Sharing research. Top 100 papers with ‘volcano’ or ‘volcanic: an analysis

We all have a responsibility to share and communicate our research. Altmetrics is a new way to track some of the ways we do this as a research community. Last summer (July 2015) they gave me free access to their database to take a look. How does interest in volcanology research permeate both the traditional and new media spheres? Does that translate at all into academic interest? Here’s what I found (yes, its taken me a while!)

If you can’t see the graphics well, the summary infographic can be accessed via this link.
I downloaded the ‘Top 100’ papers with the highest Altimetric score (this turned into 94 when I chucked out news and accidental doubles recently). First up, I tried to put them into broad categories. This was surprisingly easy, but obviously very subjective. A few papers fell into two of these categories.

altimetrics_block_3

This is where they were mainly published. Predictable?

altimetrics_block_2

This is how the Altmetric Score  and Mendeley Readers compared to citations using my subdivisions. For citations I used Google Scholar and did this slowly last week (May 2016). Yes, these are all on logarithmic scales! Academics clearly like papers about volcanoes and climate more than the wider readership. The opposite is perhaps true of Supervolcanoes. The papers outside of my main classifications are generally less well read and cited.

altimetrics_block_5

Here are some more of the contributors to the Altmetrics scores.

altimetrics_block_4

Finally, these are the news outlet counts and Tweets versus citations. For some ‘types’ of paper perhaps there is some sign that Tweet activity picks up the papers the academics subsequently cite well (maybe, perhaps…) but news outlets much less so. Again, news outlets have a skewed interest in supervolcanoes and human/volcano stories.

altimetrics_block_6

 

What do I conclude from this? Not too much.. its only very recent papers (Altmetrics has been going since 2011 only) and a small subset (the top 100 are perhaps looking at trends with only a small component of the dataset). Its interesting nonetheless!

For me the most striking point was the relatively restricted range of topics that sparked broader interest. Perhaps, volcanologists need to work harder to communicate a broader spectrum of research in an engaging way. Conversely news media need to listen and report a little bit more imaginatively too.

What do you make of the data? I’ve put the final spreadsheet on Figshare here , along with the infographic I generated from my analysis. Feel free to play some more.

Thanks to Altmetrics for access to their database.

 

Nevado del Ruiz, 1985 : mud, memories and moving on

Some of the valleys that surround the slopes of Nevado del Ruiz. The lahar bulked up as it travelled downwards and could have been up to 50 m thick at points
Some of the valleys that surround the slopes of Nevado del Ruiz. The lahar bulked up as it travelled downwards and could have been up to 50 m thick at points

I was 16 when the November 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz sent hot slurries of melted snow, ash, rocks and pumice more than 70km downhill straight into several settlements in the middle of the night. At dawn the following morning the settlement of Armero had all but disappeared under this flow, taking around 75% of its residents with it. Across the valleys more than 24,000 people lost their lives to those flows.

Like me, even the youngest kids who survived or witnessed the scenes of this eruption are now middle-aged, the valleys are green again.

USGS Image of the lahars covering the town of Armero in November 1985
USGS Image of the lahars covering the town of Armero in November 1985

A kernel of volcanologists were created in that moment, and more importantly an army of eye-witnesses who directly recall the impact and agonies of that night and morning. They also have insights into the attitudes and issues that lead to the rudest possible awakening when the lahars ploughed down the slopes of the volcano.

I looked up the river, towards the mountain, and I could see so much mud. It was a huge thing with giant trees, it came with roots that have been taken from the earth, and then it hit me and covered me….I felt as if it was those machines that process rice (eyewitness account)

These eye witness testimonies contain a remarkable flow of information; as rich and insightful into past events as the deposits that volcanologists frequently scramble over.  When the STREVA team held one of our forensic workshops in Colombia with our Project Partners it became clear during this, and subsequent research that a great service would come from finding a way to capture these important memories, for the people who live with the volcano now.

Part of the point of this film to help with sharing experience of the 1985 eruption with the next generation. Alex from Lambdafilms shares some of his footage!
Part of the point of this film to help with sharing experience of the 1985 eruption with the next generation. Alex from Lambda Films shares some of his footage!

