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Applied Water Science

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 1255–1272 | Cite as

Estimates of Arab world research productivity associated with groundwater: a bibliometric analysis

  • Shaher H. Zyoud
  • Daniela Fuchs-Hanusch
Open Access
Original Article

Abstract

The sustainable management of groundwater resources is a pressing necessity for most countries. As most of the Arab world is facing severe water scarcity, threats of depletion of non-renewable groundwater, and problems of pollution and salt-water intrusions into groundwater aquifers, much effort should be devoted to eliminate these dangers in advance. This work was devoted to bring up insights into Arab world research activities in groundwater, which is a crucial task to identify their status and can help in shaping up and improving future research activities. A bibliometric analysis has been conducted to track these activities. The study identified 1417 documents which represent 3.3% of global research productivity. Egypt was the most productive country (313; 22.1%), followed by Saudi Arabia (254; 17.9%). Total citations were 9720 with an average of 6.9. The h-index of the retrieved documents was 39, and the highest one was 22 for Egypt. The most common subject category was Environmental Science, and the most productive journal was Arabian Journal of Geosciences (99; 7.0%). In international research collaboration, France was the most collaborated country with Arab world (125; 8.8%), followed by the United States (113; 8.0%). The most productive institution was King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia (66; 4.7%). The outcomes shows remarkable improvements in groundwater research activities originated from the Arab world. Even though, constructive efforts should be pursued vigorously to bridge the gaps in groundwater-based research. Moreover, promotion of better evaluation tools to assess the risks arising from the mismanagement of groundwater resources is required urgently.

Keywords

Groundwater Bibliometric Scopus Citation Impact factor Arab world 

Introduction

Groundwater is the subsurface water that fully saturates all fissures and pores in rocks and soils, and occurs as an output of the hydrologic cycle, which is used to represent the continuous movement of water in the environment (Giordano 2009; Mitchell et al. 2001). It is formed by excess rainfall (total precipitation minus surface runoff and evapotranspiration) that soaks deeper into the ground until it reaches the saturated zone to form what is called groundwater formations (Bouwer 2000). Groundwater is a primary source of fresh water in many parts of the world (Rodell et al. 2009), and it comprises more than 95% of the world’s freshwater resources, if we ignore water frozen in glaciers and polar ice (Alley 2006). In arid and semi-arid regions, it is considered the most important water resource, and its quality is of utmost concern (Jing et al. 2014). It is often the most or only feasible safe drinking water source in remote and low-resource areas (Abramson et al. 2014). Traditionally, it has been considered safe for human consumption without undergoing conventional drinking water treatment (Yates et al. 1985).

The exploitation of groundwater resources for human use dates from the earliest civilizations, but massive resource development has been largely restricted to the past 50 years (Foster and Chilton 2003). The development of groundwater resources produced considerable social and economic benefits since it is playing a significant role in urban water supply, rural livelihood (Foster and Chilton 2003), and in the health of many ecosystems (Alley et al. 2002). Calls for groundwater resources management and international attention to groundwater are substantial issues since the process of developing and managing this vital resource in a sustainable mode discomposes many challenges (Zuppi 2008). The most challenges that dominate groundwater use are: depletion due to overdraft, pollution due to agricultural, industrial and other human activities (Shah et al. 2000), saltwater intrusion (Koundouri 2004) and decreasing of discharge to rivers, springs and wetlands (Custodio 2010).

Challenges of managing water resources are more severe and widespread in developing countries rather than advanced ones, and the vast majority of projects adopting methodologies of advanced approaches for groundwater management and vulnerability assessment have been carried out in first world countries (Mende et al. 2007). The Arab countries are considered as developing countries (Medany 2008), and most of their lands are classified as hyper-arid, semi-arid and arid land zones that are characterized by low and limited water resources (Medany 2008). In the last decade, promising initiatives from Arab world are devoting more efforts to improve groundwater management, which include for examples: groundwater monitoring using new advances in remote sensing technologies (Chartres and Varma 2010), cooperation in the North Western Sahara Aquifer system (Benblidia 2005), and developing policies for groundwater protection from pollution by anthropogenic activities (UNEP 2010). Furthermore, a noticeable increase in scientific research activities in this regard has been observed in these countries.

Studies of analyzing scientific research productivity in different disciplines at country, region and/or global levels have been performed by researchers during the last periods to examine the status of research and to evaluate its performance (Fu et al. 2010; 2013; Zheng et al. 2015; Zyoud and Fuchs-Hanusch 2015; Zyoud et al. 2016a, b; Zyoud et al. 2015). By reviewing the obtainable literature and to the best of our knowledge, there is a lack of data regarding the evaluation of scientific output in the field of groundwater research at Arab world level. Globally, a study conducted by Schwartz et al. (2005) is available in which they described patterns of evolution of research strands in the hydrologic sciences and examined issues of impact and innovation in groundwater research using bibliometric data and citation analysis. This study was limited to articles published in Water Resources Research journal only (Schwartz et al. 2005). The proposed study will focus on measuring and analyzing the scientific productivity of groundwater research originating from the Arab countries. This analysis will give a better perception of the current and future status of research in groundwater at this region level.

The Arab world is extending from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean, and from Black and Caspian Seas to Sub Saharan Africa. In 2010, it was the home of 359 million people, and in 2050, it is projected to reach nearly 600 million (Mirkin 2010). The people of this region are having many similarities and dissimilarities. They share language, culture, and religion but they are also subject to social, political and economic distinctions (Boutayeb et al. 2012). Particularly, in the oil-rich Arab countries, education sectors, living standards and health services have been noticeably improved over the last periods, which were accompanied by a relative increase in scientific output (Benamer et al. 2009). The mapping of Arab world research activities that are related to groundwater will assist in evaluating its contribution to the global literature, assessing the commitment to the state of science in this field and the exerted efforts for development and research, which by the end can help researchers in identifying and undertaking new directions of research and can improve the future research investments. The most common research techniques used to track the scientific research activities are bibliometric methods (Li et al. 2008). They are a well-known research tools for systematic analyses (van Raan 2005), which mostly employed to procure bibliographical data within a specific field, institute, topic, journal, authors or country by utilizing quantitative analyses and statistics methods (Wallin 2005). Furthermore, they can be used in creating pronouncements about qualitative performance indicators of research activities (Wallin 2005).

