geographical sciences today. Web sites that provide geographical information have become a critical part of daily life, empowering citizens as both the sources and subjects of mapping, but the explosion of geographical information has raised significant concerns about individual privacy. Recent advances in geographical tools and technologies to observe, analyze, and visualize the changes shaping the human and physical features on Earth’s surface will be critical to answer the research questions in this report and to advance the geographical sciences. However, new approaches are also needed both to take advantage of the ability and willingness of nonspecialists to provide geographical information and to protect their privacy.
The 11 strategic directions in this report illustrate the great potential of the geographical sciences to address fundamental challenges facing science and society in the early 21st century. Given the extent and magnitude of the geographical transformations currently unfolding, it will be imperative to understand why changes happen in particular places. Although rapid progress has been made in geographical research in recent years, moving forward will require efforts to expand the scope and reach of geographical research. Achieving this goal will necessitate advances in research infrastructure, training, and outreach efforts. For example, most progress in the geographical sciences to date has been the result of independent research initiatives, but large-scale collaborations between researchers with diverse areas of expertise are needed to address many of the challenges facing Earth in the 21st century. Training the next generation of geographical scientists will require an updated curriculum to promote geographical understanding, spatial thinking, and geographical research skills, and to teach students how to make use of recent technological advances. Outreach is needed to inform policy makers, administrators, media figures, and others of the potential offered by the geographical sciences, and to foster links between the geographical science community and the general public. The committee envisions that the research priorities outlined in this report will lead to an increasingly sophisticated, well-organized, and powerful geographical science, which will serve as a foundation for a broad spectrum of scientific research, inform policy decisions, and enable citizens to understand and critique the geographical technologies that play an increasingly important role in everyday life.