Peer Review: A Foundational Component of Our Science

by Keith L. Seitter, CCM, AMS Executive Director
This week we join many other scientific publishers celebrating Peer Review Week to highlight the importance of high-quality peer review in the scientific process. The process of peer reviewing research results has been an indispensable component of the modern scientific enterprise: when scientists talk about having reached a consensus in some area of research, they mean that there is a consensus in the peer-reviewed literature. This week gives us an opportunity to focus on the importance of peer review while also recognizing the dedication of researchers around the world who make considerable commitments of time to ensure its continued success while usually receiving little or no explicit credit for those contributions.
When a researcher submits a manuscript presenting research results to a high-quality journal like those AMS publishes, the editor of the journal selects several experts in relevant specialties to review of the manuscript. These experts make sure the author(s) have carried out their experiments, observations, and/or analysis following sound practices and that their conclusions can be justified from the data and analysis they have provided. In their reviews, these experts identify weaknesses or flaws in experimental design or reasoning and suggest additional research and analysis that might be required, as well as other ways to improve the paper.
The editor collects these peer reviews and determines if the manuscript can be made suitable for publication. If the science is flawed and the paper cannot be made acceptable with a reasonable amount of additional work, the paper is rejected. More than one in three manuscripts submitted to AMS journals are rejected. The editor’s decision is provided to the authors, along with the full set of reviews with the names of the reviewers removed (unless the reviewer chooses otherwise), along with the editor’s decision. If the paper has not been rejected, the authors follow the guidance of the editors and reviewers to revise the paper, which then may face additional peer review under the editor’s direction. If the paper can reach the point that the editor is satisfied with the quality of the work, the manuscript is accepted for publication.
Peer review, even when implemented in the rigorous manner used by AMS, is not perfect, of course. Occasionally important research is initially rejected in peer review, or fundamentally incorrect research survives peer review to publication only to be shown later to be incorrect. Peer review done well, however, greatly reduces the chance of publication of poor or incorrect science, and experience has shown that overall the process is extremely successful. That is why scientists depend virtually exclusively on results presented in rigorously peer-reviewed journals and why major scientific assessments—like the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—rely on peer-reviewed literature from well-established, high-quality journals like those published by AMS.
Astute readers will have noticed that I refer to “high quality journals” multiple times above. It is important to make that distinction because there are journals vying for authors’ papers (and the income they provide) that do not put the time or expense into doing peer review with the rigor employed by the AMS journals. Authors, and the scientific enterprise itself, are best served by those journals that invest the resources needed to do the peer review to the highest standards. AMS journals enjoy membership in the elite group of such high quality journals that serve the atmospheric and related sciences.
Let me close with note of appreciation for those who maintain the very high standards of peer review for the AMS journals.  While the professional staff at AMS does a wonderful job of ensuring smooth and expedient reviews, as part of a positive author experience that is among the best in scientific publishing, it is the volunteers who serve as chief editors, editors, associate editors, and reviewers who dedicate the time and energy to maintain the AMS journals as world-class publications. And the reviewers especially deserve credit given that their efforts are, by design, mostly done anonymously for the collective good of science. All of us owe these dedicated individuals our thanks.

