Moving Forward

The eleven questions in Part II speak to some of the fundamental challenges currently facing science and society. Given the extent and magnitude of the geographical transformations unfolding in the early 21st century, it is imperative to understand what is happening where, why changes are happening in particular places, and how the geographical sciences can best respond. The geographical sciences have had a growing impact across the sciences in recent years, and public awareness of the importance of geographical inquiry is growing. Nonetheless, moving forward requires a major effort to expand what the geographical sciences can do. This concluding section of the report outlines the key support systems that need to be enhanced as part of such an effort: research infrastructure, training, and outreach.

RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE

To date, most progress in the geographical sciences has been made through small, independent research initiatives that may be loosely coordinated, but often are not. Professional society meetings serve to bring researchers and research ideas together, but they do not have the resources to promote large-scale collaborations, nor is that their mandate. Yet as this report suggests, large-scale collaborations are important to address many geographical problems—collaborations that involve investments in technology and infrastructure and that draw on diverse perspectives and different types of data. The payoffs to such collaborations can be large, but so are the obstacles to making them happen. Those obstacles include gaps in available data on which large-scale collaborations can be based, and insufficient tools and mechanisms for bridging different monitoring and analysis initiatives. It follows that enhancements in research infrastructure should focus on data development, storage, and sharing, and the development of formal institutions and arrangements designed to facilitate meaningful collaborations.

The Human Genome Project provides a model for what can be achieved through large-scale, technologically supported collaboration. A first step to making similar strides in the geographical sciences would be to hold workshops and conferences focused on specific strategic directions, with the goal of identifying ways of moving them forward. These workshops could help clarify the costs, value, stakeholders, and viability of collaborations and suggest concrete steps that could be taken to build forward-looking research programs.

In terms of infrastructure, much of today’s science focuses on complex issues such as global climate change, species extinction, economic modeling, or urban crime—problems that often involve the analysis of massive amounts of data using tools that are capable of exploring the behavior of complex systems through rapid and increasingly realistic simulations. Many of the tools used by the geographical sciences are of this nature; yet, in some important respects, they are not adequate to the task. To move the geographical science enterprise forward, at least two distinct infrastructure requirements need to be addressed: (1) sensors and data storage and retrieval and (2) cyberinfrastructure and tools.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 115
Moving Forward T he eleven questions in Part II speak to some obstacles include gaps in available data on which large- of the fundamental challenges currently facing scale collaborations can be based, and insufficient tools science and society. Given the extent and mag- and mechanisms for bridging different monitoring and nitude of the geographical transformations unfolding analysis initiatives. It follows that enhancements in re- in the early 21st century, it is imperative to understand search infrastructure should focus on data development, what is happening where, why changes are happening storage, and sharing, and the development of formal in particular places, and how the geographical sciences institutions and arrangements designed to facilitate can best respond. The geographical sciences have had a meaningful collaborations. growing impact across the sciences in recent years, and The Human Genome Project provides a model for public awareness of the importance of geographical in- what can be achieved through large-scale, technologi- quiry is growing. Nonetheless, moving forward requires cally supported collaboration. A first step to making a major effort to expand what the geographical sciences similar strides in the geographical sciences would be can do. This concluding section of the report outlines to hold workshops and conferences focused on specific the key support systems that need to be enhanced as strategic directions, with the goal of identifying ways part of such an effort: research infrastructure, training, of moving them forward. These workshops could help and outreach. clarify the costs, value, stakeholders, and viability of collaborations and suggest concrete steps that could be taken to build forward-looking research programs. research iNFrasTrucTure In terms of infrastructure, much of today’s sci- To date, most progress in the geographical sciences has ence focuses on complex issues such as global climate been made through small, independent research initia- change, species extinction, economic modeling, or tives that may be loosely coordinated, but often are not. urban crime—problems that often involve the analysis Professional society meetings serve to bring researchers of massive amounts of data using tools that are capable and research ideas together, but they do not have the of exploring the behavior of complex systems through resources to promote large-scale collaborations, nor is rapid and increasingly realistic simulations. Many of that their mandate. Yet as this report suggests, large- the tools used by the geographical sciences are of this scale collaborations are important to address many nature; yet, in some important respects, they are not geographical problems—collaborations that involve adequate to the task. To move the geographical science investments in technology and infrastructure and that enterprise forward, at least two distinct infrastructure draw on diverse perspectives and different types of requirements need to be addressed: (1) sensors and data. The payoffs to such collaborations can be large, data storage and retrieval and (2) cyberinfrastructure but so are the obstacles to making them happen. Those and tools. 5

