Aims and scope

Earth System Science Data (ESSD) is an international, interdisciplinary journal for the publication of articles on original research data (sets), furthering the reuse of high-quality data of benefit to Earth system sciences. The editors encourage submissions on original data or data collections which are of sufficient quality and have the potential to contribute to these aims.

The journal maintains sections for regular-length articles, brief communications (e.g. on additions to data sets) and commentaries, as well as review articles and special issues.

Articles in the data section may pertain to the planning, instrumentation, and execution of experiments or collection of data. Any interpretation of data is outside the scope of regular articles. Articles on methods describe nontrivial statistical and other methods employed (e.g. to filter, normalize, or convert raw data to primary published data) as well as nontrivial instrumentation or operational methods. Any comparison to other methods is beyond the scope of regular articles.

Review articles may compare methods or relative merits of data sets, the fitness of individual methods or data sets for specific purposes, or how combinations might be used as more complex methods or reference data collections.

Earth System Science Data has an innovative two-stage publication process involving the scientific discussion forum Earth System Science Data Discussions (ESSDD), which has been designed to do the following:

  • foster scientific discussion;
  • maximize the effectiveness and transparency of scientific quality assurance;
  • enable rapid posting of new scientific results;
  • make scientific publications freely accessible.

In the first stage, papers that pass a rapid peer review are immediately posted on the Earth System Science Data Discussions (ESSDD) website. They are then subject to an interactive public discussion, during which the referees' comments (anonymous or attributed), additional short comments by other members of the scientific community (attributed), and the authors' replies are also posted in ESSDD. In the second stage, the peer-review process is completed and, if accepted, the final revised papers are published in ESSD. To ensure publication precedence for authors, and to provide a lasting record of scientific discussion, ESSDD and ESSD are both ISSN-registered, permanently archived, and fully citable.

Earth System Science Data also offers an efficient new way of publishing special issues, in which the individual papers are published as soon as they are available and linked electronically (for more information see special issues).

About this journal

This journal aims to establish a new subject of publication: to publish data according to the conventional fashion of publishing articles, applying the established principles of quality assessment through peer review to data sets.

The goals are to make data sets a reliable resource to build upon and to reward the authors by establishing priority and recognition through the impact of their articles.

The peer review secures that the data sets are the following:

  • at least plausible and contain no detectable problems;
  • of sufficiently high quality and their limitations are clearly stated;
  • openly accessible (cost-free for readers), well annotated by standard metadata (e.g. ISO 19115), and available from a certified data center/repository;
  • customary with regard to their format(s) and/or access protocol, however not proprietary ones (e.g. Open Geospatial Consortium standards), expected to be usable for the foreseeable future.

The articles in this journal should enable the reviewer and the reader to review and use the data, respectively, with the least amount of effort. To this end, all necessary information should be presented through the article text and references in a concise manner and each article should publish as much data as possible. The aim is to minimize the overall workload of reviewers (e.g. by reviewing one instead of many articles) and to maximize the impact of each article.

It is clear that some of these quite abstract criteria may soon unfold into more (technically) specific ones, depending on the discipline or type of data. If necessary, the editors will try to make sure that more specific assistance for authors as well as for reviewers will be developed over time. Until such definitive, detailed guidelines by discipline are published, reviewers and public commentators are encouraged to remain open-minded on technical issues and to avoid "holy wars" or "flaming". One potential area of discord might be the "correct" metadata scheme or its application.

To help streamline the review process, a more formal list of criteria has been developed, which can serve as a checklist.

This short commentary draws on ESSD author, reviewer and editor experiences over its first 10 years of operation to define guidelines, requirements and benefits of the ESSD processes.