Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Connect to the Future of Geoscience

These webpages were written by Carol Ormand, based on ideas compiled from the 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science.

The fields of science are constantly changing, in response to societal needs and scientists' curiosity. Predicting where any particular field of science is headed is a tricky business indeed, but the resources and references below attempt to do so. They may help you to see the future.

A Perspective on the Next 25 Years

Eric Barron's keynote address from our 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum considers the increasingly interdisciplinary and applied nature of geoscience as we attempt to tackle societally important issues. Addressing these complex, globally pressing "grand challenges" will require an Earth System Science approach.

Where is Our Research Going?

This page features videos of presentations by Simon Brassell, John Fountain, and Donna Whitney, all from our 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum. The presentations focus on where geoscience research is headed in the coming decades, from global change and geobiology/biogeochemistry to environmental geology, hydrogeology, and solid earth geoscience.

Faculty Members on the Cusp

The profiles in this collection describe the work of faculty members who embody the trends we see in geoscience, including multidisciplinarity, collaboration, use of sophisticated technology and large data sets, a systems approach, and applications to societally relevant issues. Each profile also explores how these faculty members incorporate their research interests in their teaching.

Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching

These references on interdisciplinary research and teaching were collected as we prepared for the 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum.

Guiding Documents

Several national organizations have produced documents about the future of the geosciences:

Geosciences: The Future (IUGG, 2003)

The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) formed a working group of young scientists charged with developing a vision for the future of the geosciences. Included in this vision are long-term goals (50 years) for the major fields of geophysics, short-term priorities (the next decade), opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, proposals for the advancement of developing countries, and organizational recommendations for the geosciences.

Beyond 2000: Understanding and Predicting Earth's Environment and Habitability (National Science Foundation, 2000)

This is a long range planning document from the Directorate for Geosciences of the National Science Foundation. Its focus is on how to advance and integrate scientific knowledge across the broad range of geosciences and to provide essential services to the country in the first decade of the new millenium.

Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science (National Resource Council, 2001)

This report identifies areas of high-priority research within the purview of the Earth Science Division of the National Science Foundation, assesses cross-disciplinary connections, and discusses the linkages between basic research and societal needs. Download the exective summary. (Acrobat (PDF) 158kB Feb12 07)

Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade (National Resource Council, 1999)

This volume encourages a renewed commitment to understanding global change and sets a direction for research in the decade ahead. Through case studies the book explores what can be learned from the lessons of the previous 20 years and what are the outstanding scientific questions.

Global Ocean Science - Toward an Integrated Approach (National Resource Council, 1999)

This book examines how the largest U.S. ocean research programs, such as the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) and the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), have significantly contributed to our understanding of the oceans. It considers the impact of these programs on research, education, and collegiality within this diverse scientific community and offers recommendations to help ensure a vital future for ocean science.

References and Additional Readings

  • Adlen, S., E. E. Brodsky, T. Oki, A. J. Ridley, L. Sanchez, C. Simionato, K. Yoshizawa, and U. Shamir (2004), New Report Charts Course for Future of Geosciences, Eos Trans. AGU, 85 (3), 25.
    (Link to article on AGU website. AGU Membership Required.)
  • Bralower, T., P.G. Feiss and C.A. Manduca (2008), Preparing a New Generation of Citizens and Scientists to face Earth's Future, Liberal Education, 94 (2), p. 20-23.
    With growing awareness of significant environmental problems facing the earth in the coming decades, and the realization that issues such as global warming require action on the part of individuals as well as governments, the authors assert that earth system science must establish its place in college curricula to ensure that a new generation of citizens and scientists is prepared to meet future challenges.
  • Manduca, C., H. Macdonald, and G. Feiss (2008), Education: Preparing Students for Geosciences of the Future, Geotimes 53 (4), 59. 
    Society faces an ever-expanding number of difficult challenges - and geoscience students can prepare to help meet them.
  • NASA, 2003 , Earth Science Enterprise Strategy, Washington, D.C.
    The Earth Science Enterprise uses NASA's unique capabilities to understand and protect our planet by using the view from space to study the Earth system and improve prediction of Earth system changes. This document lays out the strategic plan for the ESE project.
  • NRC, 1995 , Reshaping the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers
    Recommendations are aimed at creating a new PhD that would retain the existing strengths of the current system while substantially increasing the information available, the potential versatility of students, and the career options afforded to them by their PhD education.

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