Thursday, December 20, 2012

RIP—Print JSR. Like Pulling Band-Aids Off Hairy Arms....

“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Now is a time to stop.  As many readers know, JSR is moving to an all digital format in 2013 – SEPM will no longer print hard copies of the journal.  This change is a major shift in the journal, which has published on paper continuously since 1931, as the oldest journal in sedimentary geology.  This change has been coming for years, but apparently still surprises and disappoints some dedicated JSR readers.  For example, here is a recent email note from an SEPM member, copied verbatim.

Shocking news from SEPM concerning its politics to get out of general printing of J. Sed. Res. and Palaios and to publish preferentially electronically in future…. This might be the way of the 21th century, but I always appreciated the days, when the new issues of the journals arrived at home, to sit in a comfortable armchair, scroll  through the content and to read interesting or even stimulating contents. Last not least it was a pleasure to put the issues on the shelf, where I assembled J. Sed.Pet. since 1981 and Palaios from Vol. 1 (palaeontologists apparently are collectors).  Compared to 2012, the subscription prices for 2013 for “print on demand” increased in such an dramatic rate that I will not afford that. I am not interested to receive electronic version for my private pleasure.  I therefore decided – and not so easily – to cancel my membership … after 31 years.”

As with SEPM as a whole, we at JSR aim to serve the community of sedimentary geologists and paleontologists, and so receiving a letter like this is somewhat disturbing.  As such, we would like to take the opportunity to briefly explain some of the reasoning behind the decision.

SEPM journals form the financial backbone of the society.  The vast majority of the society revenue comes from the journals, and this net positive revenue supports the Special Publications, Annual Meetings, Special Conferences, and so on.

Historically, however, trends in journal expenses and revenue are clear and illustrate that: 1) on-line versions are more profitable than the print versions; 2) the number of those receiving hard copies has steadily declined; and 3) continuing to print the paper versions has become more and more expensive with time – actually representing a revenue drain, for an increasingly smaller number of print subscribers.  In fact, the society has published paper editions of the journals at a net loss annually, estimated to be in excess of $75,000 for 2012.  Although your humble blogger has forgotten the numbers with that last glass of egg nog, the cost of printing each and every issue of the year was equal to the annual revenue from subscribers – and the difference between the cost and the price paid was basically subsidized by everyone else, those who elected to receive only the electronic version.

[To be clear, however, SEPM does provide Print-on-Demand at cost through a vendor.  Or you can print out your own hard copies.  More info on POD will be forthcoming….]  

These financial constraints worked in concert with changing perceptions and utilization of journals.  Increasing journal prices and decreasing library budgets lead to constraints, and many libraries are opting to go for only one version – the on-line version.  Similarly, many (but certainly not all) of our consumers are requesting ease of access – facilitated by on-line publications.  The official version of JSR papers have been on-line for years now, and JSR is available your mobile device as well.

Although the majority of scientists suggest they search and read journals on-line, it is true that many still enjoy reading hard copies, including many SEPM members.  For us, the transition may be somewhat difficult – but we will make it.  But we hope is like one SEPM council member said during the discussion of the transition – “…phasing it out would be sort of like slowly pulling a band-aid off my hairy leg.  Better to yank! 

In The Five People You Meet In Heaven, Mitch Albom wrote,“All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.” We thank our readers for working with us through this transition and we look forward to continuing to pursue unique avenues for communicating the best science!  We welcome your feedback.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Highlights – Mixed System Reef Diagenesis

Although siliciclastic-influenced carbonate systems are common through the stratigraphic record, their diagenesis remains poorly constrained, especially in the context of climatic variability.  Madden and Wilson describe diagenetic alteration of Neogene delta-front coral reefs that formed coevally with nearly continuous siliciclastic influx in a humid equatorial setting from equatorial Borneo.  The data show that continental groundwater flow driven by basin-margin palaeohydrology resulted in pervasive stabilization and calcitization, features rare in arid or temperate counterparts. The results provide an analog for patterns of diagenesis and porosity distribution in nearshore marine carbonates along predominantly siliciclastic coastlines, such as in delta-front, fan-delta, or siliciclastic inner-shelf settings.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Highlights – Out of This World Shapes