OCR for page 115
6 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET sensors and data storage and retrieval tems. Traffic sensors on highways can provide useful information, but more generally there is little prospect A key component of geographical analysis is the focus of providing the kinds of data required to support on spatial variations, or the tracking of phenomena as the geographical perspective on social systems or on they vary across the surface of Earth. Many geographi- the social dimensions of coupled natural–human sys- cal scientists rely on remote sensing from satellites, a tems. The U.S. Census, which used to provide highly technology with high initial costs (billions of dollars detailed decennial snapshots of the spatial differentia- have been invested in the “big iron” of NASA’s Earth tion of the population, will in the future provide only Observing System program over the past two decades), the most basic demographic data; the more detailed but one that has yielded astonishingly productive re- socioeconomic questions will now be covered by the sults in the form of massive amounts of fine-resolution American Community Survey, a rolling monthly data that can be used to map and analyze ocean tem- sample that will provide finer temporal resolution but peratures, land cover, urban growth, and a host of much coarser spatial resolution. other phenomena. Sizeable investments have also been There is a growing imbalance between environ- made in the technologies that allow for the processing, mental and social data infrastructures. It is important storage, and dissemination of information, allowing to understand environmental systems, of course, but thousands of scientists worldwide to benefit from the solving many of society’s pressing problems requires power of space-based sensors. It is important for these an equivalent level of understanding of social systems investments to continue, with commitments to develop and of interactions between the environmental and the new sensors as the science of sensing progresses; to re- social. Indeed, human activity is both the cause of much place aging satellites as they fail, thus ensuring reliable environmental change and the recipient of many of its longitudinal series; and to explore the capabilities of impacts. A possible source of social data has already each new sensor once it is in orbit. The geographical been discussed in Chapter 11: the potential of humans sciences can contribute to, and benefit from, all of these to act as sensors of important social variables through areas; indeed they have a vested interest in doing so, a form of citizen science. Although this approach given the importance of this source of data to many of has already proved valuable in many areas, systematic the questions posed in Part II. research is needed into quality assurance, techniques Recently, the scientific community has begun for integration and dissemination, and organizational to understand the potential of ground-based remote structures if it is ever to achieve its apparent promise. sensing. Ground-based sensor networks are often envi- Other options, such as facilitating access to the ad- sioned as arrays of fixed, inert sensors distributed across ministrative and commercial records that are largely the landscape, each one capable of measuring useful off-limits to scientists, hold promise only if the obvi- properties of its immediate environment, determining ous difficulties of ownership and confidentiality can be its own location, and transmitting these measurements addressed. and locations to a central service where data can be One approach to resolving issues of access might integrated and disseminated to the scientific commu- be to create tightly controlled environments in which nity. Large projects to install networks of value to the scientists could work with sensitive data but leave only geographical sciences have been proposed by ecologists with results that protected the confidentiality of the (National Ecological Observatory Network), oceanog- original records. This approach has been tried with raphers (National Science Foundation’s [NSF’s] Ocean some success by the U.S. Census Bureau, which has Observatories Initiative), hydrologists (the WATERS established firewalled data centers at selected universi- network), and others. ties where researchers can make custom requests of As discussed in Chapter 10, however, there are individual census records. An NRC report (NRC, limits to what can be sensed remotely, whether from 2007b) argues that this approach could be implemented space or from land, creating an imbalance in the data through appropriately designed software, allowing supply for studies such as those in the geographical researchers to access a range of confidential databases sciences that deal with social and environmental sys- remotely through the Internet, thus avoiding the

