Saturday, 8 May 2010

Don’t neglect “old” knowledge!

There’s an interesting article in the Spring 2010 issue of Planet Earth* Groundwater − returning to the sources. Here’s what the intro. blurb says:

Many people in Africa depend on groundwater, but exploiting it effectively depends on accurate information about where to find it – and this information is expensive to obtain. Yet in many cases, researchers did the work years ago – it's just a matter of tracking down their results. Jude Cobbing and Jeff Davies describe a new initiative to make data from old studies more accessible – and in doing so, improve scientific cooperation and the availability of water in Africa.

Many people (students in particular) think useful data have to come from recent sources – they have to be available on the Internet, otherwise they ain’t much use. So an initiative like this, to get “old” knowledge on the Internet, is very welcome. After all, reinventing wheels is expensive and a massive waste of time.

This article is about groundwater, but in sanitation there’s also lots of good “old” knowledge (some of which is on the Internet) which many of today’s professionals (never mind students) simply don’t know about. So they reinvent some wheels – e.g., sanitation planning tools, latrine designs, and so on. Time to get real!

* Planet Earth is a free magazine published by NERC (the UK Natural Environment Research Council) and aimed at non-specialists with an interest in environmental science.