Akin to the Earth’s, the lunar surface is covered by a regolith of clastic particles; yet, the processes that impact these particles is quite distinct.  To better understand the potential character of the lunar surface and its impact on spacecraft, Rickman et al. describe results aimed at characterizing shape, a fundamental (yet poorly constrained) descriptive attribute of simulants of these particles. The results illustrate a range of techniques that will be useful for systematically describing lunar samples, when they become available.

Particle shape in simulants of the lunar regolith by Doug Rickman, Christopher Immer, Philip Metzger, Emily Dixon, Matthew Pendleton, and Jennifer Edmunson

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Highlights – A Flysch-y Story

Stratigraphy records the plate tectonic history of the Earth.  In this paper, Shaulis et al. describe the nature, timing and rates of orogenic flysch deposition in the late Paleozoic Ouachita trough on the southeastern Laurentian margin using U-Pb dates of zircon.  The results document late Mississippian tectono-sedimentary dynamics, including changing rates of accumulation related to a submarine fan complex interpreted to have built longitudinally along the basin axis.  These results provide new insights into the character and dynamics of flysch sedimentation in closing remnant ocean basins.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Research and Publication Ethics

Authors, reviewers, and editors all have rights and responsibilities during the publication process. Unfortunately, there have been several recent situations of unethical behavior by individuals and groups in association with SEPM publications.

To facilitate clear and explicit communication of expectations, SEPM recently provided on the SEPM web page a new statement of ethics in research and publications that outlines general principles of research and publication ethics and acceptable conduct. This general policy statement includes aspects of:

1) Author Inclusion and Exclusion;
2) Data and Copyright Issues;
3) Editor and Reviewer Roles; and
4) Research Misconduct – Recognition and Guidelines for Action. 

As written, the statement includes eleven guidelines and principles cover important topics that should be read and understood by anyone who submits or reviews manuscripts for publication by SEPM, including JSR.  This statement can be found on-line at:  Please take a few seconds to review this material, and hopefully avoid any future issues.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reviewer Comments

Oh, JSR reviewers.  As you make constructive and insightful comments to help authors improve their manuscripts, you also provide some really entertaining, but perhaps less penetrating, moments. Some recent comments (verbatim) by reviewers in this latter category include the following:

  • “This reads like a mystery novel, or a poker tourney, with so much dodging and hedging. Call a spade a spade, and get on with it.”
  • “Hopefully they will send it somewhere else so I don't have to review it a 4th time!!”
  • “This is one of the worst paper I never reviewed!”
  • “I even got to the point where I began to question my own judgment - can it really be that bad?”
  • Sorry for delay - I'll spare you all the usually lame excuses for why I'm so lame; lameness just has a way of creeping up on me this time of year….”

Beyond reviewer comments, one person declined to accept to review a manuscript. His reason for declining to review was quite simple: "Even the title is terminally boring." 

There is a message for authors in his comment, or so it would seem.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Highlights—Deep-Water Jumps

Stratigraphy commonly is interpreted within hierarchical, or scale dependent, frameworks that subdivide deposits based on interpretations of distinct jumps in characteristics at certain scales. Here Straub and Pyles use the compensation index to describe the architecture of stratigraphy exposed in outcrops of submarine-fan strata in the Carboniferous Ross Sandstone representing contrasting architectural styles, including predominantly lobe elements and predominantly channel elements. Results indicate statistically significant increases in the strength of compensation across larger hierarchical levels, consistent with hierarchical interpretations of stratigraphy, and that lobe elements stack more compensationally than channel elements. The results are interpreted to reflect compensation increases along a longitudinal transect through this distributive submarine fan, and that some characteristics of sedimentary systems are hierarchical, whereas others are fractal.