Form Follows Function: Article Categories

Consider the best way to communicate your message, even if this means proposing a nontraditional article for BAMS.

The basic categories of submissions for formal peer-review are

  • Articles of less than 7,500 words. The main text (not counting abstract and references) of BAMS articles should average around 4,500 words (about 15 double-spaced manuscript pages). The 7,500 word maximum is for rare and strongly justified cases. Manuscripts cannot exceed maximum length without permission from the Editor in Chief.  Authors should justify additional length in their Proposals.
  • Essays based on experience, opinion, and qualitative or quantitative analysis. These peer-reviewed contributions are designated within the Articles section as a “Forum” selection. They should be less than 5,000 words and average about 3,500 words.
  • Comments and Replies making technical points about papers published in BAMS. The Comment should be less than 1,500 words and the author of the originating article is offered an opportunity to write a Reply. Nontechnical comments are often published as Letters to the Editor.

Several other sections are open to submissions: In Box, Map Room, Nowcast, Meeting Summaries, 45 Beacon, Readings, and Letters to the Editor.

In Box was specifically created for short articles that inform and analyze in a relatively brief, informal mode. The “In” refers to “innovative” and “insight,” not just “informative” and “informal.”

The “innovative” aspect means we are looking for descriptions of initiatives, projects, products, and ideas that are breaking new ground for our sciences and services. In Box is a good place to quickly and broadly sketch for readers what’s new and unusual about what you are doing or proposing to do.

The “insight” aspect extends to essays that explore new directions for our field, trends, markets, priorities, and accomplishments, or that describe projects and products with an emphasis on what has been learned from this work (and what readers can learn from their work). In this way In Box should inspire by example.

Whether a topic is more appropriate for the Articles section or the In Box section is a matter of editorial judgment. We encourage authors to discuss this with the Editors of BAMS at the proposal stage.
In Box articles are limited to roughly 2,500 words and use citations sparingly. The citations are not the linked citation–reference system used by AMS journals and articles in BAMS. In Box and Nowcast (see below) use a brief bibliographical listing called “For Further Reading,” rather than references and citations.

Particularly targeted toward operational meteorologists as well as up-and-coming forecasters and students, Map Room features interesting forecast situations in relatively straightforward language. The discussion is akin to a “map room” briefing with good visual documentation, with discussion of models where necessary, but with emphasis primarily on concepts: lessons learned or applications of science to everyday or unusual weather scenarios. The articles are usually less than 2,000 words and use the minimal, informal citation style used in In Box. A brief list of “For Further Reading” takes the place of “References” and citations—usually with less than 10 entries.

Nowcast is the magazine within the magazine covering developments in the atmospheric and related sciences and services. Nowcast articles are notable for their simplicity, urgency, or importance, and will often promote ideas and good work by being informative. Unlike the sections defined above, Nowcast is not, strictly speaking, a peer-reviewed section, though the editors will sometimes choose to conduct a peer review for an article, anyway.

Nowcast is flexible, but basic types of articles are

  • Opinion columns—a shorter form for expressing insights, these essays can be anywhere from 600 words on up to about 1,500
  • Q-and-A with interesting people in the field
  • Educational programs and ideas, often with ample illustration (usually 500–1,500 words)
  • Newsworthy trends and research efforts, broadly applicable methods, interesting applications and products, usually between 500 and 2,000 words
  • On the Web, for short contributions (generally less than 500 words) about Web pages of interest to members

None of these contributions use formal citations/references or include abstracts. See a recent issue of BAMS for further examples.

Nowcast is also a space for you to be creative…anything that sheds light on our sciences, our professions, our goals, our natural world, including the visual arts. Contact Matt Gillespie for specific guidelines about submitting graphics, photos, or art. Otherwise, for guidelines about contributions to various standing sections of Nowcast, including News and Notes, Chapter Channel, Technology, and Product Announcements, contact the BAMS News Editors  Matt Gillespie and Rachel Thomas-Medwid.

Reports on recent meetings and workshops should synthesize topics, helping readers navigate the meeting’s main focus. Don’t try to cover every presentation or outline the agenda; focus on what was accomplished rather than on what was intended. The best meeting summaries read like a letter from a participant to a colleague who couldn’t attend. 

