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Water at the U – Around the World

Have you ever wondered how many researchers at the University of Utah work in the broad footprint of water-related research, education, and training activities? As water researchers, have you ever pondered how far water reaches across disciplines at the U, while serving as an integrative topic connecting departments, colleges, programs, and people? Have you ever contemplated the impact of the U’s water-related research and education locally and around the world?

The information highlighted in this blog post begins to address these questions. Gleaning data from two internal online tools - ‘Find a Researcher’ and the ‘Global Inventory’ - and one external database (Scopus), a glimpse of water-related activities at the U is provided. The description below is not meant to be scientific, but instead it is meant to bring to the forefront the strength in water-related activities and reinforce the need to share and promote your work and the work of your U colleagues.

Based on an analysis of searches using the Find a Researcher tool, there are 184 researchers noted in the FAR database listing water as a key word. They are affiliated with 11 colleges and 46 departments or programs. More than 25% of those identifying with a water keyword search come from engineering, with additional strength identified in Law, Mines and Earth Science, Health Science, Science, and Social and Behavioral Science. This list is unfortunately missing those that do not complete FARs or do not list the detail needed to be recognized. It reinforces the need for researchers to enter their data in the FAR, include important key words such as water, select the Sustainability and Global Impact identifiers, and publish the data to the website to make sure the full strength and diversity of water-related activities at the U is represented.


Considering the global engagement mission of the U, interesting insight is obtained by searching the Office for Global Engagement’s Global U Inventory for researchers doing water-related work with international connections. The inventory shows water-related recent or ongoing work with 34 countries as international partners or target audiences. The inventory lists only 37 faculty members doing water-related work outside the U.S. Both of these numbers are far below what is expected to be the actual numbers. However, again, the lack of selecting the Global Impact identifier and publishing the data to the website results in those individuals not being recognized in the inventory searchers.

Sharing Global U Stories

The final insight comes from the hidden figures of an outside scholarly perspective. The number of publications being produced at the University of Utah tells a quantitative story, especially the trend. A search of the Scopus database using ‘water’ as a search criterion combined with ‘University of Utah’ as an author affiliation (including health sciences and medical school) returns 4,811 document results. It is no surprise that Distinguished Professor Jim Ehleringer is the author with the most publications (182!) returned by the search.  It is very positive to see 11 authors with more than 50 publications in the database. And the listing shows dozens more researchers soon to reach that plateau. Chronologically, the number of documents appearing in the database has been increasing significantly. Since 2000, there has been an increase of 140% in the number of publications appearing annually in the database. The number of publications in the database, on average 240 per year, suggests not all of the productivity from the 168 faculty members active in water-related activities is captured by Scopus. Even so, the trend is clear – the U has been increasing water-related research production substantially the past two decades with significant increases from 2001-2005 and again from 2012 to 2015, the later period happening to coincide with the establishment and ramping up of the Global Change and Sustainability Center and the start of the major NSF EPSCoR project iUTAH.


Upon reflection – the numbers tell the true story of the water-related research strength and diversity at the U. Unfortunately, contrary to this true strength are misperceptions of local and even regional stakeholders regarding the impact and capacity of the U for water-related research. Indeed, some internal administrators may not realize the full capacity for water-related research and education activities at the U. Compared with other institutions in Utah, the number of publications in Scopus has been greater at that U than all other institutions combined since the 1990s and has been nearly double since 2015. And the rate continues to increase at the U, whereas plateaus have been reached at other institutions. These trends are not do to lack of productivity at other institutions, but rather a significant increase in productivity at the U.


Collectively this analysis points to a clear need – the U water research community needs to continue to enhance efforts to promote the water-related research and education activities ongoing at the U. The Water Center is happy to help share the news through social media, stories, and the web site. Also, researchers need to document their water-related contributions in the FAR to help characterize the strength and diversity of water-related activities at the U.