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33.4 percent, compared with a 15.3 percent increase in the social sciences and a 5.4 percent decrease in the environmental sciences.
This process of rediscovery has been mirrored in the research community as well. Research at the frontiers of fields as diverse as planning, economics, finance, social theory, epidemiology, anthropology, ecology, environmental history, conservation biology, and international relations has highlighted the importance of geographic perspectives. In particular, the importance of spatial perspectives—through such notions as place and scale—is being recognized in many fields, extending the influence of geography well beyond its relatively small group of professional practitioners.
The increased use of perspectives, knowledge, and techniques associated with a relatively small academic discipline raises several questions for the scientific community. Most directly, what is geography, and how does it connect with broad concerns of society and science? If geography is to play a more prominent role in education and decision making, do its scientific foundations need to be strengthened in order to support its expanded responsibilities?
With these questions in mind, the National Research Council established the Rediscovering Geography Committee to perform a comprehensive assessment of geography in the United States. The objectives of this assessment are:
to identify critical issues and constraints for the discipline of geography,
to clarify priorities for teaching and research,
to link developments in geography as a science with national needs for geography education,
to increase the appreciation of geography within the scientific community, and
to communicate with the international scientific community about future directions of the discipline in the United States.
In addressing these issues, this report focuses on broad national and global themes in science and society, geography's potential as a perspective and a body of knowledge to help address these themes, and constraints on geography's capability as an academic discipline to respond. As examples, it draws mainly on experience from within geography as a discipline, although valuable geographic work is done outside the discipline as well, because the committee was comprised very largely of professional geographers. Where possible, however, the examples are selected to illustrate the interconnectedness between disciplines that characterizes so much geographic investigation and facilitates the flow of ideas, concepts, and techniques across disciplinary boundaries.
The Perspectives, Subject Matter, and Techniques of Geography
To most Americans, geography is about place names. Concerns about geographic ignorance usually focus on people's inability to locate cities, countries,