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[SANTIAGO] Global water research output increased by nearly 30 per cent a year from 2000 to 2009, as countries turned to science for solutions to local, regional and global water problems, according to an analysis of articles published in more than 18,000 journals from more than 5,000 publishers.

And water research is becoming more multi-disciplinary, according to 'Confronting the Global Water Crisis through Research — 2010'.

The report, released by Elsevier last month (22 March), reveals that water resource research is growing fastest in China. From 2001 to 2010, the number of articles the country produced grew by 28 per cent a year. In comparison, the number of US articles grew by 11 per cent a year.

China's research has focused on local issues such as water treatment and waste water management from the perspectives of agricultural and earth sciences, engineering and mathematics. In contrast the United States, which produces the most water research, has a wider, more globally relevant range of subjects, the report found.

The report also documents a significant increase in research by countries where rising industrialisation and growing prosperity have led to a higher demand for water.

It highlights the case of Iran where only 12 papers on water resources were produced from 1970 to 2000. But the country produced 96 papers in 2009, and more than 60 per year from 2005 to 2008. Iran's rising scientific research output in general was also noted in a recent report by the UK's Royal Society.

Other countries where water resources research has grown include Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.

Water resources research is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary, the report found. Although agricultural and biological sciences, engineering, and environmental and earth sciences continue to dominate, other related disciplines are now playing a greater role.

These include computer sciences, mathematics and social sciences — particularly economics and policy development. For example, the annual growth rate in economics articles — addressing issues such as the economic impact of water resource scarcity — was 100 per cent from 2004 to 2008, while mathematics and computer science-related articles grew by more than 80 per cent.

"Most countries realise the importance of multidisciplinary research in water research as they face climate change and population growth," said Christiane Barranguet, executive publisher of Elsevier Aquatic Sciences.

 Link to report  [1.1MB]