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In its first 50 years, the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center tallied 4,360 scientific publications and presentations.

Even taken alone, that’s an impressive number. But modern online analysis tools—Scopus, Overton, and Altmetric—offer even deeper glimpses of the extraordinary impact EROS has made on researchers, policy makers, and the public square.

Helping the World Through Science

Helping the World Through Science

Library Provides Mission Support

Library Provides Mission Support

Podcast Featuring the Librarian

Podcast Featuring the Librarian


Keeping track of the numbers is Carol Deering, librarian at the Don Lee Kulow Memorial Library at EROS. She curates a continuously updated catalog of EROS staff publications and presentations. While there were remote sensing articles written by EROS-affiliated scientists before it opened in 1973, this overview zooms in on scholarship since the center was completed.

A woman and a computer monitor
Carol Deering is the librarian of the Don Lee Kulow Memorial Library at the U.S. Geological Survey's Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center.   

Those 4,360 research outputs include EROS authored journal publications; U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Series as well as other agency reports; books; book chapters/sections; conference papers; and conference abstracts/posters. Metadata for legacy literature continues to be added to the catalog from print files in the library and other sources, and records for newly published works are added as they become available.

In total, these articles and presentations were co-authored with researchers in at least 67 different countries, cover multiple subject areas, and include:

  • 1,329 journal articles and 37 journal editorials/letters/notes/prefaces/replies in 340 different journal titles
  • 787 reports and report sections in 594 different USGS and other agency reports
  • 147 book chapters/sections in 106 books
  • 12 whole books
  • 520 published conference papers and 1,458 abstracts/posters presented at more than 600 different conferences
  • 70 magazine/newsletter articles

Effects on Policy

To learn more about the real-world effects of EROS research, Deering turns to Overton, billed as the “world’s largest searchable index of policy documents, guidelines, think tank publications, and working papers.” To this end, Overton collects documents from organizations that explicitly aim to inform and/or influence government policy by producing research or publications. This means that Overton tracks not just the documents at the end of the policy stream but also the evidence and thinking that influenced and shaped the policy, which could include things like technical reports, policy briefs, and speeches.

A library book open to the checkout card pocket
Books are still available to check out via book card at the EROS Library. But the vast majority of researchers' work is now carried out using online search engines.

Starting with the same set of 4,360 EROS authored research outputs from the past five decades—2,141 with a DOI—used to query Scopus, Overton returned 648 matching items (Overton DOI query, 11.7.23). Overton throws open myriad windows onto the policy documents it aggregates; here’s just a small overview. Those 648 EROS works:

  • have supported 2,612 policy and policy-related documents
  • from 285 policy sources
  • spread across 52 countries
  • and cover a broad spectrum of topics, including agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, conservation biology, environmental science, extreme weather, famine, irrigation, natural resource management, poverty, remote sensing, social vulnerability, sustainable forest management, systems ecology, and more.

The 2,612 policy documents citing EROS authored work were in turn cited in 20,134 policy documents from 894 sources across 109 countries. Both the first order and second order policy document citation metrics are impressive, especially considering that Overton’s coverage is generally robust from 2015 onward, while coverage is less comprehensive for the years prior to 2015 because policy documents were not as available online in those years as they are today.

Here are 10 of the policy documents citing EROS work since January 2023:

Online Footprint

While EROS research is vital for researchers and policy makers, it’s also important for taxpayers, i.e., the general public, to know how science at the center affects their daily lives. That’s why Deering also investigates online attention for EROS work and the EROS mission at popular news and magazine venues and on science-focused websites, as well as on other online forums such as intergovernmental organization (IGO) and nongovernmental organization (NGO) websites, university press rooms, governmental web pages, and blogs of all kinds.

A woman at a computer
Librarian Carol Deering uses databases such as Scopus, Overton, and Altmetric to track the thousands of publications and presentations that have been produced by EROS scientists in the past 50 years.  

Ten years ago, she started tracking and collecting online mentions of EROS. She set up alerts and feeds to capture remarks about the center’s research, researchers, new work, new products, satellites, sensors—anything “EROS." She also started tapping into Altmetric. Altmetric is an aggregator of online mentions of published research outputs whose metadata include identifiers, such as a digital object identifier. Its coverage is most robust for news and blog sites and social media. If you’re interested in a snapshot of online attention to EROS work captured by Altmetric, check out this report she created on November 21, 2023. Note that Altmetric only began tracking online attention to research in October 2011, so these metrics span only about a fifth of the 50 years of EROS science.

Between these two strategies for scooping up online attention to EROS and its work, Deering has captured more than 1,000 news and blog mentions, and they cover a breadth of topics that include insurance in the aftermath of natural disasters; a University of Montana mapping project; a disappearing lake in Texas; a policy framework for wolves, bears, and mountain lions; wildfires mapping; tree diversity and climate change; wildfires on snow-covered mountains; drought in California woodlands; and even a mention by Geohub Kenya of EROS’ Eyes on Earth podcasts.

Across the research community, on the policy shaping stage, and in the public square, EROS science has impressed a large footprint over the past five decades. Hundreds of thousands of citations to and applications of EROS publications and data along with acknowledgments, recognition, and shout-outs across all kinds of venues on the web affirm the relevance of the EROS mission, past and present. As technology advances and text and data mining tools improve, as we sharpen our capabilities to burrow into research publications and policy documents and online text, to ferret out evidence of reach and impact, the footprint of EROS science will become easier to track, and that footprint is sure to grow wider and deeper.


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