Your AMS Membership Has Never Been More Valuable

by Keith Seitter, CCM, AMS Executive Director
(From Dr. Seitter’s column in the June 2016 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.)
There are a variety of ways to think about the word “value” and to apply that term in the context of being an AMS member. Those who consider the value of membership in terms of financial benefit are likely to recognize that their subscriptions to BAMS and Physics Today, as well as any of several types of member discounts (such as that for meeting registration) can easily offset the cost of dues.
While fully appreciating the importance of member discounts on AMS journals, Weatherwise magazine, books, merchandise, meetings, and other services, I have always tended to think of the value of membership in terms of the less tangible aspects—and this has been true for me reaching back far before I was part of the AMS staff. My AMS membership makes me part of a vibrant community of scientists and professionals with common goals. I have always taken great pride in being associated with an organization that promotes the advancement of knowledge and understanding about our environment, that stands up for the integrity of science, and that helps ensure that the scientific understanding coming from the research community is translated into effective actions that protect lives and property.
In addition, my involvement with AMS—especially early in my career—opened up avenues for professional growth that helped shape my career in important ways. Volunteer service with AMS drew me deeper into the community and introduced me to colleagues who have become lifelong friends. AMS meetings further expanded opportunities for networking and collaboration, which allowed my work to be more productive and successful. Many of the most important turning points in my career can be traced back to my membership with AMS.
I was talking with a longtime member a few months ago about why he enjoys his volunteer service with AMS so much. His words struck me as clear and on target. He said, “The Society is not here to give you things. The Society is here to help you get the most out of your professional career.” I think there are thousands of us in AMS who would agree with this, and who have experienced firsthand the value of being part of an organization that represents a truly incredible community of scientists and other professionals dedicated to serving society. The impact of the science and services provided by the AMS community has never been greater, and the continually expanding role of AMS in serving and representing this community means your AMS membership has never been more valuable.
With new services coming online, we think the tangible benefits of being an AMS member have never been more significant, while the intangible value—the many ways that AMS promotes community and collaboration—also continues to strengthen and grow. If you have colleagues who are not AMS members, but should be, I hope you will encourage them to join AMS and become part of this truly unique community.

AMS Summer Policy Colloquium–An Investment in Your Future

One of the special, life-shaping mid-career experiences AMS offers is the  Summer Policy Colloquium in Washington, D.C. The AMS Policy Program is accepting registrations now for the 2016 Colloquium, held 5-14 June; don’t delay, because the slots fill up well in advance. Grad students (and faculty from minority-serving institutions) can apply for NSF support to attend. The deadline for those funding applications is 31 March.
Here we share the first-hand impressions of a graduate student who attended last year’s colloquium.
by Alice Alpert, MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 
My favorite moment was adding the “poison pill” amendment to the amended HR2380 to ensure that the opposing party could not vote yes on it. I doubt that real senators laugh as much as we did. “We” were the participants of the 2015 AMS Summer Policy Colloquium – scientists and federal agency employees studying weather, water, and climate. Every year, AMS hosts this 10-day intensive program designed to give attendees an intensive introduction to the policy process.
Over the 10 days, we learned about and engaged with science policy through talks by current practitioners and hands-on activities. Each day focused on a different topic, including an introduction to science policy; practical perspectives from executive, legislative, diplomatic, private, and nonprofit sectors; science communication; and executive leadership. Speakers from throughout the federal government and beyond described their personal career paths, discussed how they practice science policy, and dispensed nuggets of advice. Woven throughout the event were practical simulations, including a role-playing activity of the legislative process in which we amended a bill and negotiated for a final vote. In the end my senator’s poison pill was misguided, but the lesson was not lost.
There are many aspects contributing to the great success of the policy colloquium that together create an immersive and exhilarating learning environment. Instrumental to the experience is the leadership of the AMS staff, Bill Hooke, Ya’el Seid-Green, and Paul Higgins. They meticulously but flexibly plan the event, reach out to high-level public servants, listen carefully to feedback, and most of all show a profound respect for the participants.
Another key ingredient is the invited speakers from high levels of government. They provide concrete examples of what science policy is and what it means both in day-to-day activities and in larger abstract goals. From my own perspective, embarking upon a career in science policy from a PhD is difficult because there is no one specific path to take, and indeed it is hard to see any from within academia. The speakers in the SPC program, from a former Congressman to senior White House advisors to agency heads, provide examples of specific roles and make a future in science policy much clearer. They often started out with similar paths to those of the participants, and in many cases are actually colloquium alumni who launched a career from this program. Their words were inspiring and will remain with me in the years to come.
The last ingredient is the participants themselves, coming at a range of career stages from academia, federal agencies, and the private sector. Our range of backgrounds and experiences meant we could provide each other valuable perspectives. Many of us in academia feel like we do not quite fit in, and we are our own greatest resource in connecting with each other to create a pool of support. It was exhilarating to meet the people who I am sure will become my colleagues.
This program is an incredible investment both for the future of policy for science and science for policy. It develops the links to strengthen financial support for the work of the scientific community as well as enhances our ability to produce science that serves society.
Personally, I have planned to enter science policy since before I started my doctoral studies. I have been involved in student policy groups, participated in congressional visit days, done oh-so-many informational interviews, taken relevant classes, and researched policy fellowships. But all that did not illuminate the world of science policy in the way the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium did. I found role models, and discovered in myself a voice that I had never heard before. I return to my PhD research energized and eagerly anticipating a future in science policy.

