The water and food nexus trends and development of the research landscape

Water and food continues to draw international attention as one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. Events such as UN World Water Day and World Water Week in Stockholm are held to raise public awareness of the importance of freshwater and to advocate sustainable management of water resources.

Further development of water and food research is critical to support the food-supply of the growing population under the constraint of limited water resources. At the same time, knowledge transfer of this science and technology is complex and challenging.

In order to provide a transparent view and to assess the present and future trends in the nexus of water and food research, in 2012 Elsevier and Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) worked closely together to create the report, 'The Water and Food Nexus: Trends and Development of the Research Landscape’ which is based on an analysis of Scopus publication data by Elsevier's Analytical Services.

This report examines the dynamics of global water research between 2007 and 2011 at international, national and institutional levels, 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 core findings

Exploding water research landscape

There has been a dramatic growth of water research since the 1980’s. From 2007 to 2011, water resources research grew at a rate of 9.2% per year, while food and water research grew by 4.7% each year.

Increase in international collaboration

Since the flow of water respects no manmade boundaries, water problems are often international problems. More than half of all water resources and water and food research articles are produced by international collaboration among researchers.

Publication landscape per country

Output is highest in the United States in both water resources and water and food research, but recent growth is very low. China is seeing the fruits of steadily increased investment in water research and may surpass the United States in water research publication output in a few years.

Country impact

The most impactful papers, defined for this study as average citations per paper, in water resources research originated in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Belgium, while the most impactful papers in water and food research came from Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark.

The report clearly shows that water research is growing in new places and becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. The entire water community now has a great opportunity to better leverage the knowledge creation on water research that is emanating from new places and new partnerships.Per Bertilsson, Acting Executive Director at Stockholm International Water Institute

This report follows a related report published by Elsevier titled, ‘Confronting the Global Water Crisis through Research,’ which examines the dynamics of global water resources research from 2005-2008.