made. These are relatively fast turnaround times.

To paraphrase the African proverb, it takes a village to run a journal. JGR: Space Physics would not exist without the help of, literally, thousands of people. Each year, we called upon anywhere from 1400 to 1600 reviewers to evaluate submitted manuscripts. Thank you to everyone that reviewed a manuscript during my term as EiC—you make our community function and I am deeply appreciative of the time and effort that you have expended to keep the journal running smoothly.

I am especially thankful for several other groups of people, all of whom I count among my friends now. There are so many people that I might not have ever met, except for my fortune to be in this position at this time. For this alone, it has been worth it. There are too many to personally name, but here are the main people that have made this role enjoyable.

Thanks to the journal program managers at AGU headquarters that I have worked with: Brian Sedora, Paige Wooden, and Randy Townsend. You have deftly guided the editorial process for the journal and provided wonderful help and advice to me over the years.

Thanks to the editorial assistants in the AGU publications department with whom I’ve worked, especially the three primary ones: Mike Crowner, Nick Violette, and Eva Kostyu. And, thanks to the others—both current and former staff—with whom I’ve corresponded over the years: Erin Syring, Carol Mannix, Robert Dawdy, Pam Calliham, Bev Turner-Holmes, Susanna Mayer, and Lesley Morton. You have made my EiC job enjoyable.

Thanks to the AGU publications directors and leaders along the way: Victoria Forlini, Jeanette Panning, Dana Rehm, Jenny Lunn, Margaret Moerchen, and Matt Giampaola. You have all very positively impacted my experience being EiC.

Thanks to others at AGU, both current and past, in publications or communications roles: Lorraine Hall-Petty, Nanci Bompey, Shane Hanlon, JoAnna Wendel, and Barb Richman. It has been fantastic getting to know and work with each of you. And, JoAnna, thanks for the sketch of the troubled magnetosphere!

A final thanks to two AGU people at the top: CEO/Executive Director Chris McEntee and Executive Vice President Brooks Hanson. You two are amazingly good for AGU, and I am very glad to call you my friends. I will miss working with both of you.

Thanks to the people at Wiley with whom I have closely interacted: Hannah Smith, Lisa Burstiner, Jennifer Satten, Swapna Padhye, and Rosemary Darigo. I am glad that you have been part of the AGU-Wiley partnership.

Thanks to all of those that have served as Associate Editors during my EiC term. This is a list of over 60 names; too many to include here. To each of you, I say thank you very much for your service. You are the super reviewers that take on extra duties and the really difficult assignments.

Thanks to other Editors and EiCs with whom I have interacted. Again, this is far too long of a list to name all of them here, but of significant note, here are the top five that have most influenced me as EiC: Bill Peterson, Bob Lysak, Minghua Zhang, Delores Knipp, and Steve Hauck. I greatly appreciate your comradery and friendship through this time.

And, finally, my editors. Please join me in extending a special congratulations to my original crew of editors, Michael Balikhin, Yuming Wang, Larry Kepko, and Alan Rodger, and to the two that joined the board in 2018, Viviane Pierrard and Natalia Ganushkina. It’s been great working with you.

As you may have heard, Alan Rodger passed away on 3 January 2020. I cannot thank him enough. He was a mentor to me throughout my time as EiC, always being a calm and steady voice of reason when we debated a new policy or handled a tough manuscript situation. He served with honor and integrity, working in this role to the very end. His death is deeply sad news for me; I have lost a good friend. I will miss him.

When I accepted the EiC role, I didn’t expect to make friends. I was only thinking of manuscript interactions. Authors don’t submit unless they think their paper is publishable and reviewers want their recommendations, including the negative ones, followed and defended. This inevitably puts the editors in tough positions deciding between two sides of a conflict, making one side angry, or at least disappointed. It’s a tough job that takes up many hours and usually just makes people mad when you decide against them. That was only part of the experience, though. Surprisingly to me, I did make friends—many of them. I also had the chance to work with some incredible people and develop delightful connections across the world.

I love my job, and I am glad that I served in this role. While there were a few difficult aspects, overall it was a very worthwhile experience. I look forward to returning to being a “regular” community member, including serving as a reviewer for the new EiC and his editorial crew…after a bit of a break from these editorial duties!

—Mike Liemohn ([email protected]; ORCID logo 0000-0002-7039-2631), Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan

Citation: Liemohn, M. (2020), Six years with JGR: Space Physics, Eos, 101, Published on 20 March 2020.
Text © 2020. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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