OCR for page 115
 MOVING FORWARD necessity for physical presence at a center. Implement- Data Committee). As a result, many hundreds of geo- ing such a system could help researchers in the geo- graphical data formats now exist, creating headaches graphical sciences gain access to, and use, the social data for anyone wanting to share data or integrate data from they need to address key questions about the changing multiple sources (Goodchild et al., 1999). human geography of the planet. Nonetheless much progress has been made in achieving a greater degree of interoperability. The Open Geospatial Consortium was formed in the 1990s to cyberinfrastructure and Tools address interoperability issues, and most high-income An NSF report (2003) argued that in the future, countries are now actively engaged in developing their science will require a new kind of infrastructure—a spatial data infrastructures, following the guidance cyberinfrastructure—to respond effectively to emerg- provided by a report under the aegis of the NRC’s Map- ing challenges. Cyberinfrastructure encompasses the ping Science Committee (NRC, 1993). In this regard, computers, networks, and storage devices of scientific the geographical sciences are at a distinct advantage computing; the sensors, software, tools, and com- relative to many sciences, because not only researchers munications of a networked scientific world; and the but also government agencies, corporations, and non- virtual communities that have to collaborate to make governmental organizations are willing to support and substantial progress. All of the foregoing require mas- invest in steps to improve the sharing of geographical sive investment. Substantial investments have already data. The creation of mashups by combining geographi- been made by the NSF in building cyberinfrastructure cally referenced information from different Web sites through awards for the acquisition of high-performance is one demonstration of the power of this new level of computing systems and for the building of virtual com- interoperability (Chapter 10). munities of networked scholars. The 2003 NSF report In other respects, however, the research community has also been followed by others offering more spe- is unable to benefit by hitching its wagon to broader cialized perspectives on the role of cyberinfrastructure efforts. Although great progress has been made in in the social sciences (Berman and Brady, 2005), the the sharing of data, there has been little comparable humanities (American Council of Learned Societies, progress in the infrastructure needed to share the tools 2006), and several individual disciplines.1 Yet to date of analysis or the software of simulation modeling. little of the cyberinfrastructure discussion or invest- The computer codes being created to model complex ment has focused on the geographical sciences. geographical systems are largely developed in low-level Because the geographical world is infinitely com- languages and are unlikely to be reusable by others. plex, any attempt to represent it, whether in the form There are no digital libraries of tools and software, and of a paper map or a digital database, requires making no standards for their documentation and description. difficult decisions about what to include and what There are no GIS software environments designed spe- to leave out. One strategy is to ignore spatial detail, cifically for the needs of K-12 education (NRC, 2006), rejecting information about variation that occurs over and the products on which most of our students are distances smaller than some declared spatial resolution. trained were too often developed to support inventory A related approach is to lump together approximately and management rather than scientific research. By and homogeneous areas or regions and ignore all variation large, these tools have not received the kinds of funding within them. Other types of variation can be adequately needed to ensure that they are rigorously engineered, captured by taking samples at appropriately spaced robust, well documented, and widely disseminated. measurement points. Numerous commercial firms By its very nature, geographical information is have adopted their own proprietary formats in the past distinct from the kinds of information acquired and (e.g., ESRI), and several national and international analyzed in those disciplines that proceed by controlled organizations have promulgated standards (e.g., Open experiment. The foundations of statistical analysis were Geospatial Consortium and the Federal Geographic developed in disciplines such as psychology, where it was reasonable to believe that the members of a sample 1For a complete listing, see www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/ci-team/ of subjects had been randomly and independently (accessed December 15, 2009).

