Do we need more #OA #EGU journals?

I noted once or twice on Twitter my wish for a short letter-type journal under the auspices of the EGU and/or Copernicus. And that is although I am sceptical with respect to the value of such journals – i.e. GRL, Nature, Science.

A colleague noted years ago, these journals were meant to highlight important findings with subsequent thorough articles giving the details. The first step still happens, the second not so much. An obvious problem with the so-called Glam Journals is their focus on the sex-appeal of a letter. It is unfair to extend this to all letter-journals. The Royal Meteorological Society’s Atmospheric Science Letters [ASL] do operate differently. I am not sure, whether this is by design or due to the kind of submitted papers. Thus, I willingly do not speak of Glam Journals, but of letter journals. I hypothesize, all of them are interested in a quick submission-to-publication time and want to create (scientific) debate. The focus on sex-appeal and high-impact plus the quick throughput time may potentially result in less rigour in the evaluation of submitted papers – the message wins over the science. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a sexy message appears to tend to get more publicity especially in the times of Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr. In turn, it becomes harder to correct potentially false impressions.

So bascially I argue against letter-journals. Nevertheless, I see value in such a journal published under the EGU banner, since their typical open-discussion phase allows to show why a certain short letter is enough and does not require the attention of a full article. This is on top of the fact that their journals are open-access and that open-access at Copernicus is cheaper than elsewhere although it still isn’t as low-cost as PeerJ or even the Journal of Machine Learning Research.

I am aware that a rather quick throughput-time is not the strength of the Copernicus-system. Thus, if not only the discussion-paper has to be published quickly, but also the final paper, a letter-journal at Copernicus may have to work differently from the other Copernicus-journals. But maybe that isn’t even necessary, since the discussion-paper is published already.

What would be scope and purpose of such a journal? Let’s start with the more complicated issue, the purpose. Let us quote ASL “Through its ability to publish shorter contributions more rapidly than conventional journals, ASL offers a framework that promotes new understanding and creates scientific debate…,” and GRL “publishes high-impact, innovative, and timely research on major scientific advances in all the major geoscience disciplines. Papers … should have broad and immediate implications in their discipline or across the geosciences.” On the one hand, a fast turn-around open-access-letter journal at Copernicus could try to provide a more open venue for high-impact research. On the other hand, it just could be the (open-access, open-review) place to submit short papers to that don’t warrant bigger efforts. I would appreciate both.

The scope of the journal may take two directions. If it focusses on high-impact, it should endorse all the EGU’s sections: Atmospheric Sciences, Biogeosciences, Climate: Past, Present & Future, Cryospheric Sciences, Earth Magnetism & Rock Physics, Energy, Resources and the Environment, Earth and Space Science Informatics, Geodesy, Geodynamics, Geosciences Instrumentation and Data Systems, Geomorphology, Geochemistry, Mineralogy, Petrology & Volcanology, Hydrological Sciences, Natural Hazards, Nonlinear Processes in Geosciences, Ocean Sciences, Planetary and Solar System Sciences, Seismology, Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology, Soil System Sciences, Solar-Terrestrial Sciences, Tectonics and Structural Geology. Then, it also could include the interaction of any of these sections with the anthroposphere, also known as social sciences.

As one may infer from my online-presences, I am biased towards the Climate and Earth-System sciences (sidenote: a correct definition of Earth-System should likely include all EGU-sections). Thus, a quick-short contribution journal for me would probably exclude a lot of solid-earth and space sciences or, to be more specific, would probably include the word “Climate” in the title and subsume Atmosphere, Ocean, Biosphere, Land”-surface”, and Cryosphere.

Would I be willing to pitch any of these two possible journals to EGU and Copernicus? Yes. However, I would require a lot of co-workers and would rather not be in charge, because the ones in charge should have some kind of security/temporal perspective in their employment situation, which isn’t given here.


So far so good. However, I have another EGU/Copernicus related note. Victor Venema recently tweeted that Climate of the Past is apparently concentrating on pure-paleo

If this is the case, there is a notable gap in the large selection of EGU journals with respect to climate science:

  • The atmospheric sciences have ACP: “The main subject areas comprise atmospheric modelling, field measurements, remote sensing, and laboratory studies of gases, aerosols, clouds and precipitation, isotopes, radiation, dynamics, biosphere interactions, and hydrosphere interactions”
  • but also AMT: “The main subject areas comprise the development, intercomparison, and validation of measurement instruments and techniques of data processing and information retrieval for gases, aerosols, and clouds.”
  • OS publishes on “on all aspects of ocean science”
  • TC is interested in “all aspects of frozen water and ground on Earth and on other planetary bodies”
  • HESS focusses on “hydrology, placed within a holistic Earth system science context”
  • ESD takes an “interdisciplinary perspective … of the whole Earth system and global change [and] solicits contributions that investigate these various interactions and the underlying mechanisms
  • Additionally there is GI focussing on geoscientific instruments, where for example this earth surface temperature paper was published.
  • And there is also the non-EGU journal Earth System Science Data that, however, is completely focussed on data (sets), not data handling.
  • CP on the other hand is described as being interested in “climate history of the Earth. CP covers all temporal scales of climate change and variability, from geological time through to multidecadal studies of the last century. Studies focusing mainly on present and future climate are not within scope.”

One might argue that anything related to future change fits into ESD, or if concentrating on one compartment into ACP, OS, TC or HESS, and I tend to agree. However, studies on the present climate do not really fit anywhere from my point of view. Put differently, it is unclear what is the present climate: the last 30 years, the last 60 years, the last 100 years, the historical period since 1850? As Victor experienced this may lead to strange verdicts:

Indeed, I have to admit, I was surprised when I first saw the Hadley Center data-assessment papers in CPD. They seem(ed) to be misplaced. However, the related EGU-section is “Climate: Past, Present & Future”. If it does not provide a venue for publication one looks for the best fit. This, in turn, is CP and there is a good argument that any effort to obtain new information from past measurements that does not focus on the future is related to past climates.

Extending the scope CP to include present climate is possibly (or probably?) not a wise choice, it may require a too large increase of the editorial board? Thus, there is a gap or a grey area in the EGU-publishing strategy that lacks a clear venue for studies on understanding recently elapsed or ongoing climate variability.

Would I be willing to be part of efforts to fill the gap. Of course, but there are many better suited researchers.


4 thoughts on “Do we need more #OA #EGU journals?

  1. Reading the beginning, I was thinking: I know a gap. 🙂 Thanks for taking in up in a blog post.

    I see no reason not to make a full climate journal out of Climate of the Past. But one could also make a new journal for the climate of the Present & Future. If we think on climate time scales and the present would include the instrumental period, that would help me a lot.

  2. While filling the washing machine – yes really – I thought about two tiers or so for CP. CP 1 taking everything from deep time until ..? CP 2 as CP recent past where the recent past is yesterday until early modern times e.g. ~1500 or 1600 or 1650.

  3. Certainly there would be a market for a journal that concentrated upon analyses of the instrumental period of record. CP kinda does that and e.g. the HadISDH papers are in there. But the treatment seems very uneven and I agree that the fit is far from perfect. It seems a shame in the era of open data not to have an OA journal in which one can publish new datasets and analyses of the instrumental data record.

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