Abstract

The polyglot, fragmented, United States earth science community is in a state of stress, owing in part to decline of the domestic metals mining industry, severe economic downturns in the U.S. oil and gas industries, dispersal of research effort and decreasing role of the U.S. Geological Survey in production of detailed geologic maps, and apparent virtual stagnation of American geoscience education. Nevertheless, 15 research initiatives listed in this paper and several expanding applied fields provide examples of unparalleled opportunities for research and development (R & D) in the earth sciences. Realization of these, and other, R & D goals will require coordinated efforts on the part of the earth science community to justify, promote, and sequence the various programs. Increased effectiveness in communication, education, research, and economic development can be achieved through a more unified approach, coordinated through the National Research Council Board on Earth Sciences and through the American Geological Institute. Individual basic and applied research initiatives which are considerably more promising than others cannot be identified; on the contrary, synergistic interactions among disparate subdisciplines are—and always have been—unpredictable, numerous, and fruitful in the geosciences. Acceleration of the rate of scientific advancement and economic development will require substantial increases in public and private support of the earth sciences. Enhanced R & D funding is advocated on the basis of clear scientific promise and acute relevance of the geosciences to long-term national needs, both societal and economic.

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