OCR for page 115
 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET addressing infrastructure challenges chosen from some larger population and that results obtained from the sample could then be generalized, When combined, the arguments made in the previous with appropriate caveats, to statements about the popu- two subsections point to the need for a comprehensive lation. The geographical sciences are dominated by approach to the growing gap in data for the geographi- so-called natural experiments, where researchers have cal sciences and to the need to develop and disseminate little if any control over the sampling process. Thus it is a new generation of more powerful tools. One way to unreasonable to make the assumptions of a controlled confront this need is to develop a virtual center, imple- experiment when dealing, for example, with a study of mented as a set of Internet services, that would give Los Angeles using data about its census tracts. Condi- researchers limited access to unconventional and fre- tions in adjacent tracts are not independent, and there quently sensitive data sources, together with the tools is no larger population from which the tracts have been needed for analysis. Such a center would establish the randomly drawn and about which more general state- necessary protocols and implement them in software. ments can be made. It could also negotiate with individuals, commercial Instead, the analysis of geographical data requires a providers, government agencies, and the custodians of set of highly distinct and specialized techniques known sensor networks to provide the necessary assurances collectively as spatial data analysis. The assumptions, that confidentiality and other concerns would not be data structures, and techniques of spatial data analysis compromised. It could develop the techniques needed are very different from those of standard statistical to integrate diverse data sources, with themes span- analysis and require specially designed software pack- ning the social-environmental divide, and it could offer ages commonly known as GIS. Their effective use may them in a reliable, robust, and easy-to-use fashion to even require the unlearning of much standard statistics researchers from a range of disciplines. It would have and replacing them with an alternative paradigm that procedures for long-term data preservation, the lack of places more emphasis on visualization and on analyses which is a growing across-the-board problem in sci- that are not easily generalizable because they are shaped ence. The interface presented to the researcher would by place-based differences. be easy to use but would embody the best scientific All of this argues, then, for a specialized infrastruc- principles in documentation and metadata structure. ture for the geographical sciences with its own distinct In essence, this center could resolve a growing problem mechanisms for acquiring, documenting, sharing, ana- by providing a brokering service between the researcher lyzing, and modeling. Much of that infrastructure has and the potential supplier of useful data. already been built, thanks primarily to the importance A suitable next step, then, would be to launch a of geographical information in many areas of human series of workshops focused on identifying the kinds of activity well outside the scientific realm. Other parts infrastructure investments needed to support research of the infrastructure, however, have not yet received in the geographical sciences, as well as research more the kinds of investments or attention that geographical broadly that makes use of a geographical perspective. inquiry requires. The supply of data is important, but This committee believes that this specific kind of infra- the supply of tools, in the form of software, is at least structure investment could play a significant role in as important. addressing the types of strategic directions for the geo- Recently, efforts have been made to envision the graphical sciences identified in Part II of this report. next generation of spatial analytical tools by thinking not only of the future of GIS, which is often presented TraiNiNg as the key technology for spatial analysis, but also of the future of virtual globes (Chapter 10). Because the com- It is ironic that, at a time when the importance of the mercial sector is unlikely to see profit in investments of approaches and tools of the geographical sciences is this nature, given their orientation to a comparatively increasingly recognized, the need to improve training small market of researchers, research funding agencies, in the geographical sciences remains critical. Without particularly the NSF, will have to stimulate advances in curricular changes aimed at promoting geographical this particular area of infrastructure.