We are making a series of films to convey events according to those caught in it, how people live with the volcano today, and answering the most important questions the population has about living with volcanic risk. The first of these films is premiering this week at our partner Servicio Geological Colombiano’s (SGC) commemoration activities for Nevado Del Ruiz . We’ve worked with one of our UK Partners, (Lambda Films) to do this. We understand the value of well shot films, and they have been patient with our need for volcanic detail.

Watching the result of the filming
One of our interviewees watches her footage. Teresa Armijos (UEA) has been working on the films and researching community vulnerability and James from Lambda films has worked with us in Colombia and St. Vincent.

The aftermath of the eruption remains firmly in the world’s eye as a consequence of the images that spread around the world. Sometimes shocking,  awards were handed out for the photographs that captured that desparate tragedy.

The disturbing image Omayra Sanchez, taken just a few hours before she died, with her legs trapped in the wreckage of her home. This image was taken by Frank Fournier,who won the World Press Photo Foundation Award for this image.
The disturbing image of Omayra Sanchez, taken just a few hours before she died, with her legs trapped in the wreckage of her home. This image was taken by Frank Fournier,who won the World Press Photo Foundation Award for this image.

Back in 1985 and back in the UK, a fairly brave piece of children’s programming stuck with broadcasting these images and covered the last few days of life for Omayra Sanchez , as she was trapped in the mud. There was no fairytale ending for her and that remains with me today, a permanent reminder of the complex issues that surround volcanic disasters. With our films we’re not looking to shock anyone but we are looking to work with SGC to use these memories to learn how to improve the outcome from the next eruption. We hope we have done justice to the communities of Nevado del Ruiz who continue to thrive around the volcano.

family_ndR NdR_gang_together_civildefence

Thanks to everyone who participated in the films and the filming, and to the  UK Natural Environment and Economic and Social Research Councils for KE funding.  All photos in this blog by Anna Hicks, unless otherwise stated.

The Geology of the Scottish Iron &Steel Industry: a lament

As a kid, I used to cycle out to  our local volcano (albeit a Devonian felsite intrusion : Tinto Hill ) and explore an ‘Iron Age’ hillfort on its flanks. Its inhabitants were probably among the first to benefit directly from the fabulous geological diversity of the Scottish Midland Valley.

rocks_map
Fantastically clear geological map from the Geological Society of Glasgow webpaage of the Western Midland Valley tucked between the Southern Uplands and the Highland Boundary Fault. s denotes a sedimentary unit and i an igneous unit. 3s is the Carboniferous Coal measures group while 1,2 and 4-6 are the silt, mud, sand and limestones of the Upper Carboniferous. Units 7-10 are the generally coarser Devonian muds, sand and conglomerates.

(Image from the Geological Society of Glasgow.)

So,  as a consequence of geology, I grew up just a few miles from my nearest coal mine, steelworks; sand and gravel quarries, and just over 20 miles from the Leadhills where over 70 different minerals can be found (including gold!).  All that made last week’s news that the very last remnants of the Scottish steel industry were ‘under threat’ all the more poignant. The cold winds of the 1984-85 miner’s strike whip through my memories of secondary school; the towers of Ravenscraig happened to come down when I was home on a visit during my PhD.

The demolition of the Ravenscraig towers in the 1990s. The closure of the steelworks lost 770 jobs with another 10,000 indirectly lost (WIkipedia)
The demolition of the Ravenscraig towers in the 1990s. The closure of the steelworks lost 770 jobs with another 10,000 indirectly lost (WIkipedia). Image Scottish Daily Record.

When these rocks were laid down Scotland benefited from an arid- equatorial climate and the Midland Valley was filled with restricted swampy shallow tropical seas or lakes in a complex  ‘graben’ that provided the lithospheric stretching that allowed for occasional activation of volcanic centres. Rivers flowed from the Highlands into the valley.

These provided the perfect conditions for producing sediments rich in iron-ore and coal beds that provided the ‘heat’ to smelt them.

