A Peer Review Conversation

by Jeff Rosenfeld, BAMS Editor in Chief, and Bob Rauber, AMS Publications Commissioner

Since this week has been declared Peer Review Week, the publishing blog, “Scholarly Kitchen,” is devoting a series of posts about the manuscript evaluation process that you might dread or love, depending on where you sit as an author, editor, or reviewer. They kicked off discussions with a round table on the future of peer review. You’ll find in that blog the usual gamut of projections about peer review—from business as usual to wholesale revolution. Given the many innovations in publishing lately, nobody seems to know what will happen next in this centuries-old tradition in science.

One thing the participants all seemed to agree on, however: in one form or another, peer review is here to stay. As Alice Meadows, director of communications for ORCID, the researcher identification consortium, puts it, “It is hard to imagine scholarly communication without some form of peer review.”

Those of us who have served as AMS editors will not be surprised by that sentiment, and not just because we rely so heavily on reviewers to provide their input into the publishing process. We know how valuable peer review is because the authors tell us.

It is not unusual to see an author’s final revisions arrive accompanied by a note to the editor saying ““Please thank the reviewers.” And it is not unusual to find “anonymous reviewers” thanked in the acknowledgements of published papers.

This happens even though not all of these authors have been entirely happy throughout the review process. Reviews usually mean authors spend additional time on a paper they thought was fine when they first submitted it. Despite that, the authors know their reviewers deserve thanks, and the authors freely give it.

They do this because they find that peer review is not just “essential to the communication of science.”  Peer review is, itself, scientific communication of the best kind.

We often picture peer review as criticism. One set of anonymous experts tells another expert how to write their article, what to say, and what not to say.

That’s hardly a model for scientists communicating with other scientists. It sounds downright regressive, actually—an intrusive but necessary form of telling authors what the standards are and where to throw out the junk. Thumbs up, or thumbs down.

But actually, more often than not, the thumb wiggles and points the way to success. Editors notice that when the review process is going well, the reviewers are not simply dictating terms for acceptance for the authors. What happens instead is conversation. It is often an even more intimate and honest exchange than one can get from colleagues down the hall. And like any good conversation, it involves iterations. Reviews go to authors, and the authors who take them seriously often reply unexpectedly, forcing reviewers to think again. In the best cases, reviewers and authors—and the editors who facilitate their two-way exchange—learn from each other and adapt.

The evidence of this conversation is in those citations AMS gives when naming the recipients of our Editor’s Awards each year. Sift through the Annual Meeting banquet programs and you’ll find many words of praise for an iterative communication. For example, the 2016 Journal of Hydrometeorology Editor’s Award went to W. Justin Baisden for “a series of rigorous and detailed reviews … resulting in a substantially improved paper.” Similarly, both Andrew Stewart (for the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology) and Matthew Kumjian (for Monthly Weather Review and Weather and Forecasting) were cited for how “constructive” their reviews were. And the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology singled out Tanya Spero Otte for “thought provoking reviews that led to significant manuscript improvements.”

Clearly this is what editors want, and this is what makes peer review a conversation. The manuscripts improve, and both sides learn. People often ask why scientists devote so much effort and time—often unpaid and at extremely inconvenient moments—to formulating reviews and considering authors’ responses. Like any scientific communication, it’s because reviewers, authors, editors, and ultimately readers are all headed for the same goal: learning something new from each other. That’s what makes these conversations so lively, so intense, and so rewarding.

It is striking how frequently the review process in AMS journals becomes a conversation.  It happens so often that it’s the norm, and we sometimes don’t stop to think how extraordinary it is that busy people volunteer their time to contribute so fundamentally to the work of others. Thumbs up, then, for Peer Review Week, for peer review itself, and in particular for the thousands of volunteers who answer the call from editors, day in, day out, to review for AMS journals!

Your Chance to Honor Your Colleagues…by Thursday

Time is running out to submit nominations for more than two dozen AMS awards in the atmospheric and related sciences. The deadline for submission is Thursday, 1 May.
Each year the American Meteorological Society seeks the nomination of individuals, teams of people, and institutions for their outstanding contributions to the atmospheric and related sciences, and to the application of those sciences. That means recognition of achievements not only in meteorology but also oceanography, hydrology, climatology, atmospheric chemistry, space weather, environmental remote sensing (including the engineering and management of systems for observations), the social sciences, and other disciplines.
Twenty-five AMS awards, such as the Carl Gustaf-Rossby Research Medal—meteorology’s highest honor—and the Jule G. Charney and Verner E. Suomi medallions, are available to scientists, practitioners, broadcasters, and others. And every year, you, as AMS members, make the nominations and ultimately determine whose amazing achievements to honor with these prestigious awards.
Descriptions of the AMS awards, including links to the nomination procedure, are available on the AMS website. All nominations must be submitted online.
Sharing the May 1 deadline are nominations for AMS Fellows and Honorary Members. The advancement to Fellow is one of the most significant ways the Society honors those AMS members who, over a number of years, have made outstanding contributions in academia, government, industry, and more.
Submitting a nomination takes little of your time but potentially rewards a colleague enormously.
For those nominations we have received and those to be submitted by Thursday, the AMS thanks you.
Awardees and Fellows will be recognized at the 2015 AMS Annual Meeting.

