Asearch for “seismic interpretation” on Google yields 2.4 million results, including books on the subject, several ads for interpretation software, and even a video on YouTube. But what interpreters have been lacking is a peer-reviewed journal that follows this ever-evolving science.

Through its peer-reviewed publication Geophysics, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) attempted to overcome this shortfall by including a special section on interpretation several years ago. “There was a section for a time called ‘Practicing Geophysics,’” said Ted Bakamjian, SEG director, Publications. “The idea was to draw papers that were focused more on applications rather than novel research. But it wasn’t as clear and focused as needed.”

Former SEG Editor Yonghe Sun of Chevron resurrected the idea in 2011. With the support of SEG’s Publications Policy Committee and approval from the society’s executive committee, the new journal Interpretation was launched in fall 2012. Sun is the editor. The first manuscripts already have been submitted and are in review, and the print version of the first issue is expected in summer 2013.

Why another journal?

There are a couple of key differences between interpretation articles and other technical articles that might find their way into Geophysics. For one thing, interpretation tends to involve workflows that may or may not include brand new algorithms or techniques. For another, interpretation tends to be more multidisciplinary than other technical work in geophysics. It was felt that this segment of the geoscience was not being properly served through SEG’s existing publications.

“We’ve long felt that our interpretation community was underserved in our publications, especially in our journals,” Bakamjian said. “Our expanded abstracts and meeting presentations include a lot of material on interpretation, but those aren’t as frequently transformed into articles in our publications as material in other subject areas.” He added that the bulk of the interpretation articles that do get published go into The Leading Edge, which is not peer-reviewed.

Sun added that the goal of the new journal is to “elevate the art and practice of interpretation.”

“Interpreters use geophysical software and tools that are based on principles and algorithms that have been developed in the work published in Geophysics,” he said. “They share their work at the SEG’s annual meeting and in summary technical articles published in The Leading Edge.”

The new publication will take that exposure further, he said, offering:

  • External peer review before the publication of an interpretation. “Project reviews by the authors’ colleagues within the same place of employment are less likely to bring forth new perspectives and alternative practices,” Sun said;
  • Adequate space for comprehensive case histories and in-depth expositions;
  • Timely updates on educational content such as tutorials, pitfalls, tools, and techniques;
  • Invited contributions on special topics to stimulate publication in selected subject areas and to bridge the expertise gap among geophysicists, geologists, and engineers; and
  • A dedicated space to archive interpretations and case histories of all major basins.

A spring 2012 marketing survey indicated that the idea is ripe. Bakamjian described “very positive feedback.”

“That was a necessary step, part of a formal process for evaluating new journals,” he said. “This is the first journal

software image

Interpreters benefit from software programs that aid in their visualization of the subsurface. (Image courtesy of Paradigm)

SEG has launched since The Leading Edge 30 years ago, and it does represent a bit of a departure for us in that our publications have been organized more around form than by subject area. This is the first one that’s really subject-specific.”

Sun said that within seven weeks of the journal’s introduction , 16 submissions had been received. “A key responsibility of Interpretation editors is to identify, invite, and prod interpreters with publication-worthy materials to write Interpretation articles,” he said. “Our target for 2013 is two quarterly issues, the first in August and the second in November.” Each of these issues will include a special section. The August special section will be titled “Interpreting stratigraphy from geophysical data,” while November will feature “Interpretation for unconventional resources.”

Article specifics

Sun expects that typical articles will present applications of well-established geophysical methods – either alone or in combination – to subsurface characterization projects. These applications usually require interpretation of incomplete geophysical data based on a priori geologic knowledge, he said.

The journal’s editorial policy allows for the description of a project completed well before the paper submission. “It might not be justifiable for the contributing authors to maintain continued access to proprietary project data or to spend significant additional project resources for the purpose of addressing some of the technical deficiencies identified by the reviewers,” the policy stated. “An Interpretation paper could include a section on ‘suggestions for further study’ in which new ideas for expanding the work can be put forward, technical weaknesses of the work can be enumerated, and remedies of such weaknesses can be proposed. This might be an important section for geosciences students who have less frequent exposure to real data or problems.”

How technical might these papers be? “The only limit on the degree of technicality is implied by the editorial acceptability test,” Sun said, “which is, ‘Would the interpretation community be better served if the paper were published?’ A good technical paper should not be technically difficult for its intended readers.”