Fossil Grove in Victoria Park ,Glasgow. This photo taken in 1888 shows the remnants of giant club mosses which would have dominated the landscape.
Fossil Grove in Victoria Park ,Glasgow. This photo taken in 1888 shows the remnants of giant club mosses which would have dominated the landscape.

Ever since the Iron Age we’ve been enjoying these riches,  in the 19th Century industry flourished as Scottish ‘pig-iron’ was smelted by Scottish coal to fuel the building of railways and ships. Scientists contributed ideas that refined and improved these processes and Scotland was an ‘early adopter’ of new ideas. In 1869 David Bremner wrote

 “The blast furnaces are chiefly concentrated in the vicinity of Coatbridge, Airdrie, and Wishaw, all of which towns were rapidly raised to importance by the development of the mineral treasures which lay beneath and around them…..’

In the late 1800s Coatbridge and its iron generation was usurped by the ‘Steelopolis’ of Motherwell.  Soon, the dark clouds of market forces (cheaper materials elsewhere) and politics arrived and so the long hard battles of the next century began.

To my young ear the disputes of the 80s, were complex and horrible: lack of coal could shut the furnaces down that were already under threat. I’ve linked to some resources that explore that.  Its an important part of the pathway that has got us to where we are now.

Sources: 

Scottish mining.co.uk

Mines of Scotland: a Bibliography

History of the Iron and Steel Industry in Scotland

British Geological Survey

Glasgow Geological Society

Ballistic Ducks and the Inclined Explosions – UEA Open Day Part 1 and 2

What’s up with all the ducks? July 4th Update! 

Fantastically nerve free rapid-shooting from ENV Undergrad  Esmee Thornton shows up the brilliantly different behaviour of the ducks vs the balls. We’re hoping to shoot a movie to shed more light on this tomorrow at the Planet Earth Summer School.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 Here’s our new duck distribution map. This time we ran the explosions on more even ground.  The blue and green dots are the new 4th of July Faculty and Graduate ducks! 
    
 

Across the four UEA Open Days, the UEA Volcanology Team will be performing around 25 separate ‘bin bangs’ or explosions generated by liquid nitrogen in a simulated Vulcanian-style eruption.

The explosion is created by the failure of a well known Fizzy drinks bottle as iiquid nitrogen turns to gas. The explosion drives the water and balls upwards to simulate an explosion
Starting with a barrel of water, the explosion is created by the failure of a well known Fizzy drinks bottle as iiquid nitrogen turns to gas. The explosion drives the water and balls upwards to simulate an explosion

This seems like too good an opportunity to miss; so we thought we’d turn them into ‘repeat’ experiments! We’ve investigated how to vary explosion size before so this time we thought we’d look at the ballistics.

These are denser particles in an eruption, which behave as projectiles. Their behaviour depends on launch angle, velocity and their drag (retardation of movement by air resistance). We’re in fine company too, some of  the original work on ballstics was done by Gallileo and Euler.

We want to test the hypothesis that if we have   distinctive particle types, they would behave in distinctive ways and over time we could begin to predict which would travel further.

Enter the ducks!

Our ballistic ducks! They represent three things about the University. The heavier 'Faculty' Ducks: Health;Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences. The dignified Graduate Ducks and the little light bunny ducks!
Our ballistic ducks! They represent three great things about UEA. The heavier ‘Faculty’ Ducks: Health;Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences. The dignified Graduate Ducks and the little light bunny ducks!

So we set off a few of these:

Great #ueaopenday today we were setting off bin bangs all day! Science in action! #heyuea #universityofeastanglia #norwich #opendays

A video posted by University of East Anglia (UEA) (@uniofeastanglia) on

and then plotted the particles on a map (red for Faculty ducks, orange for bunnies, yellow for graduates).

The clearest result here is the influence of the slightly (north-south) inclined surface we ‘erupted’ our volcano on. This is not without a natural analogue, our colleague on the STREVA Project (Paul Cole) has  has published a paper on his observations of inclined explosions and the consequences for particle distribution and hazards (although in this case an inclined crater not an inclined conduit). There is just a hint that as our experiments got rumbunctiously a wee bit larger the effect of the slope was less important (wider dispersal of later ducks!).

