the technique to incorporate more advanced geographic concepts and analysis methods.

Geography's Contributions to Scientific Understanding and Decision Making

Geography offers significant insights into some of the major questions facing both the pure and applied sciences. In addition, as society itself is recognizing, many of the major questions facing society at the local, national, and international scales have very important geographic dimensions.

Geography's traditional interest in integrating phenomena and processes in particular places, for example, has a new relevance in science today, in connection with the search for what some have called a "science of complexity." In its explorations as a science of flows, geography has been a leader in understanding spatial interactions, a subject of broad interest to both science and society. Moreover, geography's long-standing concern with interdependencies among scales is relevant to discussions across the body of science of relationships between microscale (small or local) and macroscale (large or global) phenomena and processes (see Chapter 5).

Geographic perspectives and techniques have found important applications in decision making in both the private and the public sectors, especially as global economic and environmental issues and modern information technologies have grown in importance. Geographers have made significant contributions to decision making at local, regional, and global scales for a wide variety of issues—for example, management of hazards, understanding global environmental and economic changes and their interactions with local changes, and developing effective business strategies (see Chapter 6).

Strengthening Geography's Foundations

The ability of geographers to respond to the growing demand for its skills and perspectives is limited by several realities (see Chapter 7). Despite three decades of growth in the number of professional geographers, the geography community remains small relative to most other natural and social science disciplines. Few colleges and universities have large geography departments, and many institutions of higher learning have no geography programs at all, including some of the nation's leading universities. This situation is extraordinary by world standards because geography is a core subject in most universities in Europe and East Asia. Additionally, women and minorities are underrepresented in senior academic and professional positions relative to their numbers in the general population, and, at present, few minorities are entering the field. This small human and programmatic base will make it difficult for the discipline to respond



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