OCR for page 115
 MOVING FORWARD understanding, spatial thinking, and geographical re- support in geographical concepts and techniques, the search skills, however, the graduates of our educational development of new curricular materials, the seizing of institutions will not possess the insights and tools opportunities to create courses and programs of study needed to address the complex problems identified in with a significant geographical component, and the this report. Therefore a new, dedicated, and proactive infusion of the ideas and approaches of the geographi- approach to formal geographical education is essential cal sciences across the curriculum. to support the strategic directions for the geographical The latter issue is of particular importance in insti- tutions that lack formal geography or geographical sci- sciences identified and discussed in this report. ence programs. Efforts need to be made to strengthen After a period of neglect, geographical concepts the geographical component of existing science, earth and ideas have been carving out more of a role in science, and social science courses. Promising new the curriculum in recent years (Bednarz et al., 2006; Murphy, 2007).2 Yet pedagogic programs with a signifi- curriculum projects demonstrate the potential of this cant geographical component are weak or nonexistent approach. These include projects sponsored by profes- at the many schools, colleges, and universities. More- sional organizations such as the Association of Ameri- over, even where significant training opportunities can Geographers (AAG) and the National Council exist, consideration needs to be given as to whether for Geographic Education. Project GeoSTART is a programs are providing students with the background NASA-funded project linking spatial thinking skills, and skills needed to tackle the types of strategic ques- geographical technologies, and geoscience topics tions enunciated in this report. Such programs need to (specifically as they relate to hurricanes). The Teacher’s provide students with the tools to address large-scale, Guide to Modern Geography is a project funded by multidisciplinary problems and ensure that instruction the U.S. Department of Education that links spatial in skills and techniques is accompanied by training in thinking skills across the curriculum in subjects such as the nature of a geographical perspective and the char- mathematics, history, and science. And the University acteristics of geographical analysis. Strengthening and Consortium for Geographic Information Science has deepening geographical education is vital both to build- developed a model curriculum focused on the techno- ing a substantial coterie of geographical scientists who logical aspects of the geographical sciences (DiBiase can pursue the kind of work outlined in this report and et al., 2006). to promoting the informed, ethical, and sensitive use of There are growing opportunities for bringing geographical technologies in the broader community. geographical science perspectives into funded educa- Addressing the training challenge requires finding tional and research programs. The Center for Spatially ways to broaden and deepen student understanding Integrated Social Science (CSISS) is an NSF-funded of key geographical patterns and processes, enhancing program that “recognizes the growing significance of critical spatial thinking skills, and deepening student space, spatiality, location, and place in social science grasp of the structure and functions of geographical research [and] seeks to develop unrestricted access technologies, including their awareness of the appro- to tools and perspectives that will advance the spatial priate contexts in which those technologies should and analytic capabilities of researchers throughout the social sciences.”3 By providing online tutorials, text and online should not be used. The Learning to Think Spatially reference materials, and workshops, CSISS offers a report (NRC, 2006) provides a starting point on the model for the diffusion of the geographical science ap- spatial-learning front, but much work remains to be proach to all disciplines, not just the social sciences. In done. What is needed is the implementation and ex- addition, the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, pansion of programs focused on teacher training and funded through the NSF’s Sciences of Learning Cen- 2At the K-12 levels, several initiatives help explain the growing ters program, “brings together scientists and educators profile of geographical perspectives in education, including the ... to pursue the overarching goals of: (a) understanding National Geographic Society’s “Geographic Alliance” program spatial learning and (b) using this knowledge to develop (Dulli, 1994), the development of widely acclaimed state standards for geography education (Boehm and Bednarz, 1994), and the highly successful addition of Human Geography to the College 3See Board’s Advanced Placement program (Murphy, 2007). www.csiss.org/ (accessed December 15, 2009).

OCR for page 115
0 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET BOX 1 Key Questions for Training Programs in Geography/Geographical Sciences • Are lower-division courses introducing undergraduates to the problems that are the focus of the questions raised in Part II in ways that will foster understanding and a desire to pursue additional study and research? • Are there opportunities for undergraduate research that can build research skills and foster interest in advanced work? • Are the techniques courses being offered sufficiently grounded in concepts and theory so that students see the geographical sciences as a way of thinking, not just a set of computer programs? • Are graduate programs providing both enough generalist training to allow students to ask big questions that cut across traditional domains and enough specialist training to give them the insights and tools needed to address those questions? • Are students being encouraged to think across long-standing divides between the human and the physical, the social and the technological? • Are students learning not only to look for patterns, regions, and spaces of meaning, but also to think critically about them? • Are students being encouraged to pursue academic or research careers, and are programs configured in ways that support those pursuits? • Are programs open to students and scholars in the many disciplines that are developing interests in the geographical sciences? programs and technologies that will transform educa- catalyze a cultural change in graduate education, for tional practice, helping learners to develop the skills re- students, faculty, and institutions, by establishing inno- quired to compete in a global economy.”4 The emphasis vative new models for graduate education and training on the development of human capital is clear, as is the in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.”5 Other explicit focus on the transfer of research to education in a domain central to the geographical sciences. avenues that might be pursued include interdisciplinary Institutions offering advanced degrees in geography summer workshops focused on the applicability of geo- or geographical science are on the front line of produc- graphical approaches to research on particular topics ing the next generation of specialists. They face a set and the development of research centers focused on of programmatic questions that arise directly from the particular strategic questions. strategic questions in Part II (see Box 1). Addressing The challenge of developing and training a sizeable these questions can help build student interest in the cadre of specialists who can advance work on the types geographical sciences, give advanced students the con- of questions outlined in Part II is substantial. Ways ceptual and technical skills needed to address many of need to be found to expose more students to geographi- the strategic questions raised in this report, and promote cal ideas and tools and to enhance the research skills an expanding community of researchers and scholars of those with particular aptitude and interest in the who can push the research frontiers highlighted in geographical sciences. Addressing this challenge will Part II. require building on the promising recent initiatives Enhancing training opportunities for graduate outlined above and looking for new ways of infusing students and early career faculty will likely advance the concepts, techniques, and research approaches of the next generation of specialists. The NSF Integra- the geographical sciences across the curriculum. tive Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program provides opportunities to build ouTreach competence across the breadth of the geographical Policy makers, administrators, media figures, and other sciences by linking them with other disciplines. There influential individuals are in a position to use, or ignore, are, for example, affinities between the geographical what the geographical sciences have to offer, but they sciences and epidemiology, engineering, archaeology, can only make informed choices if they are aware of sociology, psychology, and the geosciences. Exploit- ing those affinities would meet the IGERT intent “to 5 Seewww.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=12759 4See www.spatiallearning.org/ (accessed December 15, 2009). (accessed December 15, 2009).