This study aimed to analyze research output originated from Arab region and related to groundwater research, measuring rates of growth, research collaborations figures, most prolific journals, authors and institutions, and most cited works depending on data harvested from Scopus database. This work can be deemed as an informative assessment that can assist in creating detailed insights and in mapping of most important bibliometric performance indictors associated with research activities in highly remote and critical field such as groundwater research.

Methods

Search strategy

This study counted on data synthesized from Scopus database for a period including all previous years up to December 31, 2015, with an aim to get an integrated view on the modality of research output from Arab world in the field of groundwater. An inclusive search has been performed using SciVerse, Scopus, which is one of the largest databases, abstracts and citations of peer-reviewed literature. This research database includes nearly 60 million records, and over than 21,500 peer-reviewed journals (Elsevier 2016). It is deemed as one of the most reliable bibliographical source and has been mostly employed to reveal patterns of scientific research. Scopus database is conjugating the features of both PubMed and Web of Science search databases, and is larger than Web of Science and more accurate than Google Scholar (Falagas et al. 2008). The search output from Scopus can be displayed in list of 20–200 items per page, and the extracted files can be exported to Excel, and these results can be refined by document type, author name, source title, publications per year, and/or subject area, and a new search can be initiated within the results (Falagas et al. 2008).

To meet the objectives of this study, the following keywords which have been selected from related studies in groundwater (Al-Adamat et al. 2003; Almasri and Kaluarachchi Almasri and Kaluarachchi 2004, 2005; Bakalowicz 2005; Edmunds et al. 2003; Garmes et al. 2002; Storey et al. 2003; Tahaikt et al. 2007) were entered into the Scopus as article titles: “groundwater”, “ground-water”, “ground water”, “ground waters”, and “water ground”. The effective keywords were: “groundwater*”, “ground water*” and “water ground”. The term “water ground” refers to expressions mentioned in the article titles such as “surface water/ground water; salt water–ground water, etc.”. The advanced search captures the word “water” from the first term, and the word “ground” from the second term to form the term “water ground”. The asterisk (*) in the second word of the used terms has been used as a wild card character to simplify the search and to make it more comprehensive since this format will track all possible forms of the used terms (i.e., it was more inclusive when (“ground water*”) search term was used in comparison with the use of (“ground water”). All subject areas within Scopus database which include: life, health, social and physical sciences were chosen. Furthermore, all types of documents in Scopus database will be considered excluding the erratum type of documents. The twenty-two Arab countries: Saudi Arabia; Egypt; Jordan; Palestine; Lebanon; Qatar; Bahrain; Kuwait; Morocco; Tunisia; Syrian Arab Republic; United Arab Emirates; Iraq; Sudan; Yemen; Algeria; Comoros; Djibouti; Libya; Mauritania; Oman; and Somalia will be employed as country keys during the search process.

The formula in the advanced search for Article titles related to groundwater will be as follows:

TITLE(“groundwater*” OR “ground water*” OR “water ground”) AND PUBYEAR<2016 AND (EXCLUDE(DOCTYPE, “er”)) AND (LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Egypt”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Saudi Arabia”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Morocco”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Tunisia”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Jordan”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Algeria”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Kuwait”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Palestine”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Oman”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “United Arab Emirates”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Syrian Arab Republic”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Lebanon”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Sudan”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Yemen”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Iraq”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Bahrain”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Mauritania”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Qatar”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Comoros”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Djibouti”) OR LIMIT-TO(AFFILCOUNTRY, “Somalia”)).

The following information can be collected as outcomes, and further analysis among these outcomes can be carried out (a) total research productivity during all previous years up to December 31, 2015; (b) collaboration figures by country and/or by region; (c) journals where Arb researchers mostly published their researches; (d) most prolific institutions and authors; (e) citation rates of the published works and most cited documents. The search has been carried out within one time interval (July 24, 2016) to eliminate the bias which may happen as a consequence of daily updating of Scopus database.

Indices of research productivity

This study will arrange the outputs that are related to: countries, journals, areas of interest, institutions, most cited articles, and most prolific authors in descending order according to the formula of standard competition ranking (SCR) in combination with their bibliometric performance indicators (i.e., the one with the highest performance will be on the top and so on). The study will evaluate the performance of all Arab countries while for the other outputs, the only top twenty ranked outputs will be considered and in any case, any outputs have attracted the same ranking, a jump in numbering for the subsequent one will be adopted.

The h-index, which is a simple single number incorporating both quantity (publication) and quality (citation scores), was employed to display the total citations received for published documents (Egghe 2006). It was introduced in 2005 by Hirsch as a useful tool index to further characterize the importance, significance and broad impact of a researcher’s cumulative research contributions (Hirsch 2005). The h-index is a country’s number of articles (h) that have received at least h citations and it is applicable also to journals and scientists and can be used to quantify both country scientific productivity and scientific impact (Hirsch 2005). To simplify its significance; it can be said: a country with an h-index 15 has published 15 documents and each document has attracted at least 15 citations. To demonstrate the frequency with which the “average article” in a specified journal has been cited in a particular year or period, the impact factor (IF) as one of quantitative tools proposed by The Journal Citation Report (JCR) for ranking, evaluating, categorizing, and comparing journals (Web of Science 2016) has been used.

Statistical analysis

Statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) program has been used to process the generated data from Scopus database statistically. The statistical analysis will calculate the descriptive statistics such as median, mean and sum. The median (Q1–Q3: interquartile range) will be used to represent the variables that are not normally distributed such as the number of citations. The categorical data will be represented as numbers with percentages.

