So what happens with all the groundwater knowledge in South Africa? I’m not talking about speculation, gut-feeling or divine interventions; I’m talking proven methodology and verifiable data. Since there is no doubt that consulting firms, the (permanently understaffed) DWS and the tertiary institutions are flocked with hydrogeologial projects, there should be an enormous amount of scientific output. So where to look? And for what? Peer-reviewed articles in reputable journals are probably the best measure of output we currently have.
The Web of Science (WoS) is a rich collection of citation indexes representing the citation connections between scholarly research articles found in the most globally significant journals, books, and proceedings in the sciences, social sciences and art & humanities, and includes South African Journals. The total file count of the WoS is >90 million records, which include over a billion cited references. Publications in the Science category are indexed from 1900 – present together with all authors as well as their affiliations. So you can pretty much argue that you will be able to get all published articles in accredited journals on ‘groundwater’ in South Africa in this database. And you can retrieve some pretty interesting statistics from it…
Which is exactly what I did. (The search methodology I followed can be discussed over wine, should you be interested). For now, I would like to highlight a few interesting results:
• South Africa (as country of origin of either the research or the author) together with the term ‘groundwater’ resulted in 785 counts. That is 785 out of 17018 counts for articles published in three WoS categories: Water Resources, Environmental Sciences and Geosciences Multidisciplinary.
• The top 6 institutions producing publications on groundwater are: UFS, CSIR, UKZN, WITS, UWC and UP.
• The top 3 (local) authors with the highest count for publications are: Xu, Y.X; Tredoux, G.; and Atangama. In the rest of the top 25 we find Van Tonder, Dippenaar and Le Maitre.
• The source producing (by far!) the highest amount of these papers are the Water SA.
Some more analysis and statistics are available, but that would ask for quite a lengthy discussion.
Producing (open-access) articles in an consultance environment is technically impossible. Mainly due to client confidentiality, but probably also because there is little to no incentive for an over-committed hydrogeologist to write papers. In essence, there are plenty of knowledge and data “lost” in these confidential reports. Kudos to Water SA for being the loudest scientific voice for groundwater, let us all strengthen their presence and credibility on the international publication scene.
We also need to mentor juniors to also publish papers that can be peer-reviewed, compared and consolidated; otherwise we will only continue to fragment and weaken the knowledge base of the profession. And let alternative earth scientists and divine beings be the voice for groundwater in South Africa.