Data and Bibliometric analysis methods

Scope, trends and opportunities for socio- hydrology research in Africa: A bibliometric analysis
African DevelopmentBibliometrics bibliometrix R package18 CRISPRData ScienceData ScienceData ScienceScopus socio-hydrology VOS Viewer VOSviewer19 Web of Science


The data analysed in this study were retrieved from the Web of Science and Scopus databases. These databases are considered to have a comprehensive archive of the scientific literature and have been widely used, particularly for the analysis of scientific publications.17 The search strings were: “socio-hydrological research” or “studies”, “socio- hydrological modelling” or “models”, “socio-hydrological systems” or “dynamics”, “socio-hydrological resilience”, “sociohydrologic dynamics” or “models”, “hydro-socio research” or “studies” and “human-water* interaction” or “relationships.” Each search string was placed in a separate row, with the added rows joined by the OR logical, implying that the search outcome displays documents based on the first topic OR the second topic, and so on. The quotation marks were included in each search so as to confine the search conditions, thereby ensuring the robustness of the search outcomes. In addition, the term “Africa”, was added in the search with an AND condition in order to search published documents that were limited to the African continent.

In the current analysis, the documents were retrieved for the period 2000–2019. Additionally, different types of documents were retrieved for the analysis, including articles, reviews, conference proceedings (or papers) and book chapters. The data – 556 and 29 documents for global and Africa, respectively (Supplementary table 1) – were used to conduct a bibliometric analysis, focusing on mapping socio-hydrological research at a global scale as well as for Africa.

The bibliometric analysis was carried out by using bibliometrix R package18 in conjunction with an open-source software program, VOSviewer19. Bibliometric analysis is one of the tools used to study/ represent/display the structural and dynamic aspects of scientific research, through a scientific mapping approach.20 This approach is based on analysing quantitative information of published scientific articles from the bibliographic database.20 Through bibliometric analysis, general development of scientific output – including performance patterns of dominant authors, key journals, leading countries and collaborative institutions involved in the publication of scientific articles within a specific research discipline – can be identified and assessed.21 Other essential information that can be derived from the bibliometric analysis includes emerging research themes, research directions22,

Bibliometric analysis of socio-hydrological research in Africa leading research topics and research gaps in a specific research field.

Bibliometric analysis methods have been applied to various studies, focusing on different fields of scientific research, for instance, in e-government,24-26 tourism,27,28 safety culture,29 education systems,30 policy,31 biochar,32,33 ecosystem services,34 water resources,35 and socio-hydrology.36

The scientific mapping of socio-hydrology research undertaken in this study assessed the following: (1) annual publication growth and trends; (2) leading countries in the subject matter; (3) country representation and collaboration in the socio-hydrology body of knowledge; (4) keywords frequency and co-occurrence; (5) emerging themes and (6) direct citation. The authors’ keywords and keywords-plus (extracted from the titles of the cited references) were used to assess the frequency of occurrence of the keywords. According to Omerzel, frequently co-occur in a cluster of documents are closely related and represent a network of themes within a field of research (in this case, socio-hydrology research).

A thematic map was used to assess the evolution of themes or topics in the socio-hydrology research field. The thematic map was sub-divided into four quadrants: the upper-right quadrant indicates the motor themes (hot topics); themes appearing in the upper-left quadrant are considered very specialised topics; and topics in the lower-right and lower- left quadrants are termed basic themes and emerging/disappearing themes, respectively.37 Furthermore, direct citation network analysis was conducted to track the historical development of a scientific breakthrough in the socio-hydrology research field, including emerging

research topics, technologies and trends. program was used to map and visualise the bibliometric network of countries’ collaboration and keywords co-occurrence.

Article TitleScope, trends and opportunities for socio- hydrology research in Africa: A bibliometric analysis


Socio-hydrology research is concerned with the understanding of how humanity interacts with water resources. The purpose of this study was to assess the disparity between global and African trends as well as developments in the research domain of socio-hydrology. From the viewpoint of a multitude of research themes, multi-author collaborations between African and international researchers and the number of publications produced globally, the results reveal that the field of socio-hydrology is still underdeveloped and yet nascent. At a global level, the USA, China, and the Netherlands have the highest number of scientific publications, while in Africa, South Africa dominates, although these scientific publications are significantly much lower than the global output. The output of scientific publications on socio-hydrology research from Africa increased from 2016, with significant output reached in 2019. Water management and supply, hydrological modelling, flood monitoring as well as policies and decision-making, are some of the dominant themes found through keywords co-occurrence analysis. These main keywords may be considered as the foci of research in socio-hydrology. Although socio-hydrology research is still in the early stages of development in Africa, the cluster and emerging themes analysis provide opportunities for research in Africa that will underpin new frontiers of the research agenda encompassing topics such as the (1) impacts of climate change on socio-hydrology; (2) influence of socio-hydrology on water resources such as surface water and groundwater; (3) benefits of socio-hydrological models on river basins and (4) role of socio-hydrology in economic sectors such as agriculture. Overall, this study points to a need to advance socio-hydrology research in Africa in a bid to address pressing water crises that affect sustainable development as well as to understand the feedback mechanisms and linkages between water resources and different sectors of society.

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