Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Future Planning

Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the graphs.

What are the largest opportunities for your department in the next 3-5 years?

  • Large, community-wide initiatives (e.g., EarthScope/ Plate Boundary Observatory, IODP, Project Neptune, etc.)
  • Build on existing departmental disciplinary research strengths
  • Interdisciplinary science ("new scientific progress at the interfaces between disciplines"), or the intersection of geosciences with other disciplines (e.g., ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences, biological sciences, physics, ...)
  • Build partnerships on your campus, especially with environmental sciences, engineering
  • Many disciplinary areas were mentioned, with clumping around environmental, climate change and paleoclimate, and biogeosciences. Others with multiple occurrences included ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences, earth-system science, solid-earth geophysics/geodynamics, hydrogeology, planetary science, mineral physics
  • Using scheduled retirements to move departmental research emphasis
  • Broadening UG and Grad experience to reflect "a society that is keenly interested in its impact on Earth and not so much why Earth is the way it is."

What are the largest threats for your department in the next 3-5 years?

Biggest threat, by far, is declining resources, at all levels (federal, state, institutional, etc.), especially for state/public institutions, and corresponding impact on departmental activities. Some areas most impacted by resource loss include:

  • Inability to fill faculty vacancies
  • Inability to provide competitive salaries, start-up packages, and matching funds
  • Inability to support research labs, both with personnel and facilities
  • Loss of key faculty
  • Loss of TA lines
Other threats included:
  • Failure to work as a departmental team (if we fail to collaborate with other colleges on campus, "we will be dismissed as irrelevant for another decade")
  • "National decline in interest in physical sciences"
  • Declining enrollments, especially at the undergraduate level.
  • Inability to attract quality graduate students
  • Poor (declining) preparation of students at all levels
  • "De-emphasis on research; increased emphasis on undergraduate teaching"
  • Increased faculty workload and associated loss of emphasis on research
  • Lack of administrative support (e.g., "The view of the upper administration that 'geology is the past,' and that somehow environmental science activities are not related to the geology department.")

Are department planning efforts important, or valuable, for your department?

Almost all departments said that planning was critical. Written responses, however, showed an undercurrent of frustration. Those finding it not useful cited rapidly changing environments making plan out of date, rapidly changing administrative directives, etc. ("Is it heresy to say that planning isn't useful? Most of our plans have short half-lifes, as unpredicted changes in circumstances have forced us to abandon them," and "under the present budgetary climate, most planning has been limited to short term coping").

Those finding planning efforts useful concentrated the benefit in several areas, including:
  • Hiring strategies
  • Curriculum reform/revision
  • Benefit of the process (e.g., "the process of planning was extremely useful," and "surprisingly, an effort several years ago to formulate a long-range hiring plan was extremely useful"
  • Convincing administrations to devote resources ("planning and proposals to university administration has allowed us to receive new faculty positions")
Strategies used in planning include:
  • Departmental retreats (annual, semi-annual, all day, etc.), sometimes with outside facilitators
  • Outside review (Academic Program Reviews, Advisory Boards, etc.)