Bibliometric maps

Bibliometric maps and network visualization techniques using VOSviewer software (van Eck and Waltman 2010) will be employed to shed the light on the most topics of concern. This software creates maps based on data of network using the “visualization of similarities” mapping and clustering technique and designed to primarily be used for analysis of bibliometric networks (Zeraatkar 2013). The analysis of co-occurrence of keywords (i.e., all types of keywords: author keywords and index keywords) with a threshold of minimum number of occurrences of a keyword is five, which will be done and the results will be displayed in two forms: density visualization and network visualization. In maps of density visualization, the text size indicates the contribution of the item (i.e., the larger text, the higher contribution) and the distance between the items indicates the strength of the links between them (i.e., the closer distance indicates stronger links) which can be translated into colors in the format of red–green–blue and the red color is the indicator of the hot area where many linkages exist (Zeraatkar 2013). In network visualization, the observations are assigned to clusters, where the observations in each cluster are similar to one another with respect to attributes of interest (Tryfos 1998).

Results

The total number of documents extracted from Scopus database with terms related to “groundwater” in the article titles, without imposing limitations to search for specific countries was 43,657 documents. An exclusion for 252 documents published as erratum leads to a net total of 43,405 documents. This figure represents the total global research productivity in groundwater filed. When the search was limited to Arab countries, the produced figure was 1417 documents (3.3% from the total global research productivity in groundwater field). This figure includes 1219 (86.0%) documents as original journal articles and articles in press, 147 (10.4%) as conference papers, 20 (1.4%) as reviews, 31 (2.2%) documents classified as other types of publications, such as book chapter, notes, short survey, editorial or letter. As documented in Scopus database, the first published article with author’s affiliation to Arab world and related to groundwater research was entitled “prospecting for ground water by induced electrical polarization” (Vacquier et al. 1957). It was published in Geophysics journal in 1957, and one of the co-authors (Kintzinger, P. R.) was from The Desert Institute; Mataria; Egypt. Figure 1 shows the distribution of documents published per year from Arab world with comparison to evolution of annual publications at global level. Published documents in English language were the dominant (n = 1356; 95.7%). It was followed distantly by French (n = 81; 5.7%), Spanish (n = 13; 1.0%) and Arabic language (n = 9; 0.6%).
Fig. 1

No. of published documents at Arab world level in fields of research related to groundwater with comparison to research productivity from the Global

Analyzing of data at country level as displayed in Table 1, shows that Egypt was the most productive country (313 documents; 22.1%), followed by Saudi Arabia (254; 17.9%), and Tunisia (170; 12.0%). No data related to groundwater were published from Djibouti, Somalia, and Comoros. The total number of citations at the time of synthesizing data was 9720, with an average of 6.9 citations per document. The median (interquartile range) of citation was 2 (0.0–8.0). The highest median of citations was 6 (1.0–18) for Palestine, followed by 6 (1.0–12.0) for Jordan. The total h-index of the retrieved documents was 39, which means that 39 documents had been cited at least 39 times at the time of data analysis. The highest h-index was 22 for Egypt, followed by 18 for each of Saudi Arabia and Morocco, 17 for Jordan, and 16 for each Tunisia and Palestine. Saudi Arabia was the most collaborated country with other countries, followed by Egypt and Tunisia.
Table 1

Bibliometric analysis of 1417 documents published by Arab world in groundwater during a period of time extended from 1957 to end of 2015

SCRa

Countries

No. of published documents (%)

h-index

Total citations

Median of citations (Q1-Q3)b

Average of citations

Collaboration with other countries

Number of documents with international authors (%)c

Most collaborated country

No. of documents with most collaborated country (%)

1st

Egypt

313 (22.1)

22

1805

2 (0–7)

5.77

32

145 (46.0)

Saudi Arabia

44 30.0)

2nd

Saudi Arabia

254 (17.9)

18

1387

2 (0–7)

5.46

36

106 (42.0)

Egypt

44 (42.0)

3rd

Tunisia

170 (12.0)

16

1110

2.5 (0–7)

6.53

30

76 (45.0)

France

33 (43.0)

4th

Morocco

164 (11.6)

18

1314

4 (1–11)

8.01

21

104 (63.0)

France

54 (52.0)

5th

Jordan

111 (7.8)

17

1115

6 (1–12)

10.05

29

52 (47.0)

Germany

18 (35.0)

6th

Algeria

104 (7.3)

12

559

1 (0–5)

5.37

12

38 (37.0)

France

23 (61.0)

7th

United Arab Emirates

68 (4.8)

10

289

1 (0–5.75)

4.25

19

45 (66.0)

Egypt

14 (31.0)

8th

Oman

58 (4.1)

13

467

4 (1–12.25)

8.05

19

35 (60.0)

India

6 (14.0)

9th

Kuwait

57 (4.0)

10

278

3 (0–7)

4.87

5

5 (9.0)

France

−1 (20.0)

Hungary

−1 (20.0)

India

−1 (20.0)

Sudan

−1 (20.0)

United Kingdom

−1 (20.0)

10th

Palestine

50 (3.5)

16

714

6.5 (1–18)

14.28

14

29 (58.0)

United States

14 (48.0)

11th

Syrian Arab Republic

39 (2.8)

9

302

4 (1–9)

7.74

11

20 (51.0)

Germany

9 (45.0)

12th

Iraq

36 (2.5)

4

36

0 (0–1)

1.0

8

14 (39.0)

Germany

5 (36.0)

13th

Lebanon

32 (2.2)

8

644

3.5 (1–11.75)

20.13

10

12 (38.0)

France

4 (33.0)

14th

Sudan

25 (1.8)

5

120

1 (0–4)

4.80

13

13 (52.0)

United States

3 (23.0)

15th

Yemen

16 (1.1)

5

114

3 (0–7.75)

7.13

9

13 (81.0)

Malaysia

5 (38.0)

16th

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

15 (1.0)