A real 'inclined' explosion, Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat on 8th December 2008, from Cole et al., 2014.
A real ‘inclined’ explosion, Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat on 5th December 2008, from Cole et al., 2014.

Subtle differences in take-off angle, and particle interference mean that each individual particle is going to struggle to behave as the perfect trajectory each time. But with repeat experiments, if they were very different we would expect differences to emerge in the overall pattern.

To add further spice, and as a mark of respect for UEA’s interest in citizen science we are asking people who watch to take just one ball and ‘predict’ the type of furthest travelled duck.

The results of the 'citizen' predictions. The early strong showing from 'Faculty' meant they edged it with 37 votes. They were our furthest travelled ducks on 20th June.
The results of the ‘citizen’ predictions. The early strong showing from ‘Faculty’ meant they edged it with 37 votes. They were indeed our furthest travelled ducks on 20th June.

They’ve got our plot of ‘past behaviour’, my patter about the duck ‘properties’ and their own instinct (or scientific knowledge!) of what might be important.

We’re off again on Saturday the 4th of July. To celebrate our UEA-USA connections (Faculty, students and great connections with several Universities on our Year Abroad Programs) we’ll be using red, white and blue balls as well as ducks!


 

What’s up with all the ducks? July 4th Update! 

Fantastically nerve free rapid-shooting from ENV Undergrad  Esmee Thornton shows up the brilliantly different behaviour of the ducks vs the balls. We’re hoping to shoot a movie to shed more light on this tomorrow at the Planet Earth Summer School.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 Here’s our new duck distribution map. This time we ran the explosions on more even ground.  The blue and green dots are the new 4th of July Faculty and Graduate ducks! 
    
 

Sparking an interest: volcanoes and creativity

Just before half-term I was invited to Yaxham Primary School to take part in a Science-Art-Writing (SAW Trust) workshop with  writer Andy McDonnell,  artist Liz McGowan and Class 3.  We were the last part of a  SAW triumvirate, exploring different aspects of Earth processes at three Norfolk schools.

In the next couple of weeks the children will continue a collaboration with Liz, producing a joint piece of Art for the Wellbourne Arts Festival.

I was pretty excited to be asked: I’m really interested in what the humanities has to offer towards understanding societal interactions with active volcanoes. I also subscribe strongly to the view that any artificial divide created between science and the humanities in schools needs cheerfully trampled into the ground at every opportunity. Creativity lies at the heart of scientific endeavour and critical thinking about ‘how things work’ is not just triggered by a table of results.

I’d had to provide ‘six images’ to represent my research field ahead of time. So, I was pretty curious about how these had inspired Liz and Andy and in turn how that would inspire the kids. It was a brilliant day.

I kicked off with some broad thoughts about volcanoes and tectonics, and then homed in on a couple of experiments to demonstrate some of the main processes behind different types of eruption. Then we looked at some models of real volcanoes to think about their shapes and some rocks, always the rocks. Volcanoes are (literally) nothing without the rocks.

Shhh! Poets at work. Getting going with the volcano poems. Concentration was intense. Image Courtesy SAW Trust.
Shhh! Poets at work. Getting going with the volcano poems. Concentration was intense. Image Courtesy SAW Trust.

So far so exciting. Then after some ‘warm up’ word exercises Andy used ‘personification’ as a vehicle to inspire the kids to write some poetry about what it would be like to be a volcano. I wouldn’t have thought about that, but he told me personification is a really helpful way to kickstart the writing process. It certainly worked at Yaxham!

  …I blew,

Everything flew,

I bubbled,

My ash clouds twisted and twirled.

 

The rubble was extensive…. (by Grace)

I supplied a few key volcano words (including my favourite adjectives from the Volcanic Explosivity Index) and the poems were ‘terrific’ (++). Even more interesting, it was fantastic to see some of the facts and principles I had told them come hurling back out as descriptions of volcanic activity.

Have you seen my pumice spurting out?

Have you seen my ash clouds falling from the sky?

 …So I think you’ll be glad to know that I screech out a warning!

Don’t come near me, for my breath reeks of rotten cooked cabbage.

I feel bumpy, smooth and I have a wonderful texture of freshly baked bread….

