and concerns of nongeographers about geography's subject matter rather than geography as a discipline (see Sidebar 1.2). It does not review the current state of geography to inform the discipline itself. It is not a description of the history of the discipline in the United States or of how its history has been different in other countries. It is not the statement of a disciplinary consensus on the issues that are addressed. It does not provide a comprehensive review of geography's literature. Indeed, the committee made a conscious effort to keep referencing to a minimum.8

Instead, this report is written for the broad audience that is curious about geography's new place in a national spotlight. It reflects the consensus of the committee on how geography can contribute to issues for science and society on the threshold of the twenty-first century.

SIDEBAR 1.2 Geography, Geographer, Geographic: What's in a Name?

The knowledge, perspectives, and techniques of geography (i.e., geography's subject matter), which are discussed in Chapters 3 and 4 of this report, have found wide application in many scientific fields, and they are practiced by more than professional geographers alone. In preparing this assessment of the relevance of geography to science and society, the committee focused on this subject matter because that is the essence of the rising external interest, rather than on the discipline per se.

The examples used in this report were largely taken from the geography literature with which the committee is most familiar, although some references are also made to work by scientists who would not call themselves geographers nor refer to their work as "geographic," even though it concerns geography's subject matter. The committee has made no effort to define the boundaries of geography as an academic discipline because the boundaries are diffuse and unlikely to be of much interest to the nongeography audience for this report. Nor has the committee sought to lay claim to an expanded boundary for geography as a discipline by claiming the geographic work of other disciplines as its own. Rather, the committee's intention is to illustrate the application of geography's subject matter wherever it is done—and thereby to demonstrate geography's interconnectedness to other scientific disciplines, which hastens the flow of ideas, concepts, and techniques, and to encourage a stronger influence of geography far beyond its small group of academic practitioners.

In this report the committee uses the term geography to refer to the academic discipline and its subject matter, some of which is shared with other natural and social science disciplines. The term geographer is used to refer to practitioners of geography who have acquired expertise in the discipline's knowledge, perspectives, and techniques, either through academic training or other professional experience. The term geographic is used to differentiate the subject matter of geography from the academic discipline.


For more information about the discipline's literature, see Abler et al. (1992) and Gaile and Willmott (1989).

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