3

36

0 (0–3)

2.40

5

7 (47.0)

India

−3 (43.0)

         

Morocco

−3 (43.0)

17th

Bahrain

11 (0.8)

5

76

4 (1–10)

6.90

1

1 (9.0)

India

1 (100.0)

18th

Qatar

6 (0.4)

2

8

1.5 (0–2.25)

1.33

7

3 (50.0)

United States

2 (67.0)

19th

Mauritania

2 (0.1)

20th

Djibouti

20th

Somalia

20th

Comoros

 

SCR Standard competition ranking, Q1–Q3 lower quartile–upper quartile

aEqual countries have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

bFor the small number of articles, the interquartile range was not available

cPercentage of documents with international authors (i.e., from other Arab and non-Arab countries) out of the total number of documents for each country

The study identified, as shown in Table 2, 531 (37.5%) documents with 60 countries in Arab-international collaborations. At country level, the highest rate of collaboration was between Arab scholars and researchers from France (n = 125; 8.8%), followed by the United States (n = 113; 8.0%), Germany (n = 76; 5.4%), United Kingdom (n = 32; 2.3%) and India (n = 32; 2.3%). At regional level, the highest rate of collaboration was with Western Europe (329 documents; 23.2%), followed by Northern America (123; 8.7%) and Asiatic region (99; 7.0%). Furthermore, the highest rate of citations was attained for published research as a result of collaboration between Arab world and Western Europe (3065 citations), followed by collaboration with Northern America (1882 citations). Table 3 shows areas of interests of the published research, Environmental Science was the most with 916 documents (64.6%), followed by Earth and Planetary Sciences (615; 43.4%), Agricultural and Biological Sciences (212; 15.0%) and Engineering (206; 14.5%).
Table 2

Collaborations between Arab countries and foreign countries in Groundwater research

Region/Countriesa

No. of documents (%)

h-index

Total citations

Median of citations (Q1–Q3)b

Average of citations

Western Europe

329 (23.2)

25

3065

4 (1–11)

9.32

 France

125 (8.80)

    

 Germany

76 (5.40)

    

 United Kingdom

32 (2.30)

    

 Netherlands

24 (1.70)

    

 Italy

20 (1.40)

    

 Portugal

20 (1.40)

    

 Spain

17 (1.20)

    

 Belgium

15 (1.10)

    

 Sweden

11 (0.80)

    

 Switzerland

8 (0.60)

    

 Denmark

5 (0.40)

    

 Greece

5 (0.40)

    

 Austria

4 (0.30)

    

 Norway

2 (0.10)

    

 Cyprus

1 (0.07)

    

 Iceland

1 (0.07)

    

 Ireland

1 (0.07)

    

Northern America

123 (8.70)

25

1882

7 (2–20)

15.3

 United States

113 (8.0)

    

 Canada

12 (0.85)

    

Asiatic Region

99 (7.0)

12

551

3 (0–7)

5.56

 India

32 (2.30)

    

 Japan

23 1.60)

    

 Malaysia

15 (1.10)

    

 China

12 (0.85)

    

 Pakistan

4 (0.30)

    

 South Korea

3 (0.20)

    

 Uzbekistan

3 (0.20)

    

 Bangladesh

2 (0.10)

    

 Taiwan

2 (0.10)

    

 Thailand

2 (0.10)

    

 Brunei Darussalam

1 (0.07)

    

 Hong Kong

1 (0.07)

    

 Indonesia

1 (0.07)

    

 Nepal

1 (0.07)

    

 Sri Lanka

1 (0.07)

    

 Viet Nam

1 (0.07)

    

Middle East

21 1.50)

7

171

4 (1.5–15.5)

8.14

 Turkey

14 (1.0)

    

 Israel

5 (0.40)

    

 Iran

3 (0.20)

    

Eastern Europe

19 (1.30)

8

248

3 (1–17)

13.05

 Poland

6 (0.42)

    

 Russian Federation

4 (0.30)

    

 Hungary

3 (0.20)

    

 Romania

3 (0.20)

    

 Bulgaria

1 (0.07)

    

 Czech Republic

1 (0.07)

    

 Slovakia

1 (0.07)

    

Africa

18 (1.30)

6

116

4.5 (0.75–11.25)

6.44

 South Africa

5 (0.40)

    

 Cameroon

3 (0.20)

    

 Senegal

3 (0.20)

    

 Ethiopia

2 (0.10)

    

 Benin

1 (0.07)

    

 Ghana

1 (0.07)

    

 Niger

1 (0.07)

    

 Nigeria

1 (0.07)

    

 Rwanda

1 (0.07)

    

 Uganda

1 (0.07)

    

Pacific Region

16 (1.13)

6

122

3.5 (2–7.75)

7.62

 Australia

16 (1.13)

    

Latin America

6 (0.42)

2

141

1 (0–36.25)

23.5

 Trinidad and Tobago

3 (0.20)

    

 Brazil

1 (0.07)

    

 Chile

1 (0.07)

    

 Mexico

1 (0.07)

    

Q1–Q3 lower quartile–upper quartile

aThe study identified 531 (37.5%) documents with 60 countries in Arab-foreign country collaborations

bTotal exceeds 37.5% as data are overlapping due to multi-country collaboration

cNo. of documents as a result of Arab–Arab collaborations: 114 documents (8.0%)

Table 3

Ranking of top 20 areas of interests of the published research from Arab world in the field of groundwater

SCRa

Areas of interests

No. of published documents (%)b

1st

Environmental Science

916 (64.6)

2nd

Earth and Planetary Sciences

615 (43.4)

3rd

Agricultural and Biological Sciences

212 (15.0)

4th

Engineering

206 (14.5)

5th

Chemistry

60 (4.2)

6th

Chemical Engineering

58 (4.1)

7th

Medicine

57 (4.0)

8th

Social Sciences

55 (3.9)

9th

Multidisciplinary

52 (3.7)

10th

Physics and Astronomy

51 (3.6)