AMS Members Surveyed on Climate Change

by Ray Ban, Andrea Bleistein, and Paul Croft, of the AMS Committee to Improve Climate Change Communication (CICCC)
Most AMS Members apparently agree that there is conflict among their colleagues in the Society on the issue of climate change. Those who perceive the conflict on this issue generally see it as at least a partly or somewhat positive thing, but at least some of them—29%, feel reluctance to bring up the topic of global warming at AMS meetings and functions.
Despite the perception of conflict, 82% of voting Members feel AMS should help to educate the public about global warming and 67% think AMS should help educate policy makers about it.
In fact, Members themselves are already involved in this outreach. They are spending significant time educating the public and policy makers about climate change—the median is 10 hours for this past year, and the mean is 55 hours!
Those are some of the key preliminary findings so far from our recent survey of AMS voting Members, e-mailed in December 2011. The survey was a collaboration between our committee, CICCC, and Dr. Ed Maibach at George Mason University. We asked all 7,197 AMS voting Members about their varied perspectives about climate change. Specifically, we hoped to learn about Members’ assessment of the evidence, perception of conflict among our members, views about AMS’s role in public education, and personal involvement in public education activities.
With a response rate of 26%, the survey results may not be easy to extrapolate to the membership as a whole. Nonetheless, we’ve made the preliminary results, which have been vetted by CICCC members and GMU researchers, available for you on the AMS website.
The AMS Commission on the Weather and Climate Enterprise established CICCC in early 2011 to facilitate communication among members of the weather and climate community so as to foster greater understanding about the spectrum of views on climate change. In addition to evaluating responses, the Committee and its partners held two workshops at the 2012 AMS Annual Meeting to facilitate dialogue about climate change within the AMS membership. More such events are planned for the near future.

Weather-Ready or Not, Here We Come

The year so far has been expensive when it comes to disasters. Make that record-breaking expensive. According to NOAA, with nine separate big-money disasters, the losses have already reached $35 billion. In response, the NWS—in partnership with other government agencies, researchers, and the private sector—is building a plan to make the country “Weather-ready.”  Earlier this week, officials from various agencies participated in a group discussion with the goal of understanding the threats extreme weather poses today and what can be done about it. Specifically, they want people nationwide to develop plans they can implement quickly to protect themselves when severe weather strikes.
“Building a Weather-ready nation is everyone’s responsibility,” comments Eddie Hicks, U.S. Council of International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM USA) president. “It starts with the NWS and emergency managers, like IAEM USA, but it ends with action by individuals and businesses to reduce their risks. The more prepared communities are for destructive weather, the less of a human and economic toll we’ll experience in the future, and that’s a great thing for the country.”
The discussion resulted in a list of necessities to make a Weather-ready nation. They include improved precision of weather and water forecasts and effective communication of risk to local authorities; improved weather decision support services with new initiatives such as the development of mobile-ready emergency response specialist teams; strengthening joint partnerships to enhance community preparedness; and working with weather enterprise partners and the emergency management community to enhance safety and economic output and effectively manage environmental resources.
John Malay, president of the AMS, took part in the announcement and emphasized that the partnership among the three weather sectors—all represented in the AMS membership—is essential in achieving the vision. “We share the mission of informing and protecting our citizens, which is what this enterprise and initiative are all about,” he comments. “Given the resources to grow our scientific understanding of our complex environment through observations and research and to apply this knowledge in serving society, we can do amazing things together.”
You can download a pdf copy of the NWS Strategic Plan for this initiative from the Weather-ready nation website.