Broadcast Meteorology Award Winner Says 'Be Yourself' On-Air

Bob Ryan, meteorologist for WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., is the 2012 recipient of The AMS Award for Broadcast Meteorology. Ryan is being honored with this annual award in recognition of a career based on personal integrity and dedication to advancing the science of meteorology through broadcasting, education, promotion of safety, and support of colleagues.
Established in 1975, the AMS Award for Broadcast Meteorology recognizes a broadcast meteorologist for sustained long-term contributions to the community through the broadcast media, or for outstanding work during a specific weather event. Ryan, who has been a fixture in Washington TV News for more than three decades, will receive the award at the 92nd AMS Awards Banquet Wednesday evening in New Orleans.
The Front Page caught up with him to learn about how he connects with viewers when on-air and with his colleagues within the AMS. His primary advice for future broadcast meteorologists: “Be yourself,” he says, “and again, you’re talking to one person.” You can view interview below.

New from AMS: Joanne Simpson Mentorship Award

The AMS has introduced a new award in recognition of the career-long dedication and commitment to the advancement of women in the atmospheric sciences by legendary pioneering meteorologist Joanne Simpson.
The new Joanne Simpson Mentorship Award recognizes individuals in academia, government, or the private sector, who, over a substantial period of time, have provided outstanding and inspiring mentorship of professional colleagues or students.  The award is separate from the honor bestowed upon exceptional teachers mentoring students, which is covered by the AMS Teaching Excellence Award.

Joanne Simpson
Joanne Simpson.

Simpson was the first women to earn a Ph.D. in meteorology, and her distinguished achievements include creating nearly singlehandedly the discipline of cloud studies, determining the source of heat energy that drives hurricanes, and leading a decade-long effort at NASA that culminated in establishment of the ground-breaking Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). Her career spanned more than 50 years, during which she challenged the male-dominated establishment in meteorology and fought for equal footing for women in the sciences. Although she passed away nearly a year ago, her enduring spirit continues to pave a pathway forward for other women pioneers in meteorology and the related sciences.
As with all AMS awards, nominations for the Joanne Simpson Mentorship Award are considered by the AMS Awards Oversight Committee.
Online submission of nominations for the new award will be accepted until May 1. The first Joanne Simpson Mentorship Award will be presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The Weather Museum Names Its 2010 Heroes

The John C. Freeman Weather Museum at the Weather Research Center in Houston, Texas, recently honored three weather heroes for outstanding service in 2010.

The Weather Hero Award is given to individuals or groups who have demonstrated heroic qualities in science or math education, volunteer efforts in the meteorological community, or assistance to others during a weather crisis. The 2010 Weather Heroes honored were the American Meteorological Society, KHOU-TV in Houston, and Kenneth Graham, meteorologist-in-charge of the NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge office.

Jill Hasling, president of The Weather Research Center and executive director of the John C. Freeman Weather Museum, presenting the Weather Hero Award to AMS, along with Robert Orkin, chairman of the board of The Weather Research Center.

The AMS was recognized for developing and hosting WeatherFest for the past ten years. WeatherFest is the interactive science and weather fair at the Annual Meeting each year. It is designed to instill a love of math and science in children of all ages, encouraging careers in these and other science and engineering fields.  AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter accepted the award on behalf of the Society. “While we are thrilled to display this award at AMS Headquarters,” he comments, “the real recipients are the hundreds of volunteers who have given so generously of their time and have made WeatherFest such a success over the past decade.”
KHOU-TV was honored for hosting Weather Day at the Houston Astros baseball field in fall of 2010. Weather Day was a unique educational field trip and learning opportunity that featured an interactive program about severe weather specific to the region. Over the course of the day, participants learned about hurricanes, thunderstorms, flooding, and weather safety—highlighted by video, experiments, trivia, and more.
Graham received the award for his support of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill cleanup. As meteorologist-in-charge of the New Orleans/Baton Rouge forecast office in Slidell, Louisiana, Graham started providing weather forecasts related to the disaster immediately following the nighttime explosion. NWS forecasters played a major role protecting the safety of everyone working to mitigate and clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The awards were presented at the center’s third Annual Groundhog Day Gala and its fifth annual Weather Hero Awards on 2 February 2011.
The Weather Research Center opened The John C. Freeman Weather Museum in 2006. As well as housing nine permanent exhibits, the museum also offers many exciting programs including weather camps, boy/girl scout badge classes, teacher workshops, birthday parties and weather labs.

