Watery research boundaries: A bibliometric and network science approach to explore gaps and overlaps in water research

Lauren E. Dennis, Caitlin A. Grady

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


As the global community faces increasing water-related challenges, enabling safe and secure water access will require cooperation, purposeful water management, and a variety of expertise and interdisciplinary research collaboration. This review uses tools from bibliometrics and network science to explore overlap and collaboration of scholars studying transboundary water resources and water security management. We explore intersections between these communities through an analysis of publications trends, a content analysis of abstracts using natural language processing, and co-authorship networks. We glean five key findings from our results, including that slight variations in keywords used in the literature search in these two topic areas result in different communities of scholars and publications. Our results show that while publications on these topics are increasing over time and there is meaningful overlap between the two topics, the number of scholars publishing in both areas is not increasing over time. The co-authorship networks demonstrate that few authors participate in both transboundary water resources and water security management research communities, and that authors who have knowledge from both topic areas are uniquely positioned within their social networks to facilitate collaboration. We find no correlation between the betweenness centrality and the citation count for authors, measures which are both used to evaluate author influence. The content analysis of abstracts reveals important areas of overlap in the topics addressed, such as climate change, development, and governance, as well as areas of dissimilarity in the scales and focus of these works. Although we found that the broad scope of the water security framework included some of the most prominent scholars studying transboundary water resources, much of the transboundary water resource scholarship was not captured by water security keywords. This work demonstrates that if we are to continue to use integrative yet actionable frameworks in the pursuit of convergent water research, we must think carefully about how we craft these frameworks and whether our choice of language is constructive or destructive in bringing together relevant scholars and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100117
JournalWater Security
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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