The EBB and flow of US coal research 1970-2010 with a focus on academic institutions

Jonathan P. Mathews, Bruce G. Miller, Chunshan Song, Harold H. Schobert, Francois Botha, Robert B. Finkleman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


There has been a remarkable rise and fall in the frequency of coal science related journal publications from US entities. There has been a passing of the mantle from the US to China as the leading nation for English-language coal journal articles. An ISI Web of Knowledge (using the Web of Science database) evaluation of journal articles with "coal" in the title (in English-language journals) for the periods 1970-2010 and 2000-2010 was used as an approach to evaluate the historically active and currently active research centers in coal science. This approach underestimates the contributions but provides a basis for unbiased comparisons. Contributions were broken down by research institutions and by countries of contributing authors using analysis tools within ISI Web of Knowledge webpage. The United States has 30% of the publications between 1970 and 2010, with Japan contributing 7.8% and the People's Republic of China 7.5%. England, Australia, India, Canada, Poland, Spain, Germany, and France contributed between 5% and 2% each. However, China has been the leading country for coal title publications since 2006. The peak publication year for the US was the early 1980s. A decline in US funding opportunities in basic research resulted in multiple once-active coal research centers to focus their efforts elsewhere. This paper focuses on the academic contributions to coal research in the United States and identifies centers that are still active and their focus areas. The leading academic institutions publication records were evaluated using Wordle to visually determine research focus areas through word frequency analysis of the journal article titles. The Wordle analysis and scanning of article titles determined areas of specialty for the various universities and other institutions. Active authors (for the period of analyses) were also determined using this approach. Among the US academic entities, the leading institutions (by quantity of journal articles) were The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), Kentucky, West Virginia, Southern Illinois at Carbondale, University of Illinois, MIT, Utah, Brigham Young, Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Wyoming, Auburn, Carnegie Mellon, North Dakota, Iowa, California at Berkeley, Tennessee, Texas, Purdue, Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia, and Western Kentucky. Of these, about half are still "active" in "coal science" as defined as 15 coal science publications (by this search approach) between 2000 and 2010, where the focus is science and engineering research on coal, but does not include coal-related areas such a post-combustion pollution control or the various catalytic interaction of coal-derived synthesis gas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry


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