…Don’t hack at my skin because I’ll throw up all over you.

My lava feels like orange slop that sticks to my surface.

(By Ella)

I loved Liz’s artwork, and it was great to see how delighted everyone was to be able to create something so effective.  She’d produced cones of heavy paper and onto these was painted the ‘gloop’ and spattered some suitably volcanic paint.

Our own miniature volcanic arc. Image Courtest SAW Trust.
Our own miniature volcanic arc. Image Courtesy SAW Trust.

The pièce de résistance was a final squirting with water, changing the viscosity of the paint, encouraging it to run and create all sorts of authentic channels in the gloop. I was practically hopping with delight at all the ways it represented ‘real’ processes on ‘real’ volcanoes.

My very own original piece of Liz McGowan art! Notice how the water rivulets have created some really interesting channels through the gloop. This was made of ash, but from Liz's hearth rather than my rock collection, mixed with PVA glue.
My very own original piece of Liz McGowan art! Notice how the water rivulets have created some really interesting channels through the gloop. This was made of ash, but from Liz’s hearth rather than a volcano and mixed with PVA glue.

So did it add anything to the more straightforward rocks and bangs type stuff I would usually do? Unbelievably so, I was bowled over by just how much the poetry enabled the class to reflect on and create their own mental models for what I had told them, and I was asked interesting, provocative questions around the artwork.

When Liz goes back to the Schools they will produce much larger pieces of art together. These will reflect the whole day and complete an ‘installation’ with the other two schools. It will be spectacular, come and see it!  Liz and the pupils will exhibit this at the Wellbourne Arts Festival on Saturday 13th June between 11:30 and 13:00. I’ll be hanging around too, but the children will be the experts. And that’s just how it should be.

Thanks to Jenni Rant of the SAW Trust; Liz McGowan and Andy McDonnell for their collaboration and, of course Class 3 of Yaxham Primary School without whom the day would have been a lot less inspirational.

On the remarkable similarity between ‘the Avengers’ and interdisciplinary research

Last week it was my good fortune to sneak out and watch ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ when the kids weren’t looking. It has UEA in it (its the Avengers new training base). As the closing credits were rolling I said to myself ‘that’s not all that’s similar between the Earth’s mightiest heroes and my real true everyday life‘. The same is true for you too if you have learned to negotiate the rollercoaster of interdisciplinary(*) research.

Here’s how:

avengers
So you can tackle most research problems by a unique combination of using unusual metals, archery, the results of a poorly executed biochemistry experiment, magnetics, a large mallet and karate. There, shared the formula, now go use it.

(1) The Avengers have a wide range of complementary skillsets. Duh, yes. Not that insightful but the interesting part of that is this;

(2) they always solve problems best when one of them listens in to something someone else is working on and offers a solution the other one hadn’t though of. Its quite interesting starting out with a problem, knowing the technique and strategy you need to solve it and then cracking on. But its much more fun to find out there is an even better way to work on it. That’s one of the joys of working across disciplines for me. And then there’s;

(3) it’s as much about appreciating the gaps in knowledge as it is about knowing your own field. In Age of Ultron the extra-ordinarily naughty Stark causes a lot of the problems by bashing on without consulting his colleagues which, of course illustrates the need for;

(4) Communication, communication communication. If I was an Avenger obviously I would get to use one of those really cool earpieces and make transglobal communication instantly inside people’s heads. Yippee. How scary is that? Instead. Email, SKYPE,face-to-face and the telephone and lots of it. My absolute favourite being conference calls. If I had my time again with the grants I have now, I’d budget LOTS more meetings (face-to-face ones, and some writing retreats. Really. The Avengers I know are all on way too many missions at any one time).

(5) The realisation that as you get older you quite often have to be the one who stays back at Base but kind of knows where everyone is as they battle the baddies (formerly known as ‘the research problem’). This is only acceptable to me if it means I get to be Nick Fury. Any project worth its salt needs a Nick Fury (and no mistake) or it just turns into ‘parallel play’ rather than collaboration. There is nothing wrong with parallel play per se but it can lead to the words that killed a thousand research proposals *whisper* incremental advance (nothing wrong with that either..!)