11th

Materials Science

44 (3.1)

12th

Energy

42 (3.0)

13th

Computer Science

40 (2.8)

14th

Mathematics

25 (1.8)

15th

Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

21 (1.5)

16th

Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics

13 (0.9)

17th

Immunology and Microbiology

4 (0.3)

18th

Business, Management and Accounting

3 (0.2)

18th

Veterinary

3 (0.2)

20th

Arts and Humanities

1 (0.1)

20th

Decision Sciences

1 (0.1)

20th

Economics, Econometrics and Finance

1 (0.1)

20th

Health Professions

1 (0.1)

SCR standard competition ranking

aEqual Areas of interests have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

bTotal exceeds 100% as data are overlapping due to multidiscipline interaction

Figures 2 and 3 illustrate density and visualization maps of all keyword co-occurrence analysis related to groundwater research in Arab world with a threshold of five as a minimum number of occurrences of a keyword. Out of 8053 keywords, 889 meet the threshold and the number of co-occurrence links has been calculated. The keywords with the largest number of links have been selected. A five clusters were generated as shown in Fig. 3: Cluster number 1 (red color) included 277 items, and the most frequent term was ground water (800 occurrences), cluster number 2 (green color) included 262 items, and the most frequent term was groundwater pollution (234 occurrences), cluster number 3 (blue color) included 189 items, and the most frequent term was hydrochemistry (151 occurrences), cluster number 4 (yellow color) included 88 items, and the most frequent term was irrigation (119 occurrences), cluster number 5 (violet color) included 73 items, and the most frequent term was water quality (318 occurrences).
Fig. 2

Density visualization map of all keyword co-occurrence analysis related to groundwater research in Arab world with a threshold of five as a minimum number of occurrences of a keyword

Fig. 3

Network visualization map and cluster density of all keyword co-occurrence analysis related to groundwater research in Arab world with a threshold of five as a minimum number of occurrences of a keyword

The retrieved documents were published in 143 peer-reviewed journals. Table 4 shows the ranking of the top twenty journals. Ninety-nine documents (7.0%) were published in Arabian Journal of Geosciences, (69; 4.9%) were published in Environmental Earth Sciences and (50; 3.5%) in Environmental Geology. The majority of journals listed in the list of top twenty ranking journals had an official impact factor and were listed in the JCR 2015. In Table 5, a list of top twenty most cited articles from 1957 to 2015 is displayed (Abu-Rukah and Al-Kofahi Abu-Rukah and Al-Kofahi 2001; Afonso et al. 2004; Al-Adamat et al. 2003; Almasri 2007; Almasri and Kaluarachchi 2004, 2005, 2007; Bakalowicz 2005; Ebraheem et al. 1997; Edmunds et al. 2003; El Khalil et al. 2008; Elmidaoui et al. 2001; Forkutsa et al. 2009; Garmes et al. 2002; Harari 1996; Storey et al. 2003; Sturchio et al. 2004; Subyani 2004; Tahaikt et al. 2007; Walha et al. 2007). Table 6 shows a list of top twenty most productive institutions from Arab world. The two most productive institutions were King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia (66; 4.7%), followed by Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, Tunisia (64; 4.5%). Table 7 listed the top twenty most prolific authors from Arab world.
Table 4

List of top 20 journals in which groundwater-related documents from Arab world were published

SCRa

Journal

No. of documents (%)

IF (2015)b

1st

Arabian Journal of Geosciences

99 (7.0)

1.224c

2nd

Environmental Earth Sciences

69 (4.9)

1.765b

3rd

Environmental Geology

50 (3.5)

1.078c

4th

Hydrogeology Journal

37 (2.6)

2.028

4th

Water Resources Management

37 (2.6)

2.437

6th

Journal of Hydrology

35 (2.5)

3.043

7th

Desalination

33 (2.3)

4.412

8th

Journal of African Earth Sciences

31 (2.2)

1.326

9th

Desalination and Water Treatment

28 (2.0)

1.272

10th

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

25 (1.8)

1.633

11th

Hydrological Sciences Journal

23 (1.6)

2.182

12th

Hydrological Processes

20 (1.4)

2.768

13th

Journal of Environmental Hydrology

17 (1.2)

NA

14th

Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering

16 (1.1)

0.728

15th

International Journal of Water Resources Development

15 (1.1)

1.463

15th

Irrigation and Drainage

15 (1.1)

0.565

17th

Ground Water

14 (1.0)

NA

17th

Wit Transactions on Ecology and The Environment

14 (1.0)

NA

19th

Revue Des Sciences De L Eau

13 (0.9)

NA

20th

Journal of Materials and Environmental Science

11 (0.8)

NA

SCR standard competition ranking, NA not available, IF impact factor

aEqual journals have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

bThe impact factor was reported according to Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) journal citation reports (JCR) 2015

cThe impact factor of the journal was extracted from the journal homepage for the year 2014 as it is not available in 2015 JCR release

dCoverage discontinued in Scopus since 2009 and continued as Environmental Earth Sciences

Table 5

Ranking of top 20 most cited articles in Scopus database in fields of research originated from Arab world and related to groundwater

SCRa

Name of authors and year of publication

Title

Journal Name

Type of document

Times Cited

1st

Bakalowicz, M., 2005

Karst groundwater: A challenge for new resources

Hydrogeology Journal

Article

259

2nd

Storey, R.G. et al., 2003

Factors controlling riffle-scale hyporheic exchange flows and their seasonal changes in a gaining stream: A three-dimensional groundwater flow model

Water Resources Research

Article

154

3rd

Edmunds, W.M. et al., 2003

Groundwater evolution in the Continental Intercalaire aquifer of southern Algeria and Tunisia: Trace element and isotopic indicators

Applied Geochemistry

Article

137

4th

Al-Adamat, R.A.N. et al., 2003

Groundwater vulnerability and risk mapping for the Basaltic aquifer of the Azraq basin of Jordan using GIS, Remote sensing and DRASTIC

