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Volume 21 Issue 2 (February 2011)

GSA Today

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Article, p. 10

GSA Today: Twenty Years and Counting

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Over the past twenty years, GSA Today has provided high-quality science articles, commentary, and Society news to GSA members. Now in its twenty-first year, GSA Today reaches more than 23,000 print subscribers and online readers.

GSA Today was first printed under this title in 1991. Its roots—The Geologist Newsletter and GSA News & Information—began as offshoots of the Society’s flagship journal, GSA Bulletin. Until 1961, the news of the Society, including presidential addresses and meeting abstracts and proceedings, was published as part of GSA Bulletin. As GSA Bulletin evolved into a science-only journal, GSA leadership felt the need to create a new print outlet for GSA news and meetings information.

GSA Today coversThe first iteration of a separate GSA news bulletin was The Geologist Newsletter. This four-page periodical was published from 1966 to 1981. As GSA membership and Society activities grew, the newsletter increased to 20 pages and was renamed, fittingly, GSA News & Information. Additional meeting details, the tables of contents for Geology (which launched in 1973) and GSA Bulletin, and such topics as GSA’s outreach endeavors in education, could now be highlighted.

GSA continued to grow, and so did its publications. In November 1990, GSA News & Information announced a major retooling, including a new title, GSA Today, along with a redoubled effort to keep readers informed about Society news, geoscience policy and legislation, and, the core of the society, its science. Thus, the most important change of all: the addition of a science article. GSA Today’s first science article (Jan. 1991, v. 1, no. 1, p. 1, 3–4) was Donald L. Turcotte’s “Fractals in geology: What are they good for?” The first science and forum editors were Eldridge M. Moores and Bruce F. Molnia, respectively. In his introduction, Molnia wrote, “This inaugural issue … represents a major step forward from the monthly newsletter of the past” (p. 2), the result, noted then GSA Executive Director F. Michael Wahl, of “more than two years of deliberation by GSA Council” (p. 2).

For the first five years, GSA Today was printed and distributed in tabloid format. In 1996, GSA Today editorial and production staff opted to drop the tabloid layout in favor of a more user-friendly magazine-sized product.

The next major change came in January 2001, when GSA Today’s production manager, Margo Good, refined the design of the magazine. Each issue would now feature a striking science-article–related image on the front cover with room for full-page advertising on the inside and back covers. This would in turn provide support for an increase in the quality and number of color graphics. Best of all, the new design meant that the science article could run on consecutive pages, rather than beginning on the front cover and jumping to additional pages inside the issue.

In 2006, to strengthen the magazine’s science and policy content, GSA Today science co-editors Keith Howard and Gerry Ross added a new article series called “Groundwork.” This series would offer authors a platform for short, hot-topic or issue-driven articles to lay the groundwork for furthering the influence of earth science on education, policy, planning, and funding. Groundwork articles span such topics as “Advocates for cold-blooded dinosaurs: The new generation of heretics,” published in 2007 (v. 17, no. 1, p. 45–46); “Accreditation: Wrong path for the geosciences” (2008, v. 18, no. 10, p. 52–53); and “Geological mapping goes 3-D in response to societal needs” (2010, v. 20, no. 8, p. 27–29).

Another addition to GSA Today is the “Geologic Past” series (beginning in 2005), which highlights and summarizes science articles and presidential addresses in GSA Bulletin, dating back to the beginning of the Society (1888; the first issue of GSA Bulletin was published in 1890). Examples of Geologic Past articles include “When the Continents Crept Away” ([1910], 2005, v. 15, no. 7, p. 29); “Geology of the World War and After” ([1919], 2009, v. 19, no. 3, p. 10); “The Problem of Petroleum” ([1939], 2009, v. 19, no. 6, p. 13); and “The Role of Minerals in the Present International Situation” ([1939], 2009, v. 19, no. 8, p. 28). The intent of this series is to bring to the reader’s attention GSA’s leadership in quality science publications even into the early years of the Society as well as to show that GSA Bulletin articles remain relevant today.

GSA’s mission is “to be a leader in advancing the geosciences, enhancing the professional growth of its members, and promoting the geosciences in the service to humankind and stewardship of the Earth.” Part of this mission is directly tied to education. Teachers and college instructors report that they often use GSA Today science articles, which are open-access and online back to 1995, in the classroom because they are written to be understood by a broad audience and often include detailed color graphics. Some instructors have even called GSA Today science articles “invaluable” to their curriculum.

GSA publications have also led the way in “going green.” From the first issue, GSA Today has been printed on recycled paper, and it has used soy inks since 1992. In 2008, GSA Today moved to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–certified paper, which emphasizes both the use of recycled fibers and constructive forest management. Today, GSA Today is printed on Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)–certified paper. The emphasis remains the same: to remain as green as possible while still working with a print medium. Along with these initiatives, GSA has been offering its journals and GSA Today on CD since 1993.

For a 10-year retrospective of top geoscience articles (as selected by GSA Today’s managing editor), see “GSA Today science articles: Hot topics and recurring themes, 1998 to 2008” (2009, v. 19, no. 1, p. 41–47).

GSA Today continues to invite submissions of short commentary, comments on science and Groundwork articles, and letters to the editor, along with the science and Groundwork articles themselves. To keep pace with the ever-growing Web audience, full issues of GSA Today are available online, free of charge. As well, GSA Today’s editorship has expanded into the world of Web 2.0, reaching additional readers through the Society e-news magazine, GSA Connection, and interacting with members via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter.

For the past two decades, GSA Today has presented its readers with fresh topics in geology as well as longstanding and evolving research. Readers have called it “Top-Class,” “an absolute life saver for a graduating student,” and “a staple for geologists.” One can only imagine what the next 20 years will bring for GSA Today, the Society, and the science.

Editor’s note: This article was researched and developed by GSA Communications & Marketing intern April Zemyan.