are taught broadly about interconnections in the contemporary world. Although this spotlight is most welcome from the standpoint of a discipline that for decades felt that it received too little attention, it comes at a time when most universities and institutions that support research face severe financial stringencies, limiting their ability to provide the resources needed to meet the increased expectations from geography that are equivalent to those of much larger bodies of science.

Changes Within Geography Itself

Finally, since the previous NRC assessments, geography in the United States has become larger and more prominent. For example, since 1960 the membership of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) has grown from 2,000 to more than 7,000, and the number of geographers elected to the National Academy of Sciences has increased from zero to eight. Geography has changed in its central thrusts as a discipline, moving toward emphases articulated by Robert Kates as president of the AAG in 1993/1994: improving geographic literacy, relating geographic scholarship to social needs, and strengthening connections with others (Kates, 1994a). The discipline has become more issue oriented in its research agendas, and it has directed more of its attention to moral dimensions of research questions.4 Such major geographic organizations as the AAG and the National Geographic Society (NGS) have moved toward closer associations, and all of geography's national associations (AAG, NGS, the National Council for Geographic Education, and the American Geographical Society) have come together to promote initiatives in geographic education through the Geography Education National Implementation Project.5

Many of these changes within geography are themselves responses to changes in society, and some of them have affected the ways professional geographers view the search for knowledge. Although this report is about geography as a science, such a focus is itself different from what it was a generation ago (see Sidebar 1.1).

At the same time, geography (like other disciplines) has been shaped by its access to resources for research and teaching. For instance, the focus in the late 1960s and early 1970s on U.S. social and environmental problems, combined with a steep reduction in financial support for foreign-area research, reduced the proportion of younger American geographers pursuing field research in other countries. In addition, the rapidly growing importance of technologies for information gathering, analysis, and display has increased the costs of staying at the frontier in many fields of geographic research.

Taken together, these changes are both so profound and so recent that,

4  

In the sense of research that provides scientifically valid methods to investigate many of the moral questions of concern to society.

5  

For additional information about geography's organizations, see Appendix B.



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