Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Derived from igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary sources and physically and chemically resilient, quartz is the dominant mineral in sandstone.  Yet, Augustsson and Reker argue, it has been underutilized as a provenance tool.  In this paper, they illustrate a methodology for utilizing quartz wavelength spectra and cathodoluminescence character of individual grains of different crystalline sources as an objective means for evaluating their provenance.  The results highlight the utility of reflectance spectra (as opposed to more subjective descriptions of “color”) to provide unique insights into the source of quartz in sedimentary rocks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Although volumetrically insignificant relative to the dominant siliciclastics of continental rift basins, strata of chemical origin can provide important information.  Mack et al. explore the origin of a syndepositional geothermal opal deposit in Pliocene axial-fluvial facies of the southern Rio Grande rift, New Mexico, using field and geochemical observations.  The data suggest that the opal and calcite precipitated from high-temperature fluid of either a deep crustal or an advecting bedrock source.  These results provide a conceptual model for recognition of similar deposits in ancient continental rifts, and insights into their hydrologic and thermal evolution.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Editor Notes

The Review Process---Some Data

“My brother is really, really slow.” – Usain Bolt

We all want our manuscripts back quickly - “The review process is too slow!  I want my manuscript done ASAP!” 

Given this fair concern regarding time, we went back into the JSR archives and did some digging.  We asked the question – “What is the slowest part of the review process?”  The answer was interesting.

We considered the time from when a manuscript is submitted until a decision is reached, and all of the benchmarks along the way – assignment to editor, assignment to Associate Editor (AE), acceptance of first reviewer to review the manuscript, acceptance of second reviewer to handle the manuscript, receipt of all reviews, AE recommendation, and editor decision. 
Of all of these factors, the slowest aspect – the weak link in the chain – turns out to be the time in peer review by the external reviewers.  Over the past 6 years, manuscripts submitted to JSR averaged nearly SEVENTY PERCENT of their time in this stage of review - sitting, waiting either for someone to accept the responsibility to review them, and actually returning their reviews to the AE. 

On average, 44% of potential reviewers either decline to review manuscripts or simply do not respond.  Hence - it takes time to find willing and able and qualified reviewers.  Then, it takes time to properly review a manuscript, and we all have “real jobs” that require our time and efforts. 

Thus, it turned back around on the community.  Although we all desire more rapid reviews, we all bear responsibility for ensuring that this happens.  Playing silly games like the one author who threatened to “filibuster” a review he was doing until he got his reviews back clearly do not help the process move any faster. 

[SIDEBAR: The reviewer who threatened to hold a manuscript “hostage” (see previous post) – who demanded prompt reviews – had been asked five times to review manuscripts in the past few years.  Only once did he accept (e.g., he declined the 80% of the time!).  So he actually bears a disproportionately large share of blame for “slowness!”] 

We believe in the peer-review process. Of course it is not perfect.  Of course, it could be done more rapidly.  But, a more rapid review process would also require reviewers (you!) to return reviews faster.  Are you willing to do this?

Some folks are.  Since 2005, there have been 23 reviewers who have handled an average of one manuscript per year (thank you!).  Interestingly, these reviewers who handle at least one manuscript per year are on average 18% faster than the remainder who carry less of the load individually.  Of these, three have done so averaging less than 10 days per review - Andrew Miall, Brian Jones, and Thomas Algeo.  A double thank you to these “superstars” who also commonly provide careful reviews; like Usain Bolt, they can say that they are faster than others!

“Wisely, and slow.  They stumble, that run fast.” – William Shakespeare
“The slower you go, the more you see” – Ted the Turtle

Having said all of this regarding a desire for more rapid reviews, as one AE wisely stated, “At the end of the day, flux in equals flux out.”  A year from now, it will not matter if your manuscript spent an extra week in review.  And, we also caution any urge to make speed of a review the primary measure of success or quality.

After all, many careful and productive reviewers take their time.  They read a manuscript, sit and reflect on the data, arguments, logic, and structure.  Then, they proceed to plow through the details, followed by another period of reflection.  These reflections are summarized in a well-written, organized, and constructive cover letter that addresses suggestions for improving the science and the presentation.  This process is not rapid.  Yet, it is essential, and it is valuable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Highlights---Gradients and Growth of Concretions

Concretions represent localized precipitation of minerals; yet, why is precipitation localized, rather than disseminated?  To explore this question, Bojanowski and Clarkson examine petrographic and geochemical characteristics of a series of siderite nodules from Mississippian shale of Scotland.  These nodules include a homogenous microstructure, but elevated δ13C and distinct isotopic shifts from center to edge, interpreted to reflect early precipitation favored by methanogenesis in microenvironments created by localized organic detritus.  These results suggest that geochemical gradients preserved in concretions may result from geochemical gradients around organic matter, rather than changing composition of water during growth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Editor Notes

Vacation: Cancelled due to JSR….?

At the Journal of Sedimentary Research, we are very fortunate to have a host of reviewers willing to comment on manuscripts and to assist authors in developing the highest quality manuscripts with the greatest impact.  We thank them for all of their time and efforts in this largely thankless job.

As with most scientific journals, we utilize the peer-review system, which requires the input of two (or more) impartial, external reviewers, an associate editor, and an editor.  These colleagues willingly volunteer their time to provide feedback and constructive suggestions for improvement, and as such, provide a service to authors, to the journal, and to the Society.