OCR for page 115
 MOVING FORWARD what the geographical sciences can contribute. Many the visualizations they produce and the options they are not in this position because only recently have the suggest (Harvey et al., 2005). Only by expanding geographical sciences begun to play a more significant familiarity with such matters can we hope to bridge the role in public debate (Murphy, 2006). It follows that knowledge gap that currently exists between those who efforts are needed to promote outreach and informal develop these technologies and those who use them. education about the nature and potential contributions Identifying opportunities for informal education of the geographical sciences. is essential to promote outreach, develop the skills to Improving external communication is a chal- translate complex ideas into language and evocative lenge faced across the sciences, but the relevance of visualizations that can be broadly grasped (Figure 1), geographical understanding to many policy choices and build bridges between the geographical science and to everyday life renders external communication community and those involved in developing and a particular imperative (Moseley, 2010). Consider, for influencing policy. The informal education challenge example, the growing pervasiveness of geographical is significant, but critical, given that education is no technologies. Countless people are using the Global longer seen as the exclusive responsibility of a formal Positioning System, virtual maps, and location-based system based on physical presence in schools. Many of services in their daily lives, and decision makers are the perspectives and tools of the geographical sciences constantly being presented with maps and information lend themselves to online distance education, virtual derived from them. Yet whether these technologies are networking through affinity groups, and participation being used in productive and informed ways is a matter in activities, such as orienteering, that have a locational of considerable concern, given the lack of general under- component. There are already rapidly growing efforts to standing of how they work and how the choices that develop online educational resources with a geographi- are made about data, spatial range, and scale influence cal component, such as the AAG’s Center for Global FIGURE 1 Maps showing the spatial and temporal characteristics of the massive fires that swept through Yellowstone National Forest in summer 1988. Geographical visualizations of this sort enhance public understanding of what happened and help policy makers plan for the future. SOURCE: Copyright 2009, University of Oregon, Atlas of Yellowstone (in production); Rick Wallen, Yellowstone National Park.