AMS DataStreme Teachers Brown Bag it at NOAA

The AMS Education Program has been actively training teachers in the atmospheric, oceanic, and climatological sciences for 20 years. Over 16,000 teachers have taken part in its professional development program, DataStreme. In June, some of DataStreme-trained teachers attended a NOAA brown-bag seminar, where their presentations were seen by NOAA education officials.
The teachers—who hailed from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware—are representatives from an AMS DataStreme Local Implementation Team (LIT). The LIT teams are run by a master teacher and local scientist. The setup provides training for teachers in a specific scientific field as well as helping them strategize ways to bring scientific information into the classroom. LIT team leader and DOE Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow John Moore was so inspired by the teachers’ hard work and creative applications of Earth Science to their classrooms that he orchestrated the brown-bag meeting to facilitate dialog between the NOAA funders and the end-result teachers.
The teachers described the positive impact of bringing real-world NOAA and NASA data into the classroom, using skills from AMS DataStreme courses. They shared how strategies developed in DataStreme Atmosphere, Ocean, and Earth’s Climate System programs could be creatively implemented in the classroom, such as introducing a climate-science section by reading a novel with a general environmental theme, or comparing “textbook” atmospheric data with real data provided by NOAA and NASA. Teachers lauded DataStreme for providing the relevance needed to keep their students excited about science and help develop them into better decision makers. Others thanked NOAA and NASA for the opportunity to bring free, real-world data into the classroom.
In addition to the live audience, the presentations were also Web cast to NOAA offices across the country. The Archived PowerPoint slides from their presentations can be accessed at

2011 Meisinger Award Winner Working to Solve Hurricane Intensity Problem

NCAR researcher George Bryan received the 2011 Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award at the 91st AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle for innovative research into the explicit modeling, theory, and observations of convective-scale motions. With this award, the AMS honors promising young or early-career scientists who have demonstrated outstanding ability. “Early career” refers to scientists who are within 10 years of having earned their highest degree or are under 40 years of age when nominated.
The Front Page sought out Dr. Bryan to learn more about the specific problems he is working to solve with his colleagues at NCAR. “We’ve been doing numerical simulations of hurricanes in idealized environments trying to understand what regulates hurricane intensity,” he says. “One of the things we found was that small-scale turbulence is very important, small-scale being less than a kilometer scale—boundary layer eddies in the eyewall, and things like that. And so we’re hoping to take what we learned from that and apply it towards real-time forecasts and real-time numerical model simulations to better improve intensity.” In the interview, available below, Bryan says knowing this will give forecasters a better idea how strong a hurricane is likely to be when one does make landfall.

The Rise of Mountain Meteorology

Mountains are already hard to miss, often hard to avoid, but in meteorology their prominence is only growing right now, according to John Horel and David Whiteman, chairs of last week’s AMS Conference on Mountain Meteorolog. Whiteman pointed in particular to new opportunities for modelers and observationalists to work together, bringing in new people to the field:

We’ve found over time that the models have improved at a faster rate than the observational equipment has improved, so what we tend to find is that there are people who are able to make their models work on smaller length scales but they find that they don’t have the observations to really evaluate how well the models are working. That’s been good for our community because we’ve also now been able to have a number of programs that combine these high performance models with an observational program….For the first time we can start to look at the very small features.

