GEO Facilities Plan

6.0 The Challenges Ahead

The boundaries between the traditionally distinct disciplines of atmospheric, earth, and ocean sciences are being eroded as the understanding of the Earth as a dynamic, integrated system improves. This important intellectual driver must impact the way that GEO facilities are managed. Access to investigators of all disciplines must be open and straightforward, and opportunities for sharing of capabilities and sites between the Divisions of GEO must be recognized.

The coordination of facility requirements with other Directorates within NSF should be reviewed on a regular basis to determine whether opportunities for new partnerships would enhance available capabilities. The technological and instrumental challenges of recording long time series of environmental and biological variables, and the development of improved capabilities for the manipulation of biological materials in the natural environment would be most efficiently tackled by cross-directorate programs for development and support of new and innovative facilities.

Efforts to build new interagency partnerships must continue - many of the new computational or observational facilities would require investments that are beyond the resources of a single agency. Only through cooperative efforts can these goals be realized. To an increasing degree, many required capabilities are beyond the resources of the U.S. as a nation and the essential value of international cooperation must continue to be acknowledged.

The next five years will see substantial change in the way geosciences data are collected and processed. Disciplinary barriers will be further eroded, data access will continue to revolutionize the way investigators work together, and increasingly researchers will study dynamic Earth processes remotely in near real-time. GEO must be prepared to manage a rapid evolution in the observational and computational capabilities that will be required to achieve the next series of exciting advances in the understanding of our planet's natural system.

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