Aims & Scope

A new open-access scientific journal, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene publishes original research reporting on new knowledge of the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems; interactions between human and natural systems; and steps that can be taken to mitigate and adapt to global change. Elementa reports on fundamental advancements in research organized initially into six knowledge domains, embracing the concept that basic knowledge can foster sustainable solutions for society. Elementa is published on an open-access, public-good basis—available freely and immediately to the world.

Elementa welcomes the following types of manuscripts, all of which are peer reviewed:

  • Research Article, presenting the results of primary scientific research and typically following the format of a traditional research paper;
  • Review, presenting conceptual advances, syntheses, and integration of a field or topic;
  • Policy Bridge, articles focused on bridging scientific knowledge with policy issues, policy options, or policy analysis;
  • Practice Bridge, articles focused on bridging scientific knowledge with analysis of, challenges with, or opportunities for specific practices;
  • Commentary, explanatory essays, treatises, and opinion papers, typically invited by the Editors-in-Chief;
  • Comment & Reply, items of correspondence relating to Elementa articles and promoting discussion of relevant research, accompanied by author responses; and
  • Book Reviews, critical reviews of books relevant to Elementa, invited by the Editors-in-Chief.

Elementa also welcomes Special Features, a set of related articles addressing themes or projects of broad interest, typically 4–10 articles in each group, usually including a synthesizing Commentary. Special Features may fall within a single knowledge domain or be cross-listed under two or more domains; in either case, a single Editor-in-Chief will be responsible for the entire Special Feature. For more details, see our Special Features informational page.


Knowledge Domains

Elementa’s inaugural knowledge domains are led by prominent researchers, each embracing the concept that basic knowledge can foster sustainable solutions for society.

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth & Environmental Science
  • Ecology
  • Ocean Science
  • Sustainable Engineering
  • Sustainability Transitions


Atmospheric Science

Detlev Helmig
University of Colorado Boulder

The Elementa Atmospheric Science Domain is dedicated to research on the impacts of human activities and the natural state of the Earth’s atmosphere. Elementa invites original research manuscripts that investigate chemical and physical atmospheric properties encompassing natural processes, perturbations, and assessment of future conditions. Elementa will consider work on laboratory studies, field observations, and modeling. Key subject areas include atmospheric chemistry of gases and particles, atmospheric transport, gas and particle exchanges at the Earth’s surface, terrestrial and oceanic biosphere-atmosphere interactions, air quality and air pollution, atmospheric processes in the polar environment, and chemical and radiative influences and feedbacks of the atmosphere on the climate system. Elementa, in particular, strives to become a home for publications on societal impacts of atmospheric conditions and processes, for policy-relevant research findings, and for work that directs and nurtures the path towards a sustainable Earth Atmosphere. To attain this goal, submissions going beyond traditional disciplinary borders are welcome. Interdisciplinary research that bridges Atmospheric Science to any of the five other Elementa domains of Ocean Science, Earth and Environmental Science, Ecology, Sustainable Engineering, and Sustainability Transitions will be co-evaluated with the respective editors of those domains.

Board of Associate Editors


Earth & Environmental Science

Joel D. Blum
University of Michigan

The Earth and Environmental Sciences domain encompasses research on processes impacted by humans that occur on the land surface, in groundwater, and in rivers, lakes and coastal areas. This includes, but is not limited to, the traditional sub-disciplines of surficial geology, geomorphology, physical geography, hydrology, glaciology, geochemistry, biogeochemistry, geomicrobiology, limnology, soil science, remote sensing, climate science, and contaminant fate and transport. Studies published in Elementa should relate to processes that have occurred during the Anthropocene epoch (i.e., since the onset of the industrial revolution ~250 years ago) or earlier if they are significantly affected by human activities.

Board of Associate Editors



Donald R. Zak
University of Michigan

An astonishing diversity of life resides on Earth, wherein recent estimates suggesting that 10-100 million species of microorganisms, plants, and animals presently inhabit our planet. Out of this multitude of diversity, one species has exerted a disproportionate impact on all others: Homo sapiens.  The Ecology Domain of Elementa will consider research centered on the ways in which humans are intentionally and unintentionally altering the conditions for life on Earth and the resulting ecological implications. These anthropogenic effects manifest at molecular levels and can cascade into physiological, population, community, ecosystem, landscape and global responses. Elementa will report new breakthroughs across these levels of ecological organization as well as for all domains of life.

