wateReview is an interactive and collaboratively designed platform based on our research paper, “Blind and Bright Spots of Water research in Latin America and the Caribbean”. Over the course of an unprecedented two-year study, our dedicated team analyzed over 20,000 research articles in English, Spanish, and Portuguese to determine the bright and blind spots of water research in this part of the world. With wateReview, users can explore past water resources research by topics or countries in terms of abundance, spread, and connectivity. The visualizations on this platform have been specifically developed to meet the needs and preferences of Latin American researchers and decision makers. In the spirit of our multilingual approach, and for the sake of accessibility, all content is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Our site adheres to three design primary principles, which also informed our wider research project:


Despite being the world’s most water-rich region, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) face a multitude of water-related stressors and lack the valuable scientific knowledge necessary for good decision-making.

To address these issues, we decided to do a comprehensive assessment of the past state of the water research in LAC. Using a “science of science” approach, we performed an unprecedented data-driven literature review of peer-reviewed literature in three different languages. With this corpus, we used machine learning to identify “bright spots” of scientific inquiry: topics and locations where water research is abundant, spread out, and well connected. We also identified “blind spots” in the field: topics and locations where water resources are less thoroughly studied. This approach identifies opportunities to enhance collaboration within the research community and ensure future research meets societal needs.

To contextualize results from the literature review, we used publicly available data to cluster countries into hydrosocial groups with similar social and hydrological systems. This data includes multiple metrics to measure socioeconomic factors as well as water resource abundance and use. Our clustering process allowed for more meaningful interpretation of subsequent results within and across LAC countries.

Engagement with LAC Scientists and Decision Makers

Our platform was collaboratively developed on the basis of interpretability and usefulness using three surveys completed by Latin American researchers and graduate students.

platform workflow

Corpus Research Survey

survey wordcloud

To broaden our understanding of the literature review, we invited 20,000 corresponding authors from our corpus to share their experiences through a survey. It aimed to shed light on researchers’ characteristics by asking about their research experience, institutional affiliation, publication history, their perceptions on funding, and the level of interdisciplinarity connectivity in the field of water resources. A total of 1,969 respondents from 35 countries and a variety of disciplinary backgrounds completed this survey, providing a comprehensive look into the state of water research in LAC. One of the main themes of the survey results concerned a lack of funding for, and collaboration between, LAC researchers (see figure to the right). A complete report of this survey may be found here.

The corpus survey in detail

In order to validate and contextualize the results of the literature review, we conducted an electronic survey of authors from our corpus to determine the research discipline, accessibility, and connectivity of water-related research in Latin America. The 16-question survey was designed to take approximately 5 minutes for each respondent and was made available in English, Spanish and Portuguese to ensure an accurate representation of LAC researchers. Questions included information regarding the respondent’s position, institutional affiliation, years of experience, main research discipline, countries of birth, residence research focus, number of peer-reviewed publications, motivations for picking journals for publications, source of funding, and opinions regarding interdisciplinary research. All of these questions were important to contextualize the ground-truth of our findings. A total of 1,969 survey responses were analyzed and found the main limiting factor to research was funding challenges and lack of collaboration. With a strategic combination of closed and open ended questions, we also found funding deficits could be linked to economic trends and were distributed unequally across countries. Surveys taken in Spanish and Portuguese were translated to English and are included in the results.

Needs Assessment and Interpretability Survey

We hosted three multilingual workshops to discuss the needs and preferences of LAC researchers and to create useful and informative visualizations on the platform. We worked with Global Water Partnership (GWP) to conduct a needs assessment survey to learn about the preferred visualizations tools and their level of interpretability. These visualizations and interactive tools were incorporated into the platform.

Needs assessment and interpretability survey in detail

To create our interactive wateReview platform, our team conducted a series of three virtual workshops with 140 participants to evaluate the site’s interpretability, utility, and functionality. Multilingual workshops were divided by hydro-social country groups and presented to an audience of about 40 participants each. Over the course of two sessions, researchers completed a needs assessment and a visualizations assessment in collaboration with our project partner Global Water Partnership. Results from the needs assessment determined that topics are generally selected based on personal and local needs, meanwhile the visualizations assessment determined the order of visualizations based on utility. It was important for our team to consider respondents’ feedback regarding what platform design would prove most beneficial for users.

Platform Survey

A final platform survey was created to assess the beta version of the platform and to receive feedback about its interpretability and usability. This survey was sent to the workshop participants, previous corpus survey participants, and researchers from LAC. After reviewing the results, the website was updated to include their suggestions and to produce the final version of the wateReview platform.

Platform survey in detail

The platform survey was used to assess the usability of the platform and what we could do to improve it. We sent a beta version of the wateReview website to researchers and previous survey participants in Latin America, along with a Google Form questionnaire to collect user feedback. To get a scope of the potential users, the survey asked for demographic information such as what countries and topics they studied. Participants were then asked to navigate the website and answer questions curated to measure the interpretability of each visualization and their description. After we received the results of the survey, the website was updated to include the user suggestions and to produce the final version of the wateReview platform.

waterReview facilitates the use and interpretation of visualizations from our research. waterReview will serve as a venue for researchers, and traffic on the website will serve as a measurable indicator of successful development of the platform.

Partner Support

Water Management Lab

The UCD Water Management Lab is led by Samuel Sandoval Solis, Associate Professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and Cooperative Extension Specialist for University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources. He has vast experience working in water resources management throughout Latin America, and has built an extensive network of collaborators in the region. Water Management Lab has provided a dedicated space for research scholars, master students and PhD students to collaborate and use their research expertise and science communication skills to support this project.

Global Water Partnership

GWP recognizes this research project as critical for the future of water science, management, and policy. This is a great opportunity to identify the research opportunities and knowledge gaps of past water research in the developing world. Results from this research will inform GWP about the state of water resource research in Latin America and provide robust information that can help improve Integrated Water Resources Management. Our project aligns with the GWP Strategy 2020-2025, which states: GWP mobilizes people and organizations to unite around shared development priorities that impact water resources. Through multi-stakeholder platforms, GWP brings voices to the table and creates a space for diverse views and interests, including those of the private sector.

GWP: (a) provides feedback and guidance regarding analysis from our perspective, (b) supports the outreach of the project by providing a physical (virtual) space to held the projects workshop around Latin America Countries, (c) becomes an active partner by promote the visualization platform and webinars, and (d) becomes an active partner in the promotion of the achieved results.

Center for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Research (CeDAR)

The CeDAR Innovation Data Science Seed funding program, project, Can Big Data Improve Water Research in Latin America?, was directed towards the development of this platform in an unprecedented effort to share science findings with relevant stakeholders.

DataLab: Data Science and Informatics

The UC Davis DataLab is an interdisciplinary data science research service that leverages existing knowledge to tackle complex problems, develop new tools to do so, and teach those skills to others. The Lab features a large collaboratory with a teaching classroom to facilitate transformative research and competitive graduates. Lab members supported wateReview’s computational literature review and developed the visualization tools for the platform.

UC Davis Global Affairs

Our research project was aligned with UCD Global Affairs program focused on UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). LAC water scientists should focus their research on topics and regions that are poorly understood to optimize their efforts for policy relevance and societal impact. Our project advances SDGs through a science communication program that promotes data-driven decision-making around water research. For these reasons, UCD global provides support to create content and promote this platform.