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Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences
patterns and threats to human health and well-being. Finally, assessments of the potential and limitations of new technologies and new ways of collecting data are needed to improve the documentation and representation of geographical change.
The individual research questions do not encompass the full range of issues amenable to geographical investigation, but they represent critically important scientific and societal matters to which the geographical sciences have much to contribute. The order in which they are presented reflects a movement from overarching issues of environmental change and sustainability to matters that bear on particular changes unfolding in the social and technological arenas. This order is not intended to suggest that the earlier questions are more important than the later, however, or that the questions should necessarily be addressed in the order presented. Indeed, there is considerable overlap among and between the questions, and the last question is of relevance to all of the preceding questions.
Part II of this report sets forth each of the research questions, identifies prior work in the geographical sciences of relevance to the question, and outlines particularly promising avenues for advancing understanding of the question. Because the overarching questions are broad, each one is followed by a set of illustrative sub-questions that are indicative of more focused research initiatives that could contribute substantially to the effort to address the larger question. The report then turns to Part III, which considers the innovations that will be needed in infrastructure, training, and outreach if significant progress is to be made in addressing the research questions.