Applied Geography

Article

136

5th

Almasri, M.N. and Kaluarachchi, J.J., 2004

Assessment and management of long-term nitrate pollution of ground water in agriculture-dominated watersheds

Journal of Hydrology

Article

102

6th

Almasri, M.N. and Kaluarachchi, J.J., 2005

Modular neural networks to predict the nitrate distribution in ground water using the on-ground nitrogen loading and recharge data

Environmental Modeling and Software

Article

83

7th

Almasri, M.N. and Kaluarachchi, J.J., 2007

Modeling nitrate contamination of groundwater in agricultural watersheds

Journal of Hydrology

Article

75

8th

Tahaikt, M. et al., 2007

Fluoride removal from groundwater by nanofiltration

Desalination

Article

74

9th

Garmes, H. et al., 2002

Defluoridation of groundwater by a hybrid process combining adsorption and Donnan dialysis

Desalination

Article

69

10th

Sturchio, N.C. et al., 2004

One million year old groundwater in the Sahara revealed by krypton-81 and chlorine-36

Geophysical Research Letters

Article

67

11th

Abu-Rukah, Y. and Al-Kofahi, O., 2001

The assessment of the effect of landfill leachate on ground-water quality - A case study. El-Akader landfill site - North Jordan

Journal of Arid Environments

Article

66

12th

Forkutsa, I. et al., 2009

Modeling irrigated cotton with shallow groundwater in the Aral Sea Basin of Uzbekistan: II. Soil salinity dynamics

Irrigation Science

Article

60

12th

Elmidaoui, A. et al., 2001

Pollution of nitrate in Moroccan ground water: Removal by electrodialysis

Desalination

Article

60

14th

Harari, Z., 1996

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) for imaging stratigraphic features and groundwater in sand dunes

Journal of Applied Geophysics

Article

57

15th

El Khalil, H. et al., 2008

Heavy metal contamination from mining sites in South Morocco: Monitoring metal content and toxicity of soil runoff and groundwater

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Conference Paper

56

15th

Subyani, A.M., 2004

Use of chloride-mass balance and environmental isotopes for evaluation of groundwater recharge in the alluvial aquifer, Wadi Tharad, western Saudi Arabia

Environmental Geology

Article

56

17th

Walha, K. et al., 2007

Brackish groundwater treatment by nanofiltration, reverse osmosis and electrodialysis in Tunisia: performance and cost comparison

Desalination

Article

55

17th

Ebraheem, A.-A.M. et al. 1997

Geoelectrical and hydrogeochemical studies for delineating ground-water contamination due to salt-water intrusion in the northern part of the Nile Delta, Egypt

Ground Water

Article

55

19th

Almasri, M.N., 2007

Nitrate contamination of groundwater: A conceptual management framework

Environmental Impact Assessment Review

Article

54

19th

Afonso, M.D. et al., 2004

Brackish groundwater treatment by reverse osmosis in Jordan

Desalination

Article

54

SCR standard competition ranking

aEqual articles have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

Table 6

Ranking of top 20 most productive institutions in fields of research related to groundwater during the period of the study

SCRa

Name of Institution

No. of documents (%)

1st

King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia

66 (4.7)

2nd

Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, Tunisia

64 (4.5)

3rd

King Saud University, Saudi Arabia

56 (4.0)

4th

Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

42 (3.0)

5th

Universite Cadi Ayyad, Morocco

41 (2.9)

5th

Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwaiat

41 (2.9)

7th

United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates

37 (2.6)

7th

The University of Jordan, Jordan

37 (2.6)

9th

National Water Research Center, Egypt

36 (2.5)

10th

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia

29 (2.0)

10th

Universite Badji Mokhtar, Algeria

29 (2.0)

12th

Atomic Energy Authority of Egypt, Egypt

26 (1.8)

12th

King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

26 (1.8)

14th

Desert Research Center, Cairo, Egypt

24 (1.7)

15th

National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, Cairo, Egypt

21 (1.5)

16th

Ain Shams University, Egypt

20 (1.4)

17th

King Saud University College of Science, Saudi Arabia

19 (1.3)

17th

Mansoura University, Egypt

19 (1.3)

17th

Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco

19 (1.3)

17th

Hashemite University, Jordan

19 (1.3)

17th

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

19 (1.3)

SCR standard competition ranking

aEqual institutions have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

Table 7

Ranking of top 20 most prolific authors who published in fields of research related to groundwater with their affiliations

SCRa

Author

No. of publications (%)b

Total publications of authorc

Affiliation

1st

Zouari, K.

36 (2.54)

81

Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, Department of Geology, Sfax, Tunisia

2nd

Bouri, S.

16 (1.13)

43

ENI, Rome, Italy

3rd

Bouhlila, R.

15 (1.06)

42

University of Tunis, Laboratory of Modelling in Hydraulics and Environment (LMHE), Tunis, Tunisia

3rd

Salameh, E.

15 (1.06)

77

The University of Jordan, Faculty of Science, Amman, Jordan

5th

Bouchaou, L.

14 (0.99)

40

Universite Ibn Zohr, Applied Geology and Geo-Environment Laboratory, Agadir, Morocco

5th

Mukhopadhyay, A.

14 (0.99)

37

Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Water Research Center, Safat, Kuwait

5th

Tarhouni, J.

14 (0.99)

50

University of Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia

8th

Awad, M.A.

13 (0.92)

17

Zagazig University, Zagazig, Egypt

9th

Dhia, H.B.

12 (0.85)

34

Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, Sfax, Tunisia

9th

Gueddari, M.

12 (0.85)

39

University of Tunis, Department of Geology, Tunis, Tunisia

9th

Hussein, M.T.

12 (0.85)

29

King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

12th

Al-Ruwaih, F.M.

11 (0.78)

43

University of Kuwait, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Safat, Kuwait

12th

Chkir, N.

11 (0.78)

25

Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Department of Geography, Sfa, Tunisia

12th

Hamza, M.S.

