Project Info

Identifying disciplinary silos in the energy-water nexus: Do energy systems researchers and river systems researchers “talk” to each other about hydropower?

Adrienne Marshall
Adrianne Kroepsch

Project Goals and Description:

Hydropower plays an important role in decarbonizing electricity in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but also presents major environmental challenges to river systems. Hydroelectric dams and reservoirs have major impacts on streamflow dynamics, river function, water resources users, and river ecologies. Different research communities studying  hydropower often have drastically different expectations for the future of hydropower in terms of operations and whether hydropower capacity should be expanded or reduced, as well as on projections for how hydropower dams should be operated alongside renewable energy sources. In this project, we will conduct a bibliometric network analysis of research on hydropower to identify distinct research communities that are studying  hydropower, and to determine the extent to which they interact with each other via coauthorship or citation. Identifying and characterizing these disciplinary silos will catalyze a better understanding of where intellectual disconnects and blind spots exist in hydropower research. Identifying these research silos and gaps is an important step toward improving interdisciplinary synthesis that can generate better hydropower predictions and problem-solving. Our research questions include:
  1. To what extent do energy systems and river systems researchers interact on hydropower research?
  2. What are the most glaring disconnects between these research communities (i.e., topics on which they both work but don’t work together)?  What are the most obvious blind spots for these research communities (i.e., topics on which neither group works, or only one does)?
  3. On what topics do they interact? What research methods are involved?
  4. Which type of research is cited most frequently, disciplinary or cross-disciplinary?
The student will meet regularly with Dr.s Marshall and Kroepsch. We expect to have a standing weekly meeting with the student with both faculty in attendance while the student is getting started, and then with one faculty member as point person once the project is rolling.  In addition, the student will be invited to attend weekly lab group meetings in Dr. Marshall’s group, so will have opportunities to interact regularly with graduate students and a postdoctoral fellow in PI Marshall’s lab. The student will also be introduced to Dr. Kroepsch’s graduate students and looped into group activities on an ad hoc basis. Marshall and Kroepsch will also meet regularly with the student together as described in the student mentoring section below.  Marshall and Kroepsch will help the student understand the interdisciplinary nature of the project, how the research questions/findings are situated in each of their fields, and the value of collaborative interdisciplinary scholarship.  Both faculty will serve as engaged mentors for the student.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Provide access to clean water.
Similar research methods are used in: Marshall, A. M., M. Foard, C. M. Cooper, P. Edwards, S. L. Hirsch, M. Russell, and T. E. Link. “Climate Change Literature and Information Gaps in Mountainous Headwaters of the Columbia River Basin.” Regional Environmental Change 20, no. 4 (November 17, 2020): 134.

Primary Contacts:

Adrienne Marshall, | Adrianne Kroepsch,

Student Preparation


The student does not need to have any specific qualifications at the project start. However, valuable skills could include:
  • Some experience reading scientific literature, particularly related to environmental, energy, and/or water fields
  • Experience with or interest in computer programming (we will use the R programming language for this project).




The student will learn:
  • systematic research skills for analyzing scientific literature
  • computer programming skills for text mining and analysis (this is an important foundational skill for many machine learning activities)
  • written and verbal communication skills
  • knowledge of energy-water nexus issues


At least one faculty member will meet with the student weekly for project updates and guidance.  The student will have opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the project immediately while gaining new skills to be used later in the project. Immediate contributions will be in the form of evaluating scientific literature to determine whether it should be included in the project based on a pre-determined set of criteria. At the same time, the student will be expected to devote part of their research time each week to learning programmatic text analysis skills with the guidance of the faculty, so that the student can use these skills later in the semester to conduct data analysis on a body of scientific literature.

Preferred Student Status

Share This