Invited Input To The American Geophysical Union On Their Mission

I was invited to participate in a teleconference (the first of several) with colleagues from the American Geophysical Union on assessing how well the AGU is doing and recommendations of what to do differently. The attendees at the teleconference were nominated from the different discipline and focus groups within the AGU [I was nominated by the Natural Hazards focus group]. The President-Elect of the AGU Carol Finn is to be commended for reaching out to the membership of the AGU.

The discipline areas at the AGU are

  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Biogeosciences
  • Geodesy
  • Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism
  • Hydrology
  • Ocean Sciences
  • Planetary Sciences
  • Seismology
  • Space Physics and Aeronomy
  • Tectonophysics
  • Volcanology, Geochemistry, and Petrology
  • and the focus groups are

  • Atmospheric and Space Electricity
  • Cryosphere Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Surface Processes
  • Earth and Space Science Informatics
  • Mineral and Rock Physics
  • Global Environmental Change (no Web site)
  • Natural Hazards
  • Near Surface Geophysics
  • Nonlinear Geophysics
  • Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
  • Study of the Earth’s Deep Interior
  • Societal Impacts and Policy Sciences (no Web site)
  • The AGU will release the information on this survey on their website when ready, as I understand. However, I want to use this post to summarize a few issues.

    1. First, in terms of the journals, they remain at the highest level of peer reviewed professional journals. However, the decision of Geophysical Research Letters [GRL] to permit Editors to reject papers without any reviews is a recipe for an Editor to serve even more as a gatekeeper of research papers than already occurs. More appropriately, the Editor should be a judge who collects assessments of a paper by others who, generally, will have more expertise than he or she does.

    Except for submissions that are clearly outside of the topic area of the journal or are clearly inadequate in terms of English and/or format, I never permitted my Editors to reject papers without following the peer review system when I was a Chief Editor of the Monthly Weather Review and the Journal of Atmospheric Science.

    2. I also recommended that the reviews (remaining anonymous) and the Editor’s decision on all papers (both accepted and rejected –  the later with the author’s permission) be made available on the AGU website. The rejected papers (as manuscripts) themselves would reside on the website of the authors. If their paper was subsequently accepted elsewhere, this would be noted on the author’s website.  The availability of this information will permit AGU members and others to better assess if the Editors are being objective judges of whether to accept or reject a paper.

    3. One alternative to the above recommendation,  is for an open journal sponsored by the AGU in which papers would be submitted and the review process on-line completed in public. This type of approach has been adopted by the European Geophysical Union [EGU]; i.e. see where they write

    “The EGU has extended the traditional peer review process by adding the concepts of a “Public Peer Review”, i.e. the comments of the reviewers, anonymous or attributed, are published together with the article on the web, and of “Interactive Public Discussions”, i.e. after having passed a rapid access peer review process manuscripts submitted to EGU two-stage-journals will be published first of all in the “Discussions” part of the website of that journal being then subject to interactive public discussions initiated by alerting the corresponding scientific community. The results of the public peer-review and of the interactive public discussions are then used for the final evaluation of the manuscript by the Editor and, eventually, for its publication on the website of the actual journal.”

    4. There was also a strong feeling among all of the attendees at the teleconference that interdisciplinary research needs to be more encouraged. Earth Interactions is the one AGU journal of this type, and I recommended that its use should be encouraged.

    5. To identify the interdisciplinary topics within the AGU, I suggested that each member fill in a vertical (discipline) – horizontal (focus area) matrix with where they fit.  The AGU discipline and focus areas are listed earlier in this e-mail. The AGU members would choose more than one matrix entry if they are interdisciplinary. If a member finds a missing discipline and/or focus area, this is a needed area that the AGU needs to add to its responsibilities.  

    6. In the strategic plan for the AGU, I recommended that real world observations and comparison with models be elevated to a primary strategic goal.  Also, there is a need for a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability focus as discussed in the weblog post

    A Way Forward In Climate Science Based On A Bottom-Up Resource-Based Perspective

    7. I also urged that all AGU talks be videoed and provided for download, as well as on a venue such as provided by Roku [which already includes lectures by faculty from major universities].

    8. Finally, I recommended that members vote on ALL AGU policy statements within their area of expertise [as defined by the discipline/focus matrix discussed under #5. Instead of having just a small set of AGU members decide what is the policy recommendation of the AGU, they would be required to have a recorded vote.

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