a more universal recognition of the benefits of USGS strategic international science to the Nation or internal and extramural mechanisms to provide feedback on and evaluate the success of international projects, the Survey’s domestic mission tends to be emphasized and narrowly interpreted.
Uneven Disposition to International Work among the Survey’s Mission Areas
In the committee’s information gathering, we were struck by a remarkably uneven response when asking representatives from the Survey’s various mission areas about international science activities. The responses ranged from ready descriptions of ongoing international activities, to ambivalence about such projects, to disinclination to undertake overseas work. In the latter case, various factors have contributed, including the perception that the USGS lacks a congressional mandate to extend activities into the international arena; this perception makes some USGS scientists and program managers reluctant to undertake these activities, particularly when setting priorities for resource allocations (see also sections below). Correspondingly, the interests and aspirations of individual Survey scientists toward international work or foreign travel to international meetings do not appear to be universally encouraged or strategically incentivized. Our observations suggest that the uneven disposition to international work among the Survey’s mission areas may be the combined result of perceived constraints on international work vis-à-vis the USGS domestic mission, the relatively small number of congressional mandates clearly calling for the USGS to conduct international work, and the absence of an agency-wide plan for USGS international science. For reference, a compendium of congressional authorizations for USGS activities, both domestic and international, is available in DOI (2011b, Part T).
The Survey’s institutional culture poses an assortment of challenges to encouraging more universal engagement of USGS scientists in international activities. For example, similar status and respect for international as well as domestic work in merit review for USGS scientists would be consistent with an overall acknowledgement of international science as an integral part of the USGS project portfolio. This kind of recognition could entail support for presentation of scientific results of global work at international conferences and publication in premier journals (see, for example, Appendix E). The committee’s observations did not indicate that international science conducted by USGS scientists is presently given equal status to domestic project work throughout all of the science mission areas.
Interdisciplinary work—potentially aided by use of a systems approach to certain scientific investigations—can strengthen the information and analysis provided from scientific research and aligns well with the variety of international scientific opportunities and issues