It’s in the Bag

Grocery shoppers usually are prepared to answer just one question at the check out line: “paper or plastic?” In Iowa, though, if they choose paper, they can also answer questions like, “What do you do if you see a tornado?” because they’re likely looking right at the answer….on the sides of the bags filled with their purchases.
The severe weather tips printed on grocery bags are the work of the AMS Iowa State University chapter. It is one of the effective initiatives that recently earned them the AMS Student Chapter of the Year–they’ll be honored along with other 2011 AMS award winners at the upcoming AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle.
The students first provided tips advising what to do in the event of lightning, tornadoes, or flooding, in the Ames and Ankeny HyVee stores in April of last year. Chapter members came up with the idea two years ago as an easy way to increase community weather awareness.  They teamed up with the Central Iowa Chapter of the NWA to create the bags and expanded the distribution through much of central Iowa, including the Des Moines metropolitan area.
The chapter plans to expand further this year, aiming to distribute these safety tips to all 220 plus HyVee stores throughout the Midwest, including in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

A Pair of Pairs

Washington and Kuettner
Warren Washington and Joachim Kuettner, in 2003.

If you think you’re seeing double at this year’s Annual Meeting it’s not necessarily because of your grueling schedule here in Atlanta. For instance, that’s not one, but two NCAR scientists being honored with named Symposia this week. Today offers sessions honoring Joachim Kuettner; Thursday is reserved for Warren Washington.
Meanwhile, there were indeed two Businger’s at Sunday’s Fellows Reception. Father Joost was celebrated as one of the three new Honorary Members of the AMS, while son Steve was named a Fellow.  We believe this is the first time one family has been so honored at the same Annual Meeting.
Steve and, his father, Joost Businger.

The Ballots Are In…Now Meet the Winners

With the New Year comes the season for annual awards and “Best of” lists of every kind, from Oscars to best beer to best iPhone apps. But how often do you actually get invited to the awards ceremony? Here in Atlanta you can practically walk the red carpet with the winners.
On Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. (Publisher’s Row, Exhibit Hall), Atmospheric Science Librarians International (ASLI) will be presenting its fifth annual ASLI Choice awards for the Best Books of 2009.
This year’s winner in the “science” category is Clouds in the Perturbed Climate System: Their Relationship to Energy Balance, Atmospheric Dynamics, and Precipitation, edited by Jost Heintzenberg and Robert J. Charlson. According to ASLI, it was selected for its “quality, authoritativeness, and comprehensive coverage of new and important aspects of cloud research.” 
A new category for “popular” books was added to this year’s awards, and the winner is this class is Planet Ice: A Climate for Change, with photography by James Martin and essays by Yvon Chouinard. It was chosen for “beautiful photography accompanied by thoughtful essays on a topical and timely subject.”
Runners-up in the “science” category are Aerosol Pollution Impact on Precipitation :  A Scientific Review, edited by Zev Levin and William R. Cotton, for an “authoritative, well organized, forum-based approach to the evaluation of a problem of global significance”; Hydroclimatology: Perspectives and Applications, by Marlyn L. Shelton, for a “well-considered, well-referenced text on an important topic”; and Climate Change and Biodiversity: Implications for Monitoring Science and Adaptive Planning, by D. C. MacIver, M. B. Karsh and N. Comer, for “good, clear authoritative statistical compilations, graphics, and charts on a important subject.”

And if we may blow our own horn for a moment, the runner-up in the “popular” category is Jack Williams’s AMS Weather Book: The Ultimate Guide to America’s Weather, with ASLI noting “its accessible and informative approach to all aspects of weather, and the richness of its illustrations.”
Publisher’s Row will also be the place to find the AMS books booth as well as  some of the other leading publishers of atmospheric science books. In fact, along with the AMS Weather Book, two of the other ASLI’s Choice winners are published by companies that will be displaying their titles at the meeting:  Aerosol Pollution Impact on Precipitation (published by Springer) and Hydroclimatology (published by Cambridge University Press).
Congratulations to all the winners!