11 (0.78)

24

Marine Biology Research Centre (MBRC), Tripoli, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

12th

Batayneh, A.

11 (0.78)

55

Yarmouk University, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Irbid, Jordan

12th

Kacimov, A.R.

11 (0.78)

123

Sultan Qaboos University, Department of Soils, Muscat, Oman

12th

Sherif, M.M.

11 (0.78)

47

United Arab Emirates University, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

18th

Al-Senafy, M.

10 (0.71)

23

Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Water Research Center, Safat, Kuwait

18th

Ben Dhia, H.

10 (0.71)

45

Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, Sfax, Tunisia

18th

Djabri, L.

10 (0.71)

26

Universite Badji Mokhtar - Annaba, Water Resources and Sustainable Development Laboratory, Annaba, Algeria

18th

Hafsi, M.

10 (0.71)

19

Office National de l’Eau Potable, Agdal Rabat, Morocco

18th

Zouhri, L.

10 (0.71)

41

Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, Beauvais, France

SCR standard competition ranking

aEqual authors have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers

bPercentage of publications for each author out of the total number of documents

cAs recorded in Scopus database

Discussion

The Bibliometric technique has been used over and over to track and analyze the scientific production and research trends in many disciplines (Daughton 2016; Sweileh et al. 2016; Tan et al. 2014; Zyoud et al. 2016a, b). It is used to evaluate, describe, monitor of research and to determine the impact of a technology and the effectiveness of an author or research organization, as well it serves as a monitoring tool to track the level of activity in a research field over time (Ziegler 2009). This type of analysis continues to be fundamental in constituting a useful complement for the judgments and opinions of experts in each field, assessing the outcomes of the scientific research activities, as well foreseeing how the research activities might progress (López-Muñoz et al. 2013). This analysis concentrated primarily on evaluating the impact of groundwater research at Arab world level among the global research, through a comprehensive analysis of the evolution of annually published documents, the productivity of Arab world countries, research institutions and authors, the quality of produced researches and collaboration figures. This effort will lead to collect a systematic data with an aim to bring up deep insights into Arab world research activities in groundwater. This study was restricted to 1417 documents extracted from Scopus database, having affiliation addresses belonging to the Arab world, and bearing article titles with terms related to groundwater. Therefore, it is difficult to consider this number of documents as a representative of groundwater literature covered by other index databases such as Science Citation Index (SCI) or Google Scholar. However, Scopus database covers a wider journals range and sustains as one of the best available database in tracking and analyzing citations and in comparing citations of different research teams and institutions (De Granda-Orive et al. 2011).

To the best of our knowledge, this article is the first of its kind that tackled the issue of analyzing groundwater–based research from Arab world taking into consideration both quantitative and qualitative bibliometric performance indicators. Research indicators showed that the research productivity in the field of groundwater at Arab world level began very modestly and relatively late compared to the initiation of research activities in this filed at global level. The first document as found in Scopus database was in 1889, entitled: “Disinfection of springs, and number of germs in ground-water”, and it was published in Science (Science 1889), while in case of Arab world and as mentioned previously, the first article in groundwater context was in 1957. This indicates the depth of the gap between Arab world and the others in terms of paying attention to scientific research with the beginning of twentieth century. Being aware of the fact that most Arab countries were under colonization from the mid-nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century, and most of the states were under-development (Yousef 2004). The annual number of published documents in the past six decades (1957–2015) pointed out that research productivity was low in the first four decades; a remarkable increase in the second half of 1990’s, and a promising jump in the subsequent decade, with a peak of publications in 2014. These figures are compatible with the increase in research productivity and the encouraging trends of citation indicators that have been observed for this region during the last decade (Adams et al. 2011).

Investigation on the language of published documents from Arab world showed that English language was the prevalent. The use of English as an international language of science is by now well documented (Tardy 2004), and nearly 85% of all research output and technological information in the world today are written and/or abstracted in English (Ammon 2001). Since English language is widely accepted as the language of science and technology, Arab researchers tend to use it to gain international credibility (Atwell et al. 2009). The Arab League Educational, Social and Cultural Organization conducted an initiative to run workshops where cutting-edge science and research are reported in Arabic, as a result, the proceedings begin to be inaccessible to most of English-speaking community (Atwell et al. 2009).

The bibliometric performance indicators showed non-specific pattern shared by all Arab countries in terms of research productivity, qualitative indicators, and collaborations figures and trends with other countries. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco Jordan and Algeria have shown a distinguish research productivity compared with other Arab states with evident superiority of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Global research report by Adams et al. (2011) indicated that, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have increased world share by around one third during the period from 2000 to 2009. This study concluded that some nations from the Arab region, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively frequent research collaborators with around 40% of their domestic output having one or more co-authors from another country (Adams et al. 2011). In case of Egypt, its population size is a vital factor among other factors in increasing its overall contribution since the research productivity of any country relies on the population size, socio-economic factors and the overall scientific activities (Miró et al. 2009). Egypt is second on its continent, after South Africa, in scientific production (Waast and Rossi 2010). Furthermore, it has a pioneer institution: National Water Research Center which occupies the ninth position in the list of most productive institutions in groundwater research at Arab world level. This research center is the largest one in the Middle East in science and technology which serves national, regional and international cooperation including technology transfer (Lorenzo 2010). The majority of water-related research in Egypt is carried out by this center which showed relatively high levels of influence in the water sector in Egypt. The involvement of universities is covered by the ministry’s own research institutions housed in this center, and the groundwater sector showed high influence in each functional area of research (USAID 2010). Saudi Arabia was the most collaborated country with Egypt and vice versa. This is related to the solid research partnerships between the two countries where the joint research on annual bases has risen tenfold in the last decade and is accelerating (Adams 2012).

