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On World Water Day, an ASU team looks to enhance global availability through localized solutions

March 22, 2017

Researchers often look at how people experience water issues in their communities, but these studies are usually focused on a single region. One interdisciplinary group of researchers from Arizona State University, however, is taking a cross-cultural approach to look at water knowledge and management around the world.

In the most recent phase of the Global Ethnohydrology Study, this team interviewed people from communities in the United States, New Zealand, Fiji and Bolivia to see how perceptions of water risks and solutions varied depending on the community’s level of development and water scarcity.

“It can be a challenge to design cross-cultural research that produces meaningful results in a comparative context,” said Amber Wutich, co-author of the study and associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “This kind of work is important because it allows us to identify global trends in water problems and solutions.”

One of the unique factors about this project is its high amount of student involvement. Wutich said that mentoring is one of the most important ways the team informs others about their work.

“Through our graduate and undergraduate programs, we involve hundreds of students in the project in research design, data collection in international field sites and data analysis in our labs at ASU,” she said.

The results of the study found that people in wealthy and water-scarce areas were more concerned about water availability. Their solutions leaned toward collective action in creating policies. Meanwhile, people in poorer and relatively water-abundant regions had greater concern for water pollution, and suggested individual behavior changes as solutions.

“This research is important for tailoring water management strategies to the concerns and interests of local residents,” said Kelli Larson, lead author and associate professor in the School of Sustainability. The study lays the foundation for future comparative research, which will help policy and aid workers create solutions that are more likely to succeed for each individual region.

On World Water Day this March 22, Larson reflects on the 2017 theme, “wastewater,” which draws attention to the need to treat and reuse wastewater to protect the environment and make our water cycle more efficient.

“The implications of our research suggest that collective actions and policies in using wastewater may be more popular in developed areas, whereas individual practices and technologies may be more effective in less developed regions,” she said.

You can read the ASU team’s paper "Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Water Risks and Solutions Across Select Sites" and other water-related articles for free for a limited time here in a special World Water Day collection by Taylor & Francis. Then check out other Center for Global Health projects here.

Top photo: A student interviews a Fijian woman for the Global Ethnohydrology Project. Photo courtesy of the Center for Global Health

Mikala Kass

Communications Specialist , ASU Knowledge Enterprise


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ASU ranks high in National Science Foundation's research list

March 22, 2017

Higher Education Research and Development ranking puts ASU's expenditures in top 10 of institutions without a medical school

From Ebola treatments to renewable-energy advancements to helping protect the world’s water supply, Arizona State University’s researchers are creating innovative ways to approach the world’s pressing issues. And that research is growing.

In the National Science Foundation's latest Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) rankings, ASU’s research expenditures placed it 10th out of 724 institutions without a medical school, ahead of Caltech, Princeton and Carnegie Mellon University.

And in total research expenditures among all institutions, regardless of medical school, ASU is ranked 48th out of 876, ahead of the University of Chicago, Brown and Princeton. 

“The rapid rise in ASU’s research rankings are a testament to the fantastic ideas and hard work of our faculty and researchers,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “Their pioneering ideas and commitment to solving global grand challenges by seamlessly working across disciplinary boundaries have helped ASU become an outstanding environment to manifest superlative talent resulting in societal impact.”

Other highlights from ASU's rankings:

  • Earth sciences: 3 out of 354, ahead of Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and Penn State
  • Social sciences: 5 out of 486, ahead of Berkeley, Cornell, UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania
  • Political science: 5 out of 332, ahead of Yale, Columbia and Duke
  • Electrical engineering: 8 out of 285, ahead of the University of Texas at Austin, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon
  • NASA-funded expenditures: 11 out of 433, ahead of Stanford, Georgia Tech, UCLA and Texas at Austin

During the 10-year period from fiscal year 2004 through fiscal year 2014, ASU’s total research expenditures grew by a remarkable by 162.2 percent. 

Here’s a closer look at those numbers.

Research expenditures bar chart

The chart above shows the top 25 Research University with Very High Activity (RU/VH) institutions and their percentage change in total research expenditures over those 10 years. ASU had the largest overall percentage change, considerably outpacing the second-fastest-growing institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The majority of the top 25 were institutions with a medical school (gray bars on the chart), with the additional funding opportunities associated with such a school.

The overwhelming majority of RU/VH schools saw less than half the growth of ASU; click here to see a chart visualization of that data. And growth in research expenditures is largely independent of the size of the research enterprise: Click here for a chart that relates each institution’s cumulative growth in total research expenditures over the 10-year period to the level of research expenditures reported by the institution in 2014.

To see a fuller list of individual categories and where ASU came in, click here for a downloadable PDF.