Archive for January, 2012

Chop abstracts in half!

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Too many authors don’t realize an abstract is NOT the place for a big introduction to your study. Background information doesn’t belong here! I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: online, you have about 7 seconds to engage the reader before they go elsewhere. Don’t waste those precious first words.

Here’s some advice. Read your abstract until you come to the first sentence which tells what you actually did. Delete everything before it. Trust me, it’ll make for better reading.

In praise of Hemingway’s style

Friday, January 27th, 2012

There’s a nice article in the Wiley-Blackwell blog on sentence length. Recommended reading for all aspiring JAWRA authors. Ernest Hemingway started out as a reporter, and his style retained the short, crisp sentences of good reporting. I spend entirely too much of my time untangling overly complex phrasing of authors, and wishing they were more like Hemingway.

I recently accepted a paper by a Chinese author. Maybe he lacked the confidence to use the lofty and long phrases typical of science writing, or maybe his ESL teacher had wisely focused on Ernest Hemingway. In any event, he presented his work in short, declarative sentences. What a breath of fresh air! Amazingly, one reviewer took this fellow to task over his short sentences; this was one of those rare reviewer recommendations I happily told the author to ignore!

Jim Biesecker

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Just received the awful news Jim Biesecker, USGS Retired, passed away today. Jim was my boss during the time we were building USGS’s website. He was a great guy to work for, one of the real characters of USGS. Buy any USGS’er a drink and you’ll surely get stories about Jim.

An adept manager, Jim was the one who found the funding (I hesitate to use the term, “slush fund!”) to create the popular real-time streamflow service. Please think of Jim next time you get your data.

Gettin’ ready for GIS

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I spent the last two days going over the program of the AWRA Spring Specialty Conference on GIS, looking over the abstracts of the talks and posters, and emailing authors of those showing potential as a JAWRA paper. It’s not an exact science, so please don’t be offended if I didn’t email you. I’ll be in New Orleans this March to learn more.

Board notes: where is JAWRA heading?

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Spent Friday and Saturday at the AWRA winter board meeting. One topic we discussed was where JAWRA is heading in terms of technology. So, I’ll share some of the discussion with you.

No, the paper copy is not going away! Not yet, anyway. You need to recognize, however, the online version – the version of record since 2007 – already offers features you don’t get in paper. Online readers often see color figures instead of black and white, and can access supplemental files containing data and more detailed explanations. We’re going to push the envelope a step further in 2012 to support the GIS Specialty Conference: online video, large maps, and computer code.

Recognizing some of our readers don’t even want the paper copy, AWRA will be offering a special “introductory” rate for online-only membership. You’ll get all of the content, none of the dead trees. Eventually, the paper version will become a “premium” offering for those who still want limited content delivered this way. No price schedule or time frame yet, but stay tuned to the AWRA website.

What does the slightly more distant future hold? Wiley-Blackwell already is hinting at journal apps under development. Going this direction would do away with inelegant supplemental files and embed the functionality directly into the articles. There really is no print equivalent for this type of presentation. Even the venerable old two-column format might be replaced by something more suited to your particular reading device. Remarkably, the same technology might still be able to offer two-column formatting on the fly for print-on-demand. We’re not there yet, and don’t hold me to these claims, but this stuff is coming close enough to think about.

What will not change? That’s easy: Quality! Even if a future review process requires looking at a video, rest assured that video will face the same careful scrutiny the text gets now. You deserve the best and will get the best.

It’s tempting to think the information technology we grew up with has been around forever. But, change actually as been the rule, not the exception. Think of postcards, records, black-and-white TV, VCR’s, 8-track tapes, and Captain Kirk’s communicator. Four centuries ago, some monk probably sat in a monastery and said, “You know, this moveable type just doesn’t look as good as the old handwritten scrolls. It’ll never catch on.”

Dumb author mistakes, part n+1

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

I just rejected a manuscript where the author failed to cite a closely-related article he had published in another journal. The two weren’t identical, but were close enough to require explanation.

Duh! Do these guys think we don’t check anything? A diligent Associate Editor made a quick search and found it. Hard to hide stuff on the Internet!

We expect authors to be forthcoming about related work, so we can make a fair, informed decision. It is not acceptable for our reviewers and editors to find it themselves.

Blackouts today

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

If you’ve tried to use Wikipedia today, you’ll have noticed it and many other websites have gone dark for today in protest against two proposed internet piracy bills. Our websites will stay open, though I too am naturally wary of measures promoted to protect big music and movie interests. There remains a great danger of shutting out dissent and innovation.

I will repeat JAWRA’s policy to scrupulously respect the letter and the spirit of copyright law. (See my Rights Management posting.) Responsible publishing by authors and editors remains the preferred enforcement tool.

GIS for variable source area

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

February 2012 Article (Early View): “Incorporating Variable Source Area Hydrology into a Spatially Distributed Direct Runoff Model,” by Brian Buchanan, Zachary M. Easton, Rebecca Schneider, and M. Todd Walter.

Representative maps

This paper describes a geographic information system-based operational model that simulates the spatio-temporal dynamics of variable source area (VSA) runoff generation and distributed runoff-routing, including through complex artificial drainage networks. The model combines the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Curve Number (CN) equation for estimating storm runoff with the topographic index concept for predicting the locations of VSA and a runoff-routing algorithm into a new spatially distributed direct hydrograph model.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

SWAT in Canada

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

February 2012 Article (Early View): Modeling Climate Change Impacts on Hydrology and Nutrient Loading in the Upper Assiniboine Catchment,” Rajesh R. Shrestha, Yonas B. Dibike, and Terry D. Prowse.

Lake Winnipeg Watershed

The authors employed the SWAT model for future (2042-2062) periods with model forcings for future climates derived from three regional climate models and their ensemble means. The effects of future changes in climatic variables, especially precipitation and temperature, are clearly evident in the resulting snowmelt and runoff regimes. The future hydrologic scenarios consistently show earlier onsets of spring snowmelt and discharge peaks, and higher total runoff volumes. The simulated nutrient loads closely match the dynamics of the future runoff for both nitrogen and phosphorus, in terms of earlier timing of peak loads and higher total loads. However, nutrient concentrations could decrease due to the higher rate of runoff increase.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

BMP’s and climate change

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

February 2012 Article: “Sensitivity Analysis of Best Management Practices Under Climate Change Scenarios,” by Sean A. Woznicki and A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi.

“The results of this research suggest that the majority of agricultural BMPs tested in this study are significantly sensitive to climate change.” That ought to get your attention!

The objective of this study was to perform a sensitivity analysis of BMPs across future climate change scenarios for the Tuttle Creek Lake watershed (TCLW) of Kansas and Nebraska using Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) 2009 model. Eight agricultural BMPs and a baseline scenario were implemented within SWAT for each of four climate scenarios.

The results show too many details for a quick summary here. You’ll have to read the article to learn about any particular method. The lesson, though, is that BMP’s are sensitive to climate changes, and the effect varies for the particular BMP.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]