John “Rick” Devlin, Ph.D.
John “Rick” Devlin, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief of Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation® (GWMR).
A renowned researcher and lecturer, Devlin has been teaching both in the United States and internationally for more than 30 years. He is currently a professor in the Geology Department at the University of Kansas.
His research interests center on organic transformations and transport in the subsurface, granular iron reactivity for groundwater remediation, and aquifer characterization by direct velocity measurements.
An active member of NGWA and the Geological Society of America, Devlin has also held memberships in the American Chemical Society, the Geochemical Society, and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH/AIH). He was the recipient of the Leo
M. & Robert M. Orth Water Resources Award in 2020.
Prior to becoming editor-in-chief, he served as an associate editor of GWMR from 2012-2020. He took part in a Q&A when he became the journal’s editor-in-chief, which follows here.
NGWA: Accepting the role of editor-In-chief for GWMR is a big undertaking. Even with your tenure as an associate editor since 2012, was there any hesitation in accepting the position?
Devlin: The responsibility that comes with the position of editor-in-chief is great, and so it naturally comes with some anxiety that I will succeed in serving the journal well and seeing it flourish. Even so, I did not hesitate
more than a moment to accept the editor position when the offer came. The time seems right for me and I believe this journal serves a vital role in the hydrogeological community. I am excited to increase my involvement with this publication and continue
the trajectory set by Neil Thomson in raising the journal’s profile and quality.
NGWA: Speaking of your tenure at GWMR, how have you seen the publication evolve over the last nine years and where do you want it to go during your time as editor-in-chief?
Devlin: A decade ago, I regarded GWMR as a repository primarily for modest field-based experiments. Of course, the journal also published a wide variety of articles, including excellent modeling, laboratory-based studies,
and literature reviews. However, it was the field papers that I thought of first when I thought of GWMR. Over the past nine years this field emphasis has endured, and the quality of the articles has steadily improved. In my view, if you are
someone with an interest in contaminant hydrogeology — as a practitioner or an academic — picking up an issue of GWMR provides some of the best value for time spent of any of the leading hydrogeological journals. The past few
years have included articles that convey the latest ideas and developments often with the added bonus of seeing these contributions applied. I think this makes the reading interesting and the articles great sources of material for practitioners trying
to stay ahead of the technology curve, and also importantly, teaching.
I would like to continue to play to the strengths GWMR has established, and for it to become the preferred journal in North America for publishing field-based research featuring the newest approaches and tools. I have noticed that Europe has
become a major source of ingenuity in contaminant hydrogeology in the past decade or so. Over the next few years, I hope to be able to attract more articles from those countries to give GWMR a more international flavor. Ideally, the journal
could become an important cross-pollinator of ideas.
NGWA: GWMR is likely going to continue to be an important issue in the coming years as we continue to face challenges with PFAS and other emerging contaminants. What role do you think GWMR plays in these efforts? Is there anything you think the journal could expand on this field?
Devlin: PFAS, and related compounds, are shaping up to be a major contaminant problem in the near future. All of the previous experience we have had, and the sophistication of methods we have developed will have to be brought
to bear on this problem. The advances we make addressing PFAS and other emerging contaminants — some of which we may not even recognize yet — will take place in the (geo)chemical, (geo)biological, mathematical, engineering, and hydrogeological
disciplines. GWMR is ideally placed to publish not only the hydrogeological contributions, but also those in the related disciplines that overlap with hydrogeology scientifically and for the realization of practical outcomes. This interface
of disciplines, where the synergy of complimentary approaches is discovered and applied, is exciting territory and to me it is perfect GWMR material.
NGWA: As a long-time professor, lecturer, and author of technical papers, how will your experience guide you as you oversee GWMR?
Devlin: There are a few lessons I have learned over my career that I hope will help me in my role as editor-in-chief at GWMR. The first is that an article — no matter what its content or place of publication—
— s first and foremost a means of communication. I have found that my favorite papers have been the ones that told a story clearly — the authors let you know why you were there and masterfully led you to something new. There are many ways
to tell a story; no one size fits all. Nevertheless, a reader will recognize a compelling narrative when they read it. I will be looking out for articles that do this well in addition to maintaining high standards in the science presented.
The second lesson I have learned is that although I have good ideas every so often, most of the time my output is greatly enriched by friends and colleagues who generously add their own thoughts to mine. Adaptability to new and changing situations will
be important if GWMR is to take advantage of opportunities, serve as a forum for scientific advancement, and publish on the cutting edge.
Finally, I have always enjoyed most working with colleagues who just love the work. They exude enthusiasm and spark new ideas that leave me eager to get back to my own projects. If GWMR can somehow achieve the journal equivalency of an inspiring
colleague, who could resist opening the next issue?