Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research ESRIG - Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen News

Unreflective use of old data sources produced echo chambers in the water–electricity nexus

23 February 2021

Authors: S. Vaca-Jiménez, P.W. Gerbens-Leenes, S. Nonhebel & K. Hubacek.

Journal: Nature Sustainability.

Abstract

Echo chambers in science describe the amplification and repetition of information within closed networks. Frequently used data sources can cause echo chambers as scientists keep reading similar outputs from different sources, creating false perceptions of certainty and variety of data sources. We show this effect by studying the scientific and grey literature on water use by electricity systems. The power sector is the largest contributor to anthropogenic carbon emissions and the second largest water consumer. We have assessed the scope and references of 2,426 papers and created a citation network to trace original data sources. Most data sources used for the last 30 years originate from a few old US publications, recently also Chinese, that echo through publications. This echo effect, also reflected in recent scientific publications, creates a confirmation bias, also facilitating double counting of the water intensities of electricity generation. This example from sustainability science warns of the risk of echo chambers in other scientific disciplines.

Last modified:23 February 2021 1.39 p.m.

More news

  • 02 April 2024

    Flying on wood dust

    Every two weeks, UG Makers puts the spotlight on a researcher who has created something tangible, ranging from homemade measuring equipment for academic research to small or larger products that can change our daily lives. That is how UG...

  • 18 March 2024

    VentureLab North helps researchers to develop succesful startups

    It has happened to many researchers. While working, you suddenly ask yourself: would this not be incredibly useful for people outside of my own research discipline? There are many ways to share the results of your research. For example, think of a...

  • 04 March 2024

    A plant-based sensor

    Every two weeks, UG Makers puts the spotlight on a researcher who has created something tangible, ranging from homemade measuring equipment for academic research to small or larger products that can change our daily lives. That is how UG...