Non-exclusive examples of the type of research topics sought by the Ecology domain include:

  • Physiological, population, community, and ecosystems response to a human-induced environmental change
  • Changes in the distribution, composition, and diversity of organisms, communities, and ecosystems
  • Biological diversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem services in a changing environment
  • Invasive species, climate change, and ecological responses
  • Assessment of ecosystem services and their response to environmental change
  • Human perturbations to biogeochemical cycles at local, regional, and global scales
Board of Associate Editors


Ocean Science

Jody W. Deming
University of Washington

The ocean that defines our blue planet Earth is increasingly subject to the impacts of human activities.  As atmospheric conditions have changed, the ocean has responded, changing in temperature, sea ice cover, sea level, and capacity to absorb and release gases, to acidify and to cycle nutrients. As coastal populations and commercial activities have grown, the ocean has experienced increases in eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, invasive species, dramatic pollution events, and loss of biodiversity. Marine organisms and ecosystems throughout the ocean face multiple environmental challenges; their fates impact human well being in return. Virtually none of the ocean remains pristine as human activities and impacts on its ice, water, and sediments accelerate. Effective ocean policy requires the best possible scientific foundation for understanding the ocean as it functions today, has functioned in the past, and can be expected to change in future. Innovative tools and approaches to studying the ocean bring a new pace of expanding databases to achieve this understanding. The pursuit of ocean science is thus a critical human endeavor. It is also an exciting one, with discovery always on the horizon. Part of human interaction with the ocean is to be awed by its mysteries and emerging clues to larger questions on the origins and evolution of life, the subsurface biosphere, and the physical, chemical and geological underpinnings of the ocean as we know it. Ocean scientists are both rooted in their various disciplines and uniquely skilled at advancing knowledge at the interface of disciplines. A forum is needed to foster and accelerate broad awareness of this knowledge, as it is generated and synthesized, and facilitate the incorporation of new understanding into ocean policy.

The Ocean Science domain seeks to publish original research papers that address all aspects of ocean science, including fundamental, discovery-based and innovative applied research. Papers on findings at the interface of the core disciplines in oceanography (biological, chemical, geological, physical) are especially encouraged. Articles on topics of wide appeal that make clear connections between research findings and problem-solving or policy development are of particular interest. In accordance with the aims and scope of Elementa, the Ocean Science domain fully recognizes the impact of human activity on the ocean, the essential dependency of our well being on its functions and the urgent need to bring new knowledge to immediate and wide attention. We aim to meet the challenge of publishing high quality research papers that can be understood by a well educated but broad audience and can contribute to problem-solving at the local, regional, and global scale of the ocean.

Non-exclusive examples of the type of research topics sought by this domain include:

  • Ecosystem, organism, or biogeochemical responses to a changing environment
  • Responses and feedbacks at ocean boundaries (air-ocean, ice-ocean, land-ocean)
  • Processes, reactions, and adaptations to ocean acidification and other impacts
  • Thresholds and tipping points in critical ocean areas
  • New tools (models, sensors, programs) for improved measurements and predictions
  • Assessment of existing and new approaches to valuing ocean ecosystem functions
  • New economic, regulatory, or policy paradigms for the ocean
Board of Associate Editors


Sustainable Engineering

Michael E. Chang
Georgia Institute of Technology

The concept of sustainability recognizes that human activities have impacts in three dimensions: environmental, economic, and social. Further, the value of these impacts and the methods and norms by which they are evaluated can change over time. As innovators, designers, and problem solvers, sustainability encourages engineers to evaluate their ideas and practices within this four dimensional space, and to find an optimum balance that meets project, program, or system objectives now, while also preserving or enhancing future opportunities for others to do the same later. Behind efforts such as lean manufacturing, green building, green chemistry, design for the environment, bio inspired design, carbon neutrality, systems thinking, resilience engineering, life cycle assessment, cradle-to-cradle, and many others, engineering researchers and professionals are now developing the fundamental laws, rules, and procedures on which the future of human progress will be based. They are also testing these ideas, designing experiments and means for evaluation, and implementing them in the field and in the marketplace. And rather than emerging from deep within the individual disciplines of the different engineering professions, these efforts are, more often than not, materializing at the edges of the fields where the interests of the different agents intersect.

Elementa‘s Sustainable Engineering domain seeks to publish novel research papers that address all aspects of engineering including the designing, building, and operating of structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes. This includes specifically research in the energy, manufacturing, transportation, buildings, water, and materials domains. In accordance with the aims and scope of Elementa and with the precepts of sustainability, however, manuscripts are specifically sought from investigators conducting trans-disciplinary research on coupled human, built, and natural systems. To this end, it is expected that Sustainable Engineering will fill the publishing void that exists in the spaces between the social, natural, and engineering sciences. Accepting original research articles, reviews that synthesize and interpret key fields or topics, and relevant policy analyses, all papers should provide sufficient context to be understood by a well educated but broad audience that can take advantage of the cross-pollination of ideas.

Though not limited to these, examples of the type of research topics sought by this journal include:

  • Studies of biological analogs for engineered systems (or vice versa)
  • Environmental change and its effect on human habitats and inhabitants (and vice versa)
  • Management of energy and materials in manufacturing
  • Tools for decision making at different organizational scales (e.g., household, enterprise, nation)
  • Integration of models across media, disciplines, time, or space
  • Pedagogy of sustainable engineering
  • Multivariable optimization for sustainability
  • New economic, regulatory, or policy paradigms for the built environment
  • Organic or bio-based computing / chemicals / energy / materials
  • Metrics and indices for assessing sustainability and resilience
Board of Associate Editors


Sustainability Transitions

Anne R. Kapuscinski

Purpose and Scope

Elementa’s Sustainability Transitions domain welcomes contributions that advance knowledge on shifting society-environment interactions to sustainability — to a world in which human beings and other life flourish in diverse social and environmental contexts. Transitions to sustainability entail changes in people’s interactions with each other and with the environment at local to global scales. Societies have insufficient knowledge of changes that can effectively promote sustainability transitions, and of the causal mechanisms involved. Navigating these transitions involves different sectors of society, ways of knowing, research approaches, and forms of creative expression. Therefore, a primary purpose of this domain is to bridge boundaries among disciplines, geographies, cultures, and institutions, and between scholars and practitioners. We encourage submissions from scholars in the social and natural sciences and humanities, and practitioners, innovators, and leaders who are forging ahead with strategies to shift towards sustainability.

We welcome contributions that develop innovative approaches in concepts, theory, methods or analysis and have deep or broad implications to inform transitions to sustainability, and that use observational, experimental or theory-driven modes of inquiry. Contributions may focus primarily on concepts, models and hypotheses, on empirical approaches, or both. To meet the boundary-bridging goal of this domain, submissions to Sustainability Transitions should clearly, specifically and logically present the larger context of the work, both in framing the question or opportunity addressed, and in discussing implications of findings. Articles must be written in clear and direct language, with a minimum of technical, specialist terminology and without sacrificing rigor.

Sustainability Transitions has no disciplinary constraints on articles. Contributions may be grounded primarily in a single discipline in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, professional fields, or the arts; may involve an interdisciplinary field or collaboration; or may be problem-oriented investigations or experiences that do not stem directly from a particular discipline. In keeping with this disciplinary and methodological pluralism, the peer-review process will be attentive to the appropriateness of different epistemologies, methodologies, and ways of writing for different submissions.

Finally, we welcome submissions on a broad range of topics, as long as each contribution clearly advances knowledge on a transition to sustainability. Non-exclusive examples include: defining and evaluating goals of sustainability transitions, such as improving adaptive capacity of socio-ecological systems and fulfilling requirements of human well-being; research on specific systems of focus for sustainability transitions (e.g., coupled natural-human systems, systems producing food, energy, and other materials, systems of values and ethics); studies on analogs for sustainability transitions which might come from human history or nature; research on specific sectors of society where transitions occur (e.g., government, business, civil society, education, economies); studies on actors, agents and stakeholders in sustainability transitions (e.g., on voice, power or networks in promoting or resisting transitions); examination of creative expression, learning, knowledge or innovation involved in sustainability transitions; research on socio-environmental dynamics of transitions to sustainability (e.g., adaptive cycles, feedbacks, regime shifts, resistance, cooperation); forecasting transitions to sustainability (e.g., development and use of models, scenarios, or visioning processes); research on assessing transitions to sustainability, from methodologies (e.g., life cycle analysis, integrated assessment, metrics, big data analytics) to impacts of assessments on policy, business and other arenas of action; and studies on scales involved in transitions to sustainability (e.g. spatial and temporal scales, cross-scale processes, inter-generational issues).

Sustainability Transitions accepts Research Articles, Reviews, Policy Bridge Articles, Comments and Reply Articles, and submissions for Special Features. Authors are also invited to submit their work as cross-domain Articles, publishing in multiple domains and reaching a wider group of researchers. Sustainability Transitions will also publish Forums focusing on a specific opportunity for or challenge to a sustainability transition and led by guest editors. Forums start with invited articles intended to frame the topic, and then open for broad submission. All articles will undergo the same peer-review process.

Board of Associate Editors

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