This is Nick Fury. He is so senior he has a REALLY BIG earpiece thing AND a walkie-talke and uses them simultaneously. He knows the power of really good communication alright.
This is Nick Fury. He is so senior he has a REALLY BIG earpiece thing AND a walkie-talke and uses them simultaneously. He knows the power of really good communication alright. Sadly his eye got poked out by a team member who got about cross about all those emails.

Finally a sad un-fact

(6) UEA isn’t actually the new training base for the Avengers. Not yet, anyway.

(*) OK, Yes. I do recognise in this context, strictly, I am talking about multi-disciplinary research (where a group of researchers with different skills come together to solve one problem) as opposed to interdisciplinary research (where a variety of different techniques are used to solve one problem) or even transdisciplinary research (where you basically even involve your granny by getting her to knit you a nice new bobble hat for the fieldwork). But, its all about the _doing_ not the defining, in the end.

Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction.

The new Edition of Encyclopaedia of Volcanoes is almost here! It will have an awesome 78 Chapters of volcanic goodness. I’m a co-author of Chapter 69 (yes, really)  ‘Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction’.

Following the publication rights of the Encyclopaedia I can send you a formatted offprint if you email me at j.barclay’at’uea.ac.uk. Please do.

We were originally asked to focus on the perception and communication of volcanic hazards, which is a rich topic already. The Encyclopaedia has many fantastic chapters on volcanic hazards, their impacts and management, but had no others on social processes in affected communities…. so we asked to extend our remit. We got permission and accumulated a new author(*) along the way.

Having asked to extend our agenda we then had to figure out how to cram a good synthesis of all the knowledge into 10,000 words or less.

Tungurahua with Banos in the foreground and the communities around the flank (Photo: Jon Stone)
Tungurahua with Banos in the foreground and the communities around the flank (Photo: Jon Stone)

Our starting point had to be the fact that ‘risk’ in volcanic communities is a combination of both dynamic hazards and dynamic population vulnerabilities. In many cases both change during the course of an eruption, and never in isolation from one another.  A good example is the current eruption of Calbuco: any new eruption will not only send ash and flows onto a landscape physically changed by last week’s activity, the social cultural and political landscape has also shifted in response to those events.

Thus we started by trying to map out end member ‘outcomes’ that have been documented as a consequence of both social vulnerabilities and volcanic behaviour. Outcomes can be negative and positive!

Our end member outcome 'map'. I can share this as, thanks to good advice from UEA's Open Access officer (Anna Collins), I retained the copyright.
Our end member outcome ‘map’. I can share this as, thanks to good advice from UEA’s Open Access officer (Anna Collins), I retained the copyright.

Understanding the range of volcanic activity and associated timescales created a good backdrop for considering the different ways in which risk communication occurs.

Mapping outcomes is fine but we also tried to consider the drivers of those outcomes – and given the Chapter Topic – we focussed on the social drivers. The topics as a list are: risk perception; knowledge transfer, governance, livelihoods and poverty, culture and religion, gender, age and disability, trust (and competing messages).

To keep the emphasis on our view that disaster never happens as a consequence of either a single social or physical aspect we used four case studies(**)  to illustrate how these social drivers interact with physical drivers.

Probably, the thinking of each  author has moved on and evolved a little in year or so since we finished the chapter, I know mine has. The interdisciplinary study of volcanic eruptions and the populations impacted by them is a pretty dynamic (and exciting) field itself. Hopefully when its time for the third edition of the Encyclopaedia to come around it will be time for another total re-write — and perhaps one or two Chapters more in this field.

Barclay, J., Haynes, K., Houghton, B., Johnston, D., 2015. Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction. In: Sigurdsson, H., Houghton, B., Rymer, H., Stix, J., McNutt, S. (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, pp. 1203–1214.

(*) I am a terrifically non-mysterious person by nature (in fact some might say utterly not very mysterious or completely not enigmatic at all). I like to experiment with it though. Not telling you which author was the new author.

(**) Eyjyafjallajokull, Mayon, Nevado del Ruiz and Goma. That was a tough short-list.

Volcanoes in the wider world