In 2000 I was invited by Ian Francis of Blackwell Science to write a weekly series of articles on developments in Earth Sciences for the Home page of Blackwell’s on-line community site Earth Pages. I aimed to focus on key research findings in the scientific literature, based on reportage from the top two journals Nature and Science, the popular magazine New Scientist and the specialist journal Geology. We decided that these articles should not exceed 1000 words; to aim at a general readership; and to be as informative as possible. I was given complete editorial freedom to select which papers should figure in Earth Pages. Recently, the marketing arm of Wiley-Blackwell – the current publisher of the Earth Pages website – began phasing-out their use of blogs for promotional purposes. So Earth Pages will come to a close in July2019.
Almost two decades on, Earth Pages archives comprise more than 1200 of my pieces, which cover over 1500 publications. Most bear on the most vibrant geoscientific research areas of the early 21st century. Some include summaries published by others that help simplify the sometimes highly technical content of the primary sources. By no means every significant paper is covered, just those that, in my view, seemed to advance geoscience significantly, or which I found personally interesting, and sometimes amusing. In each article I have tried to tease out the main scientific points, even from the most abstruse primary sources, in a style accessible to academics, students, or interested non-specialists. And that style is personal, sometimes wry and frequently critical; it matches my own enthusiasm for the geosciences together with long experience of the wiles of researchers eager to publish and make names for themselves!
I believe that my efforts since early 2000 will continue to remain useful, especially for students, teachers and those hoping to begin geoscientific research. So, with the permission of Wiley-Blackwell, they are preserved here as Annual Logs that cover developments in 12 broad topics during the early 20th century. The topics are: Geohazards; Geomorphology; Human evolution and migrations; Magmatism; Miscellaneous Commentary; Palaeoclimatology; Palaeobiology; Physical Resources; Planetary Science; Remote Sensing; Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, and Tectonics. These show the directions taken in various rapidly evolving fields of research, for example: ‘Snowball Earth’; fracking; ancient human DNA; earthquakes and tsunamis; erosion; banded-iron formations; seismic tomography; the origin of life, planetary evolution; scientific ethics, et cetera.
Each of the Annual Log pages summarises the research fields covered during each year, with links to PDFs of the annual logs. But please bear in mind that life is too short to cover the thousands of papers annually that leave not a stone or fossil unturned, a terrane unravelled, a volcano unplumbed or a geochemical signature uninterpreted!
Aside from rearranging my Earth Pages commentaries within broad topics, the main difference in Earthlogs is direct web access to the papers on which they are based, through hyperlinks to PDFs that are not behind a pay-wall. So, you can choose to expand my brief comments by reading the full article. In addition, the references include each paper’s DOI (Digital Object Identifier) that allows its source and abstract to be found easily using a search engine. An alternative means of accessing a paper, if it is currently unavailable and behind a pay-wall, is to enter the DOI into Sci-Hub or one of its proxies. Failing that, you can find the corresponding author’s contact information by using the DOI, and then request a copy. Over time more and more articles are published with open access, but the day when all scientific publications will be freely available to everyone as a right is some time off.
Some of the papers drew comments from others working in the same fields, but in only a few cases have I provided links to such alternative views. If you are curious, you can find such scholarly discussion by searching using ‘<DOI> Comment’ and ‘<DOI> Response’.
I intend to continue writing commentaries in the same style on this site, for as long as I can. These new posts are listed chronologically in the Current Posts Page, to be categorised and bundled into annual logs at each year end.