ESSD steps into a new phase of open data and community outreach

30 November 2022

For over 12 years, the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD) has been a beacon of open data, open peer review, and open science in general. The years 2022 and 2023 will bring about substantial changes to the journal, and both the chief editors and the publisher would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future of the journal.

ESSD was initiated during the International Polar Year 2007–2008 (IPY) by a team around Dr Hans Pfeiffenberger and IPY's director Dr David Carlson, later director of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). ESSD was envisioned to bring together different communities of the Earth system sciences, encouraging them to curate, preserve, present, and reuse research data to the benefit of the community as a whole. Copernicus offered the necessary infrastructure to host such an endeavour. As one of the few journals owned directly by Copernicus rather than a learned society, the journal has a special place in the publishers' portfolio as an outreach project to advocate open data and data citations.

Quickly, ESSD became one of the leading journals in the Earth system sciences and is home to some of the most influential data products in the field (e.g., the annual Global Carbon Budget, the Global Heat Budget, the Global Methane Budget, the EDGAR greenhouse gas emission atlas, and many more).

Simultaneously, the overall number of publications grew, almost tripling between 2019 and 2021. While fundamentally this constitutes a success problem, it also means that the workload on editors, reviewers, and support staff has increased substantially and, therefore, the journal has not always lived up to its standards, especially in terms of processing times. We will try to address this issue by substantially growing the editorial team and restructuring the journal.

New subject domains and editorial teams

At the end of 2022, journal founder and fierce supporter Dr David Carlson will resign. At the same time, an editorial restructuring will be finalized that distributes manuscript submissions to five domains of ESSD, each with its own editorial teams: ESSD–Land, ESSD–Ice, ESSD–Ocean, ESSD–Atmosphere, and ESSD–Global. The goal is to substantially decrease handling times while simultaneously easing the workload on individual editors. Likewise, the editorial teams will strive to develop and propagate open-data standards, if necessary tailored to their individual communities' needs.

Intensified community outreach and article processing charges

For the past 13 years, Copernicus has borne all costs related to the publishing, archiving, and distribution of ESSD articles. Copernicus has always considered ESSD an outreach project for the benefit of the community and still stands by this philosophy.

Beginning with 2023, ESSD will start levying Article Processing Charges (APCs) for the first time. These charges will not be used to recompensate for the past 13 years but rather cover the production of ESSD from 2023 on. Furthermore, any surplus that may be generated through these APCs will move into a dedicated fund to be used

  1. to waive entirely or partially the costs for authors unable to afford the APCs (based on the Copernicus waiver policy and entirely at the journal editors' discretion) and
  2. to give back into the community at the closing of a financial year through funding data rescue projects, donating into open-data infrastructure, supporting young-scientists with grants, and similar endeavours based on suggestions by the ESSD authors, editors, referees, and users.

Unlike most other Copernicus journals that charge by page, the ESSD will levy a flat fee of €1,400.00 net per published article. Once a year, in the interest of transparency, Copernicus will publicly account for the finances of the journal, the waiver programme, and community fund. Any feedback from the open data community on this is welcome and should be brought directly to the journal editors or staff.