BAMS restructured its Meeting Summary guidelines as of September 2010. The new guidelines allow us to process meeting summaries faster than ever before and make them more attractive to a wide audience. In order to accommodate the volume of meeting summaries submitted and to process them quickly enough to preserve their essential timeliness, BAMS will accept within two weeks of qualified submission all meeting summaries that adhere to the guidelines below. Accepted manuscripts will be posted online in the AMS Early On-line Releases as soon as possible. Then, upon completion of layout and proofing, the meeting summaries will be listed in the next available Table of Contents in a printed issue and the meeting summaries in final layout form will be published on-line only in the permanent BAMS archive. Only meetings summaries that the editors deem to be exceptionally well written and appealing to the wider readership will be considered for printed publication in addition to online publication.

Meeting Summaries are basically news articles and should be treated with the same regard for timeliness and news value as our Nowcast section. Authors should thus focus only on the newsworthy findings, recommendations, and transactions from their meetings. In addition to following those principles of newsworthiness and selective, focused reporting, meeting summary manuscripts must meet these basic criteria:

  • The article is no more than 2,000 words (roughly three full pages in BAMS) and is uploaded to the BAMS Editorial Manager web page in a format that meets all BAMS Requirements
  • The article has demonstrated news value to the community—in particular, the meeting occurred no more than four months prior to submission of the manuscript.
  • The article may have no more than one table or figure printable within one-half page space in BAMS.
  • The article may not have an unreasonably large amount of special formatting required that may make reading or production awkward (for instance, no more than a third of the article should be in “bullet listing” format).
  • The authors must provide the name of at least one participant of the meeting or workshop—not including the authors—who has read the summary and verified the accuracy of the contents. This verification should be done prior to submission.
  • The manuscript should be in near publishable form in terms of grammar. The terminology and context should be clear to most AMS members, in particular nonspecialists. 
  • The format of the article should follow those published recently, including in particular the style of title (describing the generic topic, not simply the name of the meeting) and the “What, When, Where” information box at the beginning of the article. The information box should lead with the formal title of the meeting.
  • Abstracts are not needed, and group photographs of meeting participants will not be used.

Authors who wish to supplement their meeting summaries with documents, tables, or figures may submit material up to the equivalent of three pages in BAMS, which may be published online only in our freely accessible permanent archive. This allows for approximately 2,000 words of additional online text, or the equivalent space in tables and figures. Inclusion of supplemental material may delay publication of the meeting summary by at least one month.

Two types of articles that commonly have been submitted to the Meeting Summary section should be directed to other sections of BAMS. These are:

  • Informal review articles surveying a discipline or pressing challenge. These now must be written for either our Articles section or our In Box section. A mini-review of the state of a field, with recommendations from a group of authors stemming from a workshop or meeting, will often fit very well within the peer-reviewed In Box section, which focuses on insights and innovations in our sciences.
  • Group statements and reports, often in the form of recommendations, short white-papers, or other opinion essays or documents—usually with a polemical slant and representing a consensus of participants or a broad selection of diverse views, all formulated at a meeting or workshop. Again, this can usually be written as an essay—or collection of short essays—highly suitable for the BAMS In Box section or Articles section, depending on technical or other considerations.

In some cases, after discussion with the BAMS Editor-in-Chief during the proposal process, the authors may choose to write a fast-track report for the Meeting Summary section and also submit a related essay or review for publication in another section of BAMS.

For short articles about issues or projects directly related to the Society or membership in the Society, submit to the 45 Beacon section. This section includes articles about the conduct of professional meetings, announcements, various AMS programs such as the Broadcast Seal, journals, government relations, scholarships, and continuing education. Most of the articles in the section are written by AMS staff, or members involved in specific AMS committees and initiatives, but other submissions on AMS-relevant activities are welcome. For information on submitting Obituaries or content for About Our Members, contact the BAMS News Editors.

Authors interested in writing essays about books or publishing should contact the BAMS News Editor/Book Editor Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid . The Readings section also publishes reviews (by invitation) and book excerpts.

Letters to the Editor are encouraged. They should be less than 500 words and can be submitted through the Editorial Manager website or by e-mail to Remember to include your complete contact information.