Geology & Geophysics Editors' Vox

The View from Six Years Atop the Masthead of JGR: Oceans

The outgoing editor in chief of JGR: Oceans reflects on his tenure and developments in ocean science research over recent years.

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In 2014, when I was first asked to take on the Editor in Chief duties for JGR: Oceans, I had little idea of what I was taking on. Six years later I can report that it has been an enormously challenging and rewarding undertaking. I have been privileged to work with a remarkable team of Editors who, although we rarely meet in person, have become greatly cherished and trusted colleagues. I will really miss our interactions. The daily work of the journal involves close coordination with AGU staff, and I cannot speak highly enough of them. The professional expertise shown and personal care taken has been a constant source of pleasure; the rare face-to-face meetings only enhanced this experience. 

The journal has grown significantly over recent years with about a 20 percent increase in the number of manuscripts submitted, and we recently topped 1,000 submissions per year for the first time. Our Citation Index ranking has also increased.

The most remarkable growth has been in submissions from China, which now equal those from the United States, and significantly exceed that number when combined with submissions from the rest of Asia. Looking to the future, we will need to increase the representation of editors from Asia on the board.

Membership of AGU’s Ocean Sciences section is about 30 percent female, which is broadly consistent with the gender representation of articles submitted to the journal. However, the same gender balance has not been seen on the Editorial Board. When I started my tenure, there were no female Editors and only two female Associate Editors, who expressed a strong desire to move on. I immediately made concerted efforts to recruit female scientists for the board but faced firmly voiced rejection – there was concern over potentially heavy editorial workload and too few had Associate Editor experience. This was deeply concerning.  

However, two visionary and highly capable women, Nadia Pinardi and Marjorie Friedrichs, rose to the occasion, joining our team of Editors alongside Don Chambers, Rob Hetland, Kris Karnauskas, Brad Moran, Ryan Mulligan, Lie Yauw Oey, Laurie Padman, and Lei Zhou. Their contributions have been exemplary, and the trust placed in them has been fully confirmed. We now also have two new female Associate Editors who also are thriving in their roles. As I hand over the Editor in Chief chair to Lisa Beal, I know strong female representation on the Editorial Board is clearly now in our future. 

Another challenge faced over recent years has been the demand for data accompanying scientific publication to be deposited in a trusted repository that supports FAIR data principles. A great many ocean scientists rebelled at this, and some resorted to extraordinary reasoning and excuses. However, I am happy to report that the battle is largely won and we now see a large number of submissions with FAIR data storage. Constant vigilance is required, but we are in far better shape than when I began my tenure. 

I would particularly like to highlight the remarkable success of a series of special collections devoted to particular themes including the Arctic, the Gulf Oil Spill, and the Indonesian Archipelago. The expedition style of ocean science greatly lends itself to presenting research results in this format. My sincere thanks to those who have shepherded these collections to fruition. 

The Editor in Chief of a journal gets a grandstand view of all the papers submitted and thus a sense of the evolving research themes and hot topics. What can I say about the evolution of ocean science research after handling well over 5,000 submissions? 

I have been amazed at the number of submissions on eddies, but the mesoscale revolution was ignited by Russian scientists some 50 years ago and one wonders what might come next. Observations of the transient tracers (3H, 14C, CFCs), also initiated 50 years ago, have contributed enormously to ocean science through the establishment of transit times for water masses and the exact determination of oxygen consumption rates. But these signals have now become so blurred, or have decayed to such minute levels, that this era of science will very soon end. What can replace this? The era of climate change is now fully upon us. Again, 50 years ago only a few visionaries carried out the pioneering work, but the impacts are now visible throughout the oceans. The obvious first order effects of sea level rise and melting ice are being tackled with extraordinary energy and skill; however, the more puzzling changes in the oxygen status of the ocean and the remarkably rapid polar migration of marine species are bringing new challenges. 

For those who might consider volunteering to serve on an AGU journal Editorial Board, I would note that these are serious duties that can have real and often immediate impact on young careers. But I know from the words of heartfelt thanks received from authors whose work has been carefully guided through the system far exceed the occasional petulant outburst of disappointment. It’s worth it. 

 Peter Brewer ([email protected]), outgoing Editor in Chief, JGR: Oceans, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Citation: Brewer, P. (2021), The view from six years atop the masthead of JGR: Oceans, Eos, 102, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO154690. Published on 25 February 2021.
Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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