Saudi Arabia topped the second position in terms of scientific productivity at Arab world level. This country has witnessed during the last two decades a comprehensive development in all sectors together with increase in population and living standards (FAO 2009). It has a long-term strategy to set up a science base through localizing the best foreign capabilities and innovative research and development firms in knowledge villages running by foundations such as King Abdul-Aziz city for science and technology (Waast 2010). Since a significant portion of water demand in Saudi Arabia is met from groundwater, this increases the attention to be given to research related to quantity, quality and monitoring of groundwater sources (Bob et al. 2016). In the list of top productive institutions, King Abdul-Aziz University from Saudi Arabia occupies the first position. As in case of Egypt, six institutions from Saudi Arabia were in the list of most productive institutions in groundwater research. Saudi Arabia showed high rates of collaboration with other countries which is an outcome of the fact that Saudi Arabia had bigger pool of international scholars than most other countries (Shin et al. 2012). Tunisia is one of the most water stressed regions in Northern Africa and its groundwater resources are vulnerable to deterioration in terms of quantity and quality, and as a result, it has continuously developed management tools updated with changes in groundwater (Frija et al. 2015). One of its pioneer institutions, Ecole Nationale d’Ingenieurs de Sfax, occupied the second position in the list of most productive institutions. The case is same for Morocco, which is a highly water stressed nation, and under this pressure, the scientific community motivated to recognize adequate management strategies to protect groundwater sources from contamination and overexploitation.

The collaboration figures in groundwater research showed high rates of collaboration between Arab world and countries from Western Europe, mainly France, followed by countries from Northern America, mainly United States. France sits in the foreground in terms of international collaboration between Arab countries and non-Arab countries. This finding is a result of the significant contribution of three Maghrebin countries: Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria in association with the strong international collaboration between the three countries and France. One hundred and seven documents is the outcome of collaboration between the three Maghrebin countries and France. It is affirmed that France is heavily engaged in research and associated with its former colonies in research collaborations (Harford 2015; Nature 2015). A study of international collaboration clusters in Africa conducted by Adams et al. (2014) showed that, the research axis between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United States is an instructive example of new and changing collaboration patterns, and the number of papers co-authored between Egypt and the United States has grown but has remained around 10% of Egyptian output since 1995. Furthermore, the number of papers co-authored between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has been much smaller historically but reached 4% of Egypt’s output in 2002 and exceeded 15% in 2011 (Adams et al. 2014). Regarding patterns of collaboration between Egypt and United States, the current study showed that 39 (12%) documents out of total published documents by Egypt resulted from international collaboration between Egypt and United States. Saudi Arabia occupies the first position in terms of collaboration with Egypt and this result is compatible with the finding of the study conducted by Adams (2012) who pointed out that the joint research between Egypt and Saudi Arabia has boosted during the last decade tenfold and is swiftly accelerating. The United States produces a low percentage of multi-national publications compared to its overall output in scientific research, but it remains a major producer of multi–national publications due to the large total output of contributions. It is playing an important role in networking international research collaboration (Gazni et al. 2012). Easier access to public financing, opportunities to attain higher productivity, and aspirations for greater prestige and visibility resulting from collaboration with renowned research groups are factors that attract increasing attention to international collaborations (Abramo et al. 2009).

The vast majority of published research from Arab world focused on evaluation of groundwater resources in the context of their quality and quantity, the mitigation measures, policies and management practices to eliminate the consequences of witnessed deterioration and the employing of technological innovations in this regard. Employing advanced tools such as remote sensing, geographic information systems, radar data and geo-statistics tools for groundwater mapping, pollution assessment and simulation of groundwater management options in arid environments were common in research (El Alfy et al. 2015; Elbeih 2014; Loni et al. 2015; Madani and Niyazi 2015; Makkawi 2015; Mallick et al. 2015; Schulz et al. 2015; Sefelnasr et al. 2015; Siebert et al. 2014). Examining the issue of increasing groundwater salinity was of significant concern (Farid et al. 2015; Fehdi et al. 2011; Mhamdi et al. 2015; Salameh et al. 2014). The irrigation practices in association with groundwater management are heavily investigated (Alaya et al. 2014; Frija et al. 2015; Zouahri et al. 2015). Topics of concern were related to groundwater recharge (Regnery et al. 2015; Zaidi et al. 2015) and employing multi criteria decision analysis techniques and multi-objective optimization tools for integrated groundwater management (Gdoura et al. 2015; Nouiri et al. 2015).

This study is without limitations, as it is common in bibliometric studies. While the findings of this study give a deep insight into research activities related to groundwater in Arab world, there were some exceptions. In particular, this study adopted only Scopus database criteria for including groundwater-related terms. Documents published in non-Scopus-cited journals were not considered, although they might have contribution to research productivity. Furthermore, this study is restricted to terms related to groundwater in the article titles only without diving into texts and abstracts. This means that this analysis does not represent completely all groundwater-based research activities. Despite these limitations, this study provides a good representative frame about the current status of groundwater research in the Arab world.

Conclusions

This study shows remarkable evidence that the research productivity in fields related to groundwater research at Arab world level has reasonably increased in rapid manner during the last period. This renaissance is associated with the global revolution in the scientific research and the developments of most socio-economic sectors in Arab world. A good boost in the amount of published research from this region has been witnessed and the quality of research performance indicators is promising. An obvious difference in terms of research output, indicators of research quality and collaboration figures among Arab world countries were documented. An urgent action to bridge the gaps in groundwater-based research between Arab world and other nations are required. Promotion of the effective evaluation tools for better groundwater management and identifying the risks arising from depletion of groundwater resources and contamination are substantial keys to success in this regard. As Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the most influential and leading countries in scientific research among the Arab world, the two countries should address the challenges that are hindering the progress of scientific research and should work to shape in collaboration with other Arab countries the required plans and future investments in technological innovations which have major potentials to mitigate the groundwater quality and quantity deteriorations. This study provides a prolific informative analysis for scholars in disciplines related to groundwater management and concerned people engaged in evaluative bibliometric.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Urban Water Management and Landscape Water EngineeringGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria

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