National Science Foundation Advisory Committee Offers New Vision for the Geosciences
Releases report: "GEO Vision: Unraveling Earth's Complexities through the Geosciences"
Society stands at a crossroads. With growing problems such as resource depletion, energy sustainability, environmental degradation and climate change, can we protect the health of the planet while achieving widespread economic prosperity?
So asks a report released today by the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Advisory Committee for Geosciences (AC-GEO): GEO Vision: Unraveling Earth's Complexities through the Geosciences.
For most of its history Earth has experienced vast alterations, states the report, in response to natural variations in our planet.
Humans, however, are now emerging as the dominant agent of change.
"It is essential going forward that we have the scientific tools and evidence to understand and anticipate how the Earth will be transformed in the future, and at what rate, in response to these growing pressures," says geoscientist George Davis of the University of Arizona, chair of the AC-GEO.
"To identify these influences and their potential impacts requires an understanding of the Earth, its history, and its systems that's grounded in basic science--a science that probes and ultimately defines the Earth's character."
Such basic research is the domain of the geosciences, which seek to advance a better understanding of Earth and its systems, states the GEO Vision report.
In the United States, NSF is the sole research agency, believes the AC-GEO, with the disciplinary breadth to comprehensively address these diverse challenges.
"It is NSF's geosciences directorate that must engage other NSF directorates and external partners in an ambitious research program that furthers our understanding of Earth, and provides the basis for objective and sound policy formulation and decision-making," says Arden L. Bement, Jr., NSF director.
The challenges ahead for the geosciences, the advisory committee found, are:
The members of the AC-GEO believe that it's possible to meet these challenges, and to realize a GEO Vision of fostering a sustainable future, through a better understanding of our complex and changing planet.
"Earth is a dynamic marvel of complexity and beauty," says Tim Killeen, NSF assistant director for geosciences. "We as geoscientists must work to meet the challenge of understanding its many facets, and use that knowledge to advance our stewardship of its systems. The AC-GEO's report could not be more timely."
Society as a whole must make wise decisions regarding environmental and resource management, according to GEO Vision, using a grounded and rational set of guidelines.
Scientists and engineers will be called upon in the future to supply the scientific insights and predictive capabilities required to inform key policy decisions, many with long-lasting effects.
"Leading many of those discussions will be geoscientists," states the report, "who will share their understanding of the Earth system with the public and with decision-makers, providing the scientific knowledge that will ultimately guide society as it comes to understand its evolving relationship with the planet."
The AC-GEO's recommendations for NSF's directorate for geosciences, which has three divisions--atmospheric and geospace sciences; earth sciences; and ocean sciences--are to:
"We as a society face a daunting task," says Killeen. "Through the help of the AC-GEO, we will make great strides in realizing a new vision for the geosciences--and for the future of our planet."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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