For more of Whiteman and Horel’s discussion with The Front Page, check out these video interviews (with apologies to John for the brilliant Sierra light in Squaw Valley!) from the AMS YouTube Channel, Ametsoc:

And for a more “down in the trenches” view of mountain meteorology (come to think of it, a rather nice view from the resort patio, between sessions), here’s another interview, with Thomas Chubb, Neil Lareau, and Temple Lee, recently uploaded to Ametsoc on YouTube:

Looking for Answers at the AMS Summer Community Meeting

by William Hooke, AMS Policy Program Director
(Note: This is one of the first postings from Dr. Hooke’s new blog, Living on the Real Earth, an American Meteorological Society project probing some of the basic questions underlying the goals of our community as it serves society.)
Here’s a question. Why should a blog claiming to look for answers to big issues (what kind of world is likely? what kind of world do we want? what kind of world is possible if we act effectively?) zoom in on a few hundred people meeting in the middle of Pennsylvania for four days?
Here’s the answer. Because this handful of people, due to a convergence of circumstances – some strategic, and some accidental – holds some of the keys to the kingdom.
Let’s begin with a look at who’s here in State College for the 2010 AMS Summer Community Meeting. Participants are for the most part in the business of answering the first question: what kind of world is likely? That is, they provide weather and climate products and services, or they are doing the research that provides the basis for those products and services. That said, they have a range of backgrounds. They’ve come from all over the United States. Some are from the public sector, from government agencies. Some are from for-profit corporations. Some work in research universities. Within each sector, participants run the gamut from bench-level scientists and forecasters to managers of such work to high-level policy officials and corporate leaders. A considerable number have played several different roles over extended careers. Ask them whether they are private-sector or public-sector, or scientists or leaders, and they’ll either tell you what their job title is at the moment, or confess that they’re conflicted.
Secondly, if asked what kind of world they might want, they wouldn’t try to oversimplify that world. They wouldn’t seek to control climate or weather, or limit its variability, or even eliminate hazardous events; they wouldn’t see that as realistic. They’d say instead that they want a world where regardless of what the weather and climate might do next, these changes can be anticipated, in time to seize the benefits (the water for crops, the good weather for transportation or recreation, etc.) and moderate the hazards (the cycles of flood and drought, the damaging storms, and so on). They’d hope their science and services could be used to save lives and property, foster economic growth, protect the environment and ecosystems, and promote geopolitical stability.
Neither would they try to oversimplify the coping strategies. They wouldn’t see the job as all public-sector, or entirely corporate. They wouldn’t see decisions and actions as

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NCAR Appoints Roger Wakimoto Director

Roger M. Wakimoto, an associate director and senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, and an elected Fellow of the AMS, has been named NCAR’s new director. He succeeds Eric J. Barron, who left NCAR this month to assume the presidency of Florida State University. Wakimoto will assume his new position on February 1.

Roger Wakimoto. (©UCAR, photo by Carlye Calvin.)

“Roger is a world-class scientist and administrator with broad knowledge of both the atmospheric sciences and the university community that NCAR serves,” says Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a past president of the AMS. “I am are very pleased to have him at the helm of NCAR.”
A geophysicist with expertise in tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other types of severe weather, Wakimoto has served since 2005 as director of NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL), which oversees instrument development and major field projects. He has most recently guided the development of a major workforce management plan for NCAR. Wakimoto came to NCAR after 22 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was a professor of atmospheric sciences for more than a decade and also chaired the department.
“I am both excited and honored to take on the challenge of building on the organization’s expertise and leading it in new and potentially exciting directions,” Wakimoto says. “NCAR is in a strong position to help meet the nation’s growing demand for research into weather and climate change.”
At NCAR, Wakimoto oversaw a comprehensive survey of instrumentation to better serve atmospheric scientists, and he collaborated with researchers at other agencies in VORTEX2, the largest tornado field study ever conducted. His ties to the center date back to the late 1970s, when he participated in a field project as a graduate student to study wind shear, a potential threat to aircraft. He has also served on the UCAR Board of Trustees and was chair of the University Relations Committee.
Wakimoto has written or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in meteorology and has taken part in a dozen major field projects in the United States and overseas. He has served on numerous committees, panels, and boards for the NSF, The National Academies, the AMS, and other organizations. He has won numerous awards and honors, including a scientific and technical achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency for observations of air pollution, and the Meisinger Award from the AMS in recognition of his contributions to understanding mesoscale weather events.