OCR for page 115
 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET BOX 2 Policy and Media Fellowships in Other Research Communities If programs similar to the ones listed below were designed and implemented for the geographical sciences, students could work with policy and media organizations to apply the latest research and analytical tools to everything from political to environmental to health-related reporting. John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship: Cosponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Sea Grant College Program, this federal program, provides an opportunity for students with an interest in oceanic, coastal, and Great Lakes issues to gain valuable experience by working in either the legislative or executive branch of the federal government. Past fellows have held positions in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as in NOAA, the Department of State, and the Department of the Interior. Jefferson Science Fellows: Recognizing the importance of science, technology, and engineering (STE) in advancing government policy, specifically U.S. foreign policy, this program is administered by the National Academies and supported by numerous organizations, including scientific societies and the U.S. Department of State. The program is seen as providing “a new model for engaging American academic STE communities in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.” Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program: Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, this program places graduate and postgraduate students in various roles in media organizations. Aldo Leopold Leadership Program: The program’s goal is to advance environmental decision making through the development of academic scientists as effective leaders and communicators. The program provides intensive interactive training sessions where fellows are taught methods to engage with and communicate to a variety of nonscientific audiences. AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program: This program promotes links between federal decision makers and scientific professionals concerned with social and environmental issues. The fellowships educate scientists about the federal policy-making process and put policy makers in contact with scientists who can advise them about scientific and technical issues bearing on policy decisions. Geography Education,6 which provides open Internet the executive branch; to fellowships that would allow access to course modules focused on social, economic, geographical scientists to become more effective com- and environmental issues. Other initiatives of this sort, municators and informal educators (see Box 2). including ones targeted at the types of strategic ques- A strategy of coherent public outreach can build tions raised in this report, could help widen the reach on the success of existing models designed to improve of the geographical sciences. linkages across the geographical science community, the public policy and private sectors, nongovernmental orga- The task of facilitating the translation of complex nizations, and the media and general public. The AAG, ideas into language and visualizations that can be for example, has held two successful “Mapping the broadly grasped is inextricably tied to the challenge News” conferences that brought together geographers of building bridges with the media and policy makers and journalists to share ideas and information. That (de Blij, 2005). A coherent set of activities designed to organization has also appointed a media officer and promote communication skills and facilitate external regularly hosts media sessions at its annual meetings connections could range from workshops, conferences, that educate geographers about how to communicate and professional opportunities bringing geographical their research findings to the public. The American scientists and journalists together to learn how to com- Geographical Society has launched an increasingly municate important scientific findings more effectively successful program aimed at promoting the writing and to opportunities for geographical scientists to serve placement of opinion pieces (op-eds) by geographers as staff members in congressional offices or within and also maintains a Media Center that provides media 6See www.aag.org/Education/center/cgge-aag%20site/index. representatives with geographers to speak on issues of html (accessed December 15, 2009).

OCR for page 115
 MOVING FORWARD geographical relevance. These types of outreach efforts geographical sciences have a critical role to play in could be incorporated into geography and geographi- elucidating those concerns. A well-developed and cal science graduate programs to make communication well-connected geographical science enterprise is in with the public and policy makers more central to a position to provide insights of scientific and policy graduate education rather than a skill acquired later in relevance on a range of demographic and consump- a research career, if at all. tion issues, the changing character of Earth’s land The entire geographical sciences community— surface and environmental systems, globalization, the federal program leaders, academic institutions, profes- nature and significance of shifting social and political sional societies, nonprofits—has an important role to arrangements, and the potential and limitations of play in maximizing the community’s reach and impact. geographical technologies. The geographical sciences If organized, the community could actively identify cannot tackle these matters alone, but without their opportunities for the dissemination of geographical perspectives and tools, our collective understanding ideas, information, and research results to specific of the changes that are remaking the world will be audiences, including the policy sector. The commu- impoverished. nity could also create a mechanism through which The time is ripe, then, to forge an increasingly geographical scientists could be put into contact with sophisticated, well-organized, and powerful geographi- various foundations and think tanks—enhancing the cal science that is embedded in a progressively more prospects that partnerships would emerge that would geographically enabled world. A geographically enabled promote understanding of such topics as disease world is one in which a substantial body of scientists hotspots, human vulnerability to famine or natural has the training and infrastructure needed to advance disasters, or trends in inequality at the subnational the frontiers of geographical science. It is one in which scale. The community could also pursue efforts to the larger community of scientists is aware of, and can make better connections with the media and other build on, the contributions of the geographical sciences. key audiences by hosting annual seminars and policy It is one in which policy is informed by the approaches forums. and representations of the geographical sciences, and in which members of the general public have a sufficient grasp of geographical ideas, concepts, and techniques coNclusioN to be able to make intelligent use of the geographical The coming decade will almost certainly be one in representations and tools that are increasingly a part of which concerns about resource use and availability, modern life. Realizing the vision of a geographically e nvironmental change, socioeconomic divisions, enabled world offers the prospect of new and important human security, and technological change will figure insights into the health of the planet and the well-being prominently on scientific and social agendas. The of the people who occupy it.

OCR for page 115