Yet, some reviewers are not prompt in returning their comments; this delay stalls the entire process, and precludes our providing authors a decision in short order. 

We had a series of comments from two authors recently that we considered interesting, and perhaps could serve as informative and educational. Please read on.

--------------------------AUTHOR #1--------------------------

Author to Editor:

Hi everybody,

concerning the time our manuscript is submitted and in review i would like to learn about a definite deadline in order to achieve some kind of progress. If there are profound difficulties with the reviews or with the reviewers, please inform me in due time so that i can discuss with my co-authors to withdraw and to send-submit somewhere else,

this manuscript is not too demanding to review, i am a reviewer by myself, i simply need to know whether you are willing to handle the manuscript in an efficient manner or whether it is resting somewhere with somebody who simply does not care enough about his former acceptance, i hope you understand...

[Signed, Author]

Reply to Author from JSR Staff
Dear ****:

Thank you for your query.  As an author, I certainly appreciate your desire for rapid publication.  As an editor, I share your wish that reviews be thorough, fair, constructive….and prompt.

Yet, as commonly happens in a peer review system, we are slowed by the time it takes reviewers to return their comments.  These types of delays are especially acute in the summer, when folks experience the pressures of field work, vacations, and other responsibilities out of the office. 

With regards to your manuscript, ...[boring details of where the manuscript stands now]

[Signed, Editor]

Reply to Editor

Dear [Editor],

i agree with all what you said, except that i consider the acceptance to review a manuscript as a very serious committment, one becomes part of the process, others worked hard, no space for playing around, no space to leave for vacation...,

please let me know whether this manuscript has any future with JSR,

[Signed, Author]

-------------------------- AUTHOR #2--------------------------

After several rounds of “when is the status of the manuscript?”/”with reviewers or the AE,” an author was informed that “The editor is away (fieldwork …), so even if the AE finished his decision, we would need to wait for [his] return.”

Author to Editor:
 The part that puzzles me is that there is alternative or replacement for [editor] if he is traveling for extensive periods of time. It appears that no executive decisions can be made at JSR when he is gone. I find that strange. The whole journal comes to a grinding halt?” [The editor was still waiting for reviews.]

Author to Editor:  After a week, the author exclaimed:
I am REALLY running out of patience here.
        If JSR wants me to do reviews and expects me to do them in a timely manner, then I think it only fair that my own submissions are turned around in a timely manner. This, however, is clearly not happening. The reviews came in several weeks ago, and I still have not any editorial decision.
        I will not do the pending review of ms. Paper #### (which I promised [an AE] to do) until my own pending submission is finally processed.
[Signed, Author]”

--------------------------A Solicitation for Feedback--------------------------
In light of the obvious angst and carefully considered thoughts of these authors, we have deliberated about the issue.  As noted in our reply, we all want careful, insightful, constructive …but rapid… reviews. 

After much debate amongst the editorial staff, we have decided to leave it open to the JSR – Paper Clips community:


We appreciate your feedback via the comment box below.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reviewer Comments

Reviewers and AEs continue to be sources of inspiration and wit, as in the following passages from some recent reviews….  

  • “I was too polite to say to the authors that I fell asleep twice reading the second half of the text.”
  • “Note to the Editor: PLEASE don't send me anymore of these dang modeling papers. I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than read that stuff…”
  •  “The meaning is clear, but if you could find a more eloquent way to phrase this, that would be good. No need for Shakespeare or Ian McEwan but at the moment it reads more like Dan Brown….”
  •  “Good, but might still be useful to add a couple of sentences about how these fault maps were derived by the original authors? For example, if they used remote sensing images that showed carbonate bodies, there might be quite a nasty loop of circular reasoning in this method i.e. fault is inferred by original authors from presence of elongate carbonate body, fault then used by you to infer that the fault causes the elongate carbonate body, and, as Darth Vader once said "The circle is now complete" ;-)

Thanks again to the reviewers and AEs for all of their contributions to helping JSR present the best science most effectively.  It isn’t always easy…but it is fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Although widely recognized, the nature and rate of transitions between end-member “greenhouse” and “icehouse” climatic states through geologic history remain enigmatic.  In this paper, Holland and Patzkowsky explore the style of cyclicity in the Late Ordovician Bighorn Dolomite, representing a time interval with isotopic evidence for a prolonged ice buildup despite elevated pCO2 and global temperatures.  They document how this succession preserves systematic changes in the presence and type of cyclicity and subaerial exposure.  The results of this study suggest that the cyclicity in the Bighorn Dolomite closely reflects the rate and character of this short-lived, but important, paleoclimatic transition, and illustrate how shallow-water carbonate successions provide insight into other climate transitions.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Although central to accurate prediction of subsurface porosity and permeability, assessing the influence of oil emplacement on compaction, solution, and cementation processes in sandstone has remained enigmatic.  Sathar et al. describe a series of lab experiments that systematically alter the ratio of brine to oil and quantify volumetric strain and characterize its expression.  The results illustrate that as brine:oil ratio decreases, the generally increasing strain is accommodated less by pressure solution and more by grain fracturing, but only to a 5:95 ratio, whereupon volumetric strain decreases.  The results of this study suggest the important role of oil on the amount and character of compaction and cementation in sandstone.