October 26, 2016 | Dr. Xiaochun Liu, Executive Editor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters

Helping the public understand science

Social media ventures and open access opportunities


Dr. Xiaochun Liu is Executive Editor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters (AOSL), an international journal for the publication of original Letters related to all aspects of the atmospheric sciences and physical oceanography. In this blog post, Dr Xiaochun Liu explores the opportunities presented by using social media and publishing open access. How has social media been used to help the public understand research published in the journal? And why did the editors choose open access? Read on to find out.


From Dr. Xiaochun Liu, Executive Editor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters 

Established in February of 1928 (then called the Institute of Meteorology of Academia Sinica), the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was the very first research center to carry out meteorological research in modern China. Today, the IAP has become a comprehensive atmospheric research institution, covering all aspects of the atmospheric sciences.

IAP launched Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters (AOSL) in 2008, and I was privileged to join AOSL when I received my PhD from Peking University in that year. I became an editor, and later Executive Editor of the journal. AOSL features fast publication of interdisciplinary research across the atmospheric and oceanic sciences. I’m proud to say that, at the moment, a final decision can be made within a maximum of three months, while the minimal turnaround is just two weeks.

My day-to-day tasks, in the first five years, were not much different from my peer editors: providing guidelines to authors and reviewers, monitoring peer review, ensuring fast turnaround, and other necessary things to allow our journal to survive and develop. However, in 2012, I felt a strong call to do more. With the increasing use of smart phones and all sorts of apps and revolutionary technologies, information is pushed upon everyone instead of being searched and found. With over a million new publications being added to the literature every year, it’s getting harder for authors to ensure their work is found and read. Meanwhile, we also feel that there is an increasing need for policy makers and the general public to understand science.

Our first social media venture

In 2013, our journal started its first social media venture: Sina Weibo. Now, we also have a presence on WeChat and Twitter.

We post summaries of our papers using language that can be easily understood by non-specialists. We interact daily with authors and readers via Weibo. The streams of conversation have also brought traffic to our journal website. The effect was immediate. Papers that have been summarized and discussed via social media receive far more views than those that have not.

And most importantly, we love to see authors share their work in their own blogs or social media profiles. A successful example was a paper published in 2015 by Cheng et al. on ocean warming. One of the authors introduced this paper in his blog at the Guardian, which triggered heated discussion, later reported widely in the media (here and here, for instance). As a result, this paper has been downloaded and viewed nearly 1000 times.

Meanwhile, we have noticed that papers of wider society interest attract the attention of the media and policy-makers more easily. For example, urban heat island change during the Spring Festival, or extreme precipitation analysis. With more and more media coverage and the increasing social impact of AOSL, we felt that the traditional subscription model could no longer meet the demands of wider society.

Open access opportunities

An opportunity presented itself when Taylor and Francis showed interest in our journal. We were pleased that Taylor & Francis values the uniqueness of AOSL and we did not hesitate to choose Open Access as our new business model.

The usage reports for the first two quarters provided by Taylor & Francis were very satisfying. Some papers have shown exceptionally good performance in terms of views and downloads, and we can’t help but notice these papers are also of wider societal interest, especially to policy-makers. For example, studies on extreme heat in China and urbanization-related warming are essential for building a well-informed early warning system, and studies on drought in Southwest China and Arctic sea ice and haze pollution will help the public understand why natural disasters happen.

Government-funded scientific results should be delivered without any barrier, and I am grateful that Open Access Week raises awareness of this. I would also like to thank those authors who have taken extra time to summarize their work, without the scientific jargon, which I know can sometimes prove more difficult than writing the paper in the first place!


Celebrating Open Access Week

Another year has passed and we’re continuing our tradition of supporting Open Access Week, with a look at how open access research can be put into action.

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How can I get involved?

Find out more about Open Access Week here, and tune into @tandfopen and @tandfauthorservfor open access tips, insights and resources throughout the week.

Published: October 26, 2016 | Author: Dr. Xiaochun Liu, Executive Editor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters | Category: Front page, News and ideas, Open Access (OA) |