Geology & Geophysics Editors' Vox

Why Contribute to a Scientific Book?

Editing a book can be a rewarding professional experience, but there are misconceptions about scientific books in terms of their quality, value, and discoverability.

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AGU believes that books still play an important role in the scientific literature and in professional development. As part of our publications program, we continue to publish traditional books but are also seeking to innovate in how we collate, present, and distribute material. However, we are aware that some scientists are skeptical about the value of being involved in book projects, either as a volume editor or as a chapter author. One common concern is that the process of preparing books for publication is much slower than journals. There is also a perception that book content is not as easily discoverable as journal articles. Some people may feel that the era of the book has passed now that technology has changed the ways in which we find and interact with written material. Here we give responses to some of the questions and concerns that we frequently hear and explain advantages of choosing AGU-Wiley for a book project.

Why should I choose to publish a book with AGU?

AGU’s publications program has a strong, authoritative reputation in the Earth and space sciences. This includes a six-decade history of publishing books, with the long-standing Geophysical Monograph Series being the best-known part of the collection. Publishing with AGU is a mark of quality. All individual book chapters undergo full peer review to ensure quality and rigor, and entire book manuscripts undergo a full assessment by a member of the Editorial Board before being approved for publication.

Does AGU only publish scientific monographs?

We offer a home for books on all topics in Earth, environmental, planetary and space sciences, as well as publications that support the geoscience community on topics such as careers, the workforce, and ethics. We publish scientific research, advanced level textbooks, reference works, field guides, technical manuals, and more. We want our books to be relevant and useful for the twenty-first century classroom, laboratory, and workplace so we are open to ideas for different types of books and exploring new ways of publishing material.

What are the advantages of edited books over journal special collections?

While there are some similarities between a special collection of articles in a journal on a particular theme and an edited book, we believe that the book format offers a few distinct advantages. First, books give more space and freedom. You can tell a more complete story in a book by organizing chapters into a deliberate order that presents a narrative arc through all aspects of the topic. Second, books are a great medium for interdisciplinary topics. You can pull together a mixture of material that may not have a comfortable home in a single journal. Participating in a book project is thus an opportunity to go to the borders of your discipline and collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines, including in the social sciences.

What kind of experience will I have as a book editor with AGU-Wiley?

There are staff in the AGU Publications Department and at Wiley dedicated to AGU’s books program. We are committed to offering a great experience to volume editors, chapter authors, and peer reviewers, and to producing books of the highest quality. In addition, the AGU Books Editorial Board, comprising members of the scientific community, is on hand to support editors throughout the publication process. The editors (or authors, if an authored volume) of each book are assigned a member of the Editorial Board to offer 1:1 interaction, feedback, and advice whether you are a first-timer or have prior experience.

How can people find and cite my book content?

Book chapters are much more discoverable these days. AGU’s books are hosted on Wiley Online Library, where whole books and book chapters come up in search results alongside journal articles. Not everyone needs or wants a whole book, so individual book chapters can be downloaded as PDF files. Each book chapter has its own unique DOI making it more discoverable and citable. AGU’s books are also indexed by the major indexing services, such as Web of Science, SCOPUS, and the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System, enabling the tracking of citations.

How will my book get promoted?

AGU is a network of 130,000 Earth and space science enthusiasts worldwide. Once a book is published, it will be promoted to the whole network, as well as to targeted subject groups, via blogs, social media, newsletters, and more. At AGU Fall Meeting, your published book will be on display where as many as 30,000 people have the chance to see it. In addition, Wiley, as an international publisher, has a global network for marketing and sales.

How are AGU and Wiley adapting to changes in publishing?

Scholarly books tend to be slightly behind the curve in terms of new technologies but AGU, in partnership with Wiley, are testing new publishing models in response to changes in the landscape of scholarly publishing, science funding, and user demand. For example, in 2020 we piloted the Open Access publishing model for two books (Carbon in Earth’s Interior and Large Igneous Provinces) and are exploring ways to make this a publishing option for anyone with the funding for open access. We are also currently exploring a chapter-by-chapter publication model to make book content available faster.

What are the professional and personal benefits of doing a book?

There is a perception that books are written by people at the end of their careers and that they do not offer the same advantages as journal articles in terms of scholarly value. However, anyone can contribute to a book, and it counts as part of tenure or promotion applications in many places. Acting as an editor of a book is a chance to work with many other scientists, both those writing chapters and those acting as peer reviewers. This is an opportunity to widen your professional network; to work with new people, perhaps from different disciplines; and to make your name more recognizable, including by those who are not directly following your work. Editing a book can also be regarded as service to your scientific community. Your book may become the definitive book in the field and define the rest of your career.

We welcome ideas for new books at any time. Please contact me or a member of the Editorial Board, and we will be happy to discuss.

―Jenny Lunn ([email protected]; ORCID logo 0000-0002-4731-6876), Director of Publications, AGU

Citation: Lunn, J. (2021), Why contribute to a scientific book?, Eos, 102, https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO159670. Published on 16 June 2021.
Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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