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US, China top global water research; India nowhere in pecking order

New Delhi : Despite having an over $4 billion water industry, India is not among the handful of countries that have a robust water research culture. Neighbouring China, on the other hand, is within sniffing distance of the United States, which leads the global water research in both water resources and food and water research.

According to a new report presented by Elsevier and Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) during the ongoing 2012 World Water Week in Stockholm, research output is the highest in the United States in both water resources and food and water research, but growth between 2007 and 2011 was low.

On the other hand, China is experiencing ongoing growth in water research output and, if its trajectory continues, it could be the leading producer of water research within the next few years. Other countries experiencing high growth rates in both water resources and food and water research include Malaysia and Iran.

The report, “The Water and Food Nexus: Trends and Development of the Research Landscape” said that research into water is growing faster than the average four per cent annual growth rate for all research disciplines. The report had analysed the major trends in water and food-related article output at international, national and institutional levels.

With growing discrepancy between supply and demand for water becoming more challenging each year, developments in water research have the potential to help solve this issue.

Interestingly, in India's case, even though several leading foreign companies have set up their global research and development centres in the country, it does not figure in the global pecking order.

(The entire report has not been shared.)

The report examined the dynamics of global water research between 2007 and 2011, focusing on two strands of research; water resources research, referring to natural and social science studies on water use; and food and water research focusing on the study of water consumption and recycling to produce food.

The latter strand is an important theme in this year’s World Water Week thematic focus: Water and Food Security.

The report stated that there has been a dramatic growth of water research, with both strands of research growing above the four per cent average for all research disciplines.

Water resources research is growing at a rate of 9.2 per cent per year, while research into food and water is growing by 4.7 per cent each year. Research is also becoming more collaborative and interdisciplinary, with a dramatic rise in publications from the fields of computer science and mathematics in water resource research; while research from fields within the social sciences have become the fastest growing fields in the food and water research strand.

Also, collaboration holds the key for high impact research, the report found.

More than half of all articles published on water research are based on international collaboration. Interestingly, the most impactful research, for this study defined as average citations per paper, did not come from the countries that produced the most research, nor from those with the highest growth rate.

Instead, the most impactful papers were found to come from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Belgium for water resource research and Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark for food and water research.

In addition, a strong correlation was found between the level of international and interdisciplinary collaboration and the impact, with greater collaboration leading to higher impact research.

Executive Publisher of Elsevier Aquatic and Green Sciences Dr Christiane Barranguet said, “The aim of this report is to provide a transparent view of the water research landscape and the key players within the field".

“We found that the research landscape is becoming more dynamic, complex and, in some places, fragmented. We also found that collaboration is a key factor in producing high impact research. As such there is a greater need for collaboration – across borders and even between academia and industry – in order to grow and enhance the field".

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