EUR ING Alessandro CALVI


The contribution submitted for the ICOLD Innovation Award is a work carried out to collect the total number of published papers about Italian dams. This work has given to the technical community currently involved in these dams (for operation, assessment, surveillance, maintenance, etc.) a robust source of knowledge about the long lasting life of these structures, to optimize monitoring and surveillance, and an useful starting point for new researches and approaches, mainly concerning existing dams.

The work was fostered by the Italian Committee On Large Dams (ITCOLD), and supported by the ITCOLD Young Enginner Forum.

The resulting publication, named Italian Dams Bibliography, was made available as a Bulletin on the ITCOLD website, in 2016. It lists more than 1100 papers, covering not only the most of technical topics on dam engineering but also best practices such as the management of a specific reservoir, environmental issues, etc.

This contribution is presented by the Author (with preliminary ITCOLD endorsement) in the context of the ICOLD Innovation Award 2018, to emphasize how a bibliographic work can be seen also as a ‘catalyst’ of scientific progress and innovation [1]. Therefore, the following Paragraphs are intended to explain, after a synthetic description of the Bullettin structure, why a method to reconstruct and retrace a past knowledge route is quite mandatory to give new contribution to the scientific and technical audience and then why it is ‘disruptive’.


A bibliography is a work of collection of relevant documentation in a given field, aimed at advancing knowledge and avoiding that a subject is reivented. Then, knowledge and its advancement should start from a state-of-art. It is possible to refer to the following latin locution to better understand the concept above reported: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes, i.e. dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, which attributes and recognizes autorship of an invention with humilty and strenght, at the same time [2].


The Italian collection of papers on dams engineering and management is structured as a table, which reports in each lines the name of a specific dam and each row is fullfilled with the following information: paper title, author(s) name, publication, and finally key words.

As a reader can understand, there is a huge number of papers which refer to more than one dam, sometimes several.

This required to examine many papers to identify all the dams involved. And, as a consequence, the final number of records resulted larger than the total number of available papers. In fact, a total of 1100 papers was found, and 1984 records resulted.


As described in the previous Paragraph, each line or record of the table, which is the core of the Dams Bibliography, represents a paper connected to a specific dam.

The work was centered in an extended research which took into account a lot of sources of publications, such as: ICOLD Congress/Symposiums Proceedings, current national and international peer reviewed journals, historical journals and technical magazines.

This research work can be divided in thee steps or criteria, described below.

The first criterion used to find relevant papers, i.e. citing a specific Italian work, within international issues, was to conduct this research looking primarly to Italian Authors: actually, it was more probable to reach much more results this way as, on the other hand, it was less probable that a foreign author had published any paper concerning Italian dams. Of course, this is not a general rule, in fact, the WG also found a certain number of records published abroad, but, as said before, the majority of them should have been presented by domestic contributors coming from utilities, contractors, etc, being them the actual holders of the know how connected to the works which had been designed, constructed or managed by them.

The second criterion, which suits better for national publications, was to research contribuition based on the name of each paper, looking for words, including the name of a dam and, of course, the word “dam” itself.

Finally, the last criterion was to read the body of the text of lots of contributions of importance, researching wether a general topic was developed with no puntual reference or one or more practical examples were included.


Collecting and classifying bibliographical news in each scientifc field is a practice recognized internationally as a prerogative to the progress itself [1].

In fact, upcoming ideas emerge thanks to a solid and well documented basis [2], [3]. An approach of innovation based on the pre-existing knowledge is well represented by more than one theory.

The C-K theory explains the continuous oscillation between Concept C and Knowledge K in order to generate innovative design. The bibliography stands within the “K space”; on the other hand, concepts are derived from pre-existing knowledge, which helps to identify innovation opportunities.

An approach to pursue “Innovation Through Tradition” (ITT) [4] is exploited by very well known historical long-lasting family companies.

Then, a bibliographic collection should be seen from two different point of views: firstly as a process of interiorization aimed to underline existing technologies, methods about dam engineering, which consequently turns into their digestion and finally with their possible re-engineering.


This paper is aimed to analyze how a bibliographic work should be considered not as rigid collection of publications but as an opportunity to discover knowledge which often turns into the development of new technical ideas and finally it translates into innovation.


The Author would like to thank ITCOLD, as well as the ITCOLD Young Engineers Forum, for the received support.


[1]. “La bibliografia nei problemi di tecnica delle fondazioni e costruzioni in terra”, R. Jappelli, Rivista Italiana di Geotecnica, 4-1962, page 169.

[2]. http://www.idexlab.com/blog/bibliography-and-innovation, Blog about Innovation.

[3]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-K_theory, WIKIPEDIA

[4]. “Innovation through tradition: lessons from innovative family business and direction for future research”, A. De Massis, F. Frattini, J. Kotlar, A. M. Petruzzelli, M. Wright, Academy of Management Perspectives, 2016, Vol. 30, No. 1, 93-116.

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