Earth and Environmental Science Associate Editor John Geissman shares his thoughts on Elementa

John Geissman

“The more that we understand the details of how
we are and will continue to influence natural
processes, the better we will be positioned to make
rational decisions concerning proper courses of action.”

 
 
You have been very active in professional societies, can you tell us about some of your roles over the years?

I have had the great fortune to be involved in numerous activities with both the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union, as well as, more recently, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.  I was President of the Geological Society of America in 2011-2012, and, by implication, very involved in the Society leading up to that time, including being Editor of the Bulletin of the Geological Society of America for seven years and Chair of the Publications Committee for several years.  I was the Editor of Eos, the weekly newsjournal of the American Geophysical Union for almost ten years.  I have been Associate Editor for the Journal of Geophysical Research and Tectonics for a combined length of over ten years and, effective 1 December, 2013, will be Editor in Chief of Tectonics.  One of my most enjoyable and rewarding experiences was chairing the committee to craft AGU’s position statement on creationism and the teaching of evolution and the history of Earth.

 

Why did you agree to become an Associate Editor for Elementa’s Earth and Environmental Science domain?

I heard Elementa described by a representative from BioOne at the Spring Meeting of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.  I fell in love with the concept, and learned that Joel Blum and Don Zak, both dear friends of mine, were Editors for the journal and immediately contacted Joel and literally begged to be an Associate Editor.  So, in this case I was overtly proactive!

 

Why do you believe research surrounding the influence of humans on natural processes within the epoch of the Anthropocene to be of significance?

I have a tendency to be pretty blunt.  The influence of humans on natural processes is a solid, uncontroversial fact.  The more that we understand the details of how we are and will continue to influence natural processes, the better we will be positioned to make rational decisions concerning proper courses of action.  That said, recent history has provided a strong basis for great concern whether individuals in positions of authority, in many countries, are capable of making sound decisions in a timely fashion, and that is clearly what we need, now!

 

Are you an advocate of open access?

Yes, I am an advocate, but I also understand the many complexities and likely consequences of open access, particularly the potentially huge effects on professional scientific societies.  I hope that reasonable financial models, which ideally will include greater government support for science research, can be developed in the very near future.  When I was the Chair of the Publications Committee for the Geological Society of America, one task that I and the director of Publications undertook was to determine the approximate cost of a paper in Geology (four pages in length) if it went (Gold) open access.  We estimated a cost of $2500 and we were able to convince Council that allowing authors to have their papers go open access in this well-respected Journal was a very good thing.  That was over six years ago.  The number of open access papers in Geology increases yearly.

 

Do you think it is important that Elementa is a nonprofit publication?

Yes.  I have never been a fan of huge for-profit publishers of science.  Most have taxed the system in a very painful way.  The more opportunities scientists have to publish their contributions in nonprofit journals, the better.  Elementa provides a very important venue for scholars addressing a range of topics that are important to society, right now.

 

Why do you think researchers should consider publishing in Elementa?

As above, Elementa, by design, is attractive to a broad array of researchers. I believe that it has an exciting future.  I am reviewing my first paper right now, and if this is exemplative  of the contributions to the journal, it should be off to an excellent start!