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The four Ws of GSI white papers

News, Q&A: GMA Techline | April 1, 2014 | By:

Why, what, when, and where?

According to Wikipedia (my favorite source for all kinds of information), a white paper is “an authoritative report … to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers are used in two main spheres: government and business-to-business marketing.”

From my title, I suggest that the “why” of our white papers is that they provide a message to potential readers somewhere between a newsletter and a magazine article. Because they are usually not reviewed (ours are but only internally) they are certainly not publications at the level of conference proceedings or journal articles, but they are freely available to all and provide some degree of insight about the topic being addressed.

The topic is the “what” in the title. For us at GSI/GRI, the various topics selected have been suggested by others as concerns and direct questions. We have responded to about 3,000 GMA Techline questions to date and countless more by member and associate member organizations over the years. When the same, or similar, question is asked repeatedly, it prompts us to act and a white paper is frequently the result.

The “when” is subjective. For example White Paper #20 (“Geosynthetic opportunities with shale gas extraction”) came upon us rapidly, whereas White Paper #27 (“The intimate contact issue of field placed geomembranes with respect to waves (or wrinkle) management”) has been with us for decades. In this latter regard, old questions have been raised anew, revisited, and revisions made based on current information.

The “where” in our title is initially answered via publication in our quarterly GSI Newsletter/Reports and subsequently put on our website for anyone to read or download. That said, it is a bit disconcerting when one of our white papers is referenced in a technical article or copied into a manuscript. But this is acceptable because none have a copyright and everything is available to the public.

In the context of the above mentioned “four Ws” in the title, we will continue to write and publish white papers as a need becomes apparent. They seem to be a somewhat popular vehicle for us to provide information and education that is critical to GSI. That said, it also can make the reader curious and provide a starting point for searching out other more-detailed content on the topic. To date, the 29 available GSI white papers are placed in the following categories:

  • geosynthetic technical issues = 14
  • geosynthetic editorial issues = 7
  • geosynthetic related surveys = 5
  • general commentary items = 3

Do comment, critique, agree, disagree, or suggest other topics as you see fit. In the end, one hopes that this effort provides a meaningful service to all.

Bob Koerner, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, is director emeritus of the Geosynthetic Institute in Folsom, Pa., and is a member of Geosynthetics magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee.
GSI: +1 610 522 8440

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