Guest Editor Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in guest editing an issue of Open Rivers. We, the staff for the journal, look forward to working with you and with the authors you bring into our growing community. 

This page offers some broad guidelines for this work together moving forward. If you have any questions at any time, please always feel free to contact Laurie Moberg, Managing Editor at, or Joanne Richardson, Production and Media Manager, at

Overview of Journal Content

Open Rivers, as a journal of public scholarship, creates a space for critical conversations and work on water, place, and community. We understand water as an important site for engaging questions at the intersections of social and biogeophysical systems, questions about climate change, questions about environmental justice and injustices. The journal shares work from across disciplines and community and professional sectors and strives to make all our pieces accessible to the same broad cross-disciplinary, cross-community audience of readers. Staff at Open Rivers will help authors to shape their work as public scholarship accessible to a broad audience. We hope you, as guest editor, will help the authors you recruit to think about their work in these ways as well. 

Each issue of Open Rivers is loosely organized around a common theme. For the issue you will guest edit, the pieces you recruit may have a theme or a theme may emerge from the pieces later in the process. Past guest-edited issues have involved themes of water and environmental justice, watery places and archaeology, and connections between archaeological research and contemporary climate change challenges. Some guest-edited issues have grown out of conferences or institutes or projects. For example, the issue on Water, Art & Ecology grew out of a conference panel; the We Are Water issue is all tied to a traveling exhibit and event series created by six Minnesota state agencies interested in connecting water, absented narratives, and storytelling. 

As you consider authors and content for your issue, please discuss the theme for your issue with us so we can help determine the suitability of that theme for Open Rivers, making sure it aligns with our key questions and has broad cross-disciplinary and cross-sector appeal. This theme will be reflected in some way in the title of the issue and we invite you to consult with us on the title. However, please note that we will ultimately choose the title for the issue to ensure that it aligns with journal style. 

Overview of Issue Content

Typically a guest-edited issue of Open Rivers includes each of the following components: 

  • Introduction (written by Open Rivers staff)
    • This piece is primarily to introduce the guest editor. In addition, any pieces that you, as guest-editor, do not recruit or prefer not to discuss in your introduction will be mentioned/highlighted here. 
  • Guest Editor’s Introduction
    • As guest editor, we ask that you write a short introduction to the issue. We’d like this to elaborate on the theme of the issue and then give a brief mention of each of the articles in the issue. If there are pieces in the issue that you do not recruit, you may choose whether or not you’d like to mention them in your introduction. If not, we’ll be sure to mention them in the Introduction from the editorial staff. 
  • Features
    • Each issue includes at least three feature articles tied to the theme of the issue. These pieces are meant to be new material and are typically 3000-5000 words. 
  • Columns
    • Each issue includes at least one of each of the following five column types: 
      • Primary Sources is a close reading of a particular resource, collection, data set, or other source. These sources may offer first-hand knowledge of an event, place, or time or reflect the author’s commitments in some way. The author might explain what constitutes a “primary source” in their field or discipline or may discuss the meaning, history, or use in research of a particular primary source.
      • Perspectives offers insights that diverge from the main theme of the issue or give a different viewpoint. This might include current events, interviews, or direct counterpoints to the dominant thread of the issue. 
      • Teaching and Practice highlights recent classroom work or discusses issues related to teaching and learning, in both formal and informal settings. This column may include examples of student work.
      • In Review includes reviews of recent books, exhibits, symposia, blogs, podcasts, films, and websites. 
      • Geographies focuses on spatial representations and organization of information, considering these a critical way of enriching understandings of place, community, and water. 
    • Columns are typically shorter in length than feature articles (approximately 1000 words), but we can be flexible with both longer and shorter contributions. 

Typically, guest editors recruit at least the 3+ features for an issue. Guest editors can decide which, if any, components they will recruit for their issue. However, we need to know at least 4 months in advance which pieces a guest editor will recruit, as Open Rivers staff will need time to recruit for any remaining column types. 

On occasion, we may have an additional feature or column not recruited by the guest editor that we may choose to publish in a guest-edited issue. This is rare, but we like to ensure authors a timely publication. Should this be necessary, Open Rivers staff will discuss this with a guest editor as soon as possible. 

Overview of Process

Once a guest editor has agreed to edit and contribute to an issue and once we have shaped a theme that satisfies both Open Rivers and the guest editor, the guest editor will be responsible for recruiting material to include in the issue. 

To communicate, Open Rivers staff will create a shared google folder with a document to track progress of pieces and recruitment work. Staff will also reach out monthly to check in on progress and determine how we can best be of assistance. 

Once authors have committed to write for the journal, we ask that the guest editor work with them to shape the article into a piece appropriate for the theme and appropriately written for a journal of public scholarship. To aid in this process, please see our submission guidelines. (Please note that we are currently in the process of updating this content on our website so details may change, but the general guidelines will remain the same. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.) Throughout the process, we are happy to help. 

Once the author and guest editor have agreed the piece is ready for editorial review, the guest editor will hand the article off to Open Rivers editorial staff and make an e-introduction between the staff and the author(s). This draft of the article must be submitted to editorial staff according to the following guidelines: 

  • Peer-Reviewed Features: no less than 9 months before anticipated publication
  • Features: no less than 3 months before anticipated publication
  • Columns: no less than 2.5 months before anticipated publication

Editorial staff will then move the non peer-reviewed articles through our regular editorial, media, and production process: 

  • Editorial: 
    • Initial edit for organization and clarity by editorial staff, possibly return to author(s) for revisions. 
    • Edited version shared with outside reader (this is not peer-review, but we ask someone from our editorial community to comment on the argument, organization, and accessibility of the piece for a broad audience); the comments are returned to the author for a final round of revisions. 
    • Final version returned to editorial staff for final copy edit and preparation for publication. 
  • Media: 
    • Media and Production manager will share guidelines and a spreadsheet to help authors organize images, obtain permissions, and provide captions and insertion points into the article. 
  • Production: 
    • For each author, we also gather a short bio (3-5 sentences), an approximate geographic location to represent the article, and approximate geographic location to represent the author. 
    • As we start production, we also send an email author agreement and ask people to email us back with permission to publish their work. 
    • Authors will have a chance to preview their article once it is digitally produced. At this time, we can make changes to remedy errors, but we cannot make substantive changes in content. 
    • Once all the pieces are built, we release a friends and family version of the new issue about a week before it is publicly published and shared. You are welcome to look at the entire issue at that time, but not promote or share it. 
    • We’ll send an official notice when the issue is published and ready for public sharing. We’ll promote the issue and articles via Twitter, Facebook, and email. If you’d like us to tag you or promote articles to anyone, we welcome your suggestions. 

Because these processes take time, the sooner pieces are delivered to us, the sooner we can move them through our processes. We encourage guest editors to share articles with us individually rather than waiting for all pieces to be ready at once. This way, we can start these processes with each piece as soon as possible. 

As you set deadlines for your work with authors, please keep our deadlines in mind. 

Final Notes

Thank you again for your interest in being a guest editor for Open Rivers. We value the opportunity to share work with a broad audience and to continue to expand our pool of writers and readers with new and engaging content. 

Throughout the process, we are always here to help and happy to answer questions, discuss opportunities and challenges, and make arrangements to work with you and the authors you recruit. We strive to offer support and flexibility whenever possible, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any concerns or questions. 

We look forward to working with you. 

The Staff of Open Rivers