3

General Recommendations

In the previous chapter, the panel systematically evaluated each subprogram of the MRSP Plan and made recommendations specific to each subprogram. In this chapter, the panel considers the Plan more broadly and makes four General Recommendations on how the Plan as a whole might be improved.

From the beginning of its study, the panel was conscious that the specific evaluations and recommendations it might make concerning the subprograms and elements of MRSP Plan would have to be placed in a broader context if they were to be effective. This broader context would need to consider such factors as: the long-term view of mineral resource investigations and their importance to the USGS mandate; the organizational and “cultural” changes that have been profoundly affecting most geological surveys (and other government agencies) in recent years, in the United States as well as in many other countries ( Appendix D); the relations among MRSP subprograms and components, and between clients and users of MRSP products both within and outside of USGS; and finally although by no means least important, the formal articulation of MRSP's raison d'etre—in other words its vision, mission, and objectives. In light of these considerations, the panel concluded that a useful approach here would be to capture some of the major concerns relating to MRSP in a short list of General Recommendations, which are presented in the sections that follow. Each General Recommendation is followed by a series of supplemental, more detailed recommendations that can be correlated with the subprogram recommendations of Chapter 2.



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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan 3 General Recommendations In the previous chapter, the panel systematically evaluated each subprogram of the MRSP Plan and made recommendations specific to each subprogram. In this chapter, the panel considers the Plan more broadly and makes four General Recommendations on how the Plan as a whole might be improved. From the beginning of its study, the panel was conscious that the specific evaluations and recommendations it might make concerning the subprograms and elements of MRSP Plan would have to be placed in a broader context if they were to be effective. This broader context would need to consider such factors as: the long-term view of mineral resource investigations and their importance to the USGS mandate; the organizational and “cultural” changes that have been profoundly affecting most geological surveys (and other government agencies) in recent years, in the United States as well as in many other countries ( Appendix D); the relations among MRSP subprograms and components, and between clients and users of MRSP products both within and outside of USGS; and finally although by no means least important, the formal articulation of MRSP's raison d'etre—in other words its vision, mission, and objectives. In light of these considerations, the panel concluded that a useful approach here would be to capture some of the major concerns relating to MRSP in a short list of General Recommendations, which are presented in the sections that follow. Each General Recommendation is followed by a series of supplemental, more detailed recommendations that can be correlated with the subprogram recommendations of Chapter 2.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan VISION, MISSION, AND OBJECTIVES General Recommendation 1 The Plan should be modified to include new, clearly articulated statements of vision, mission, and objectives. The MRSP Plan was formulated during a period of major transition within the USGS. The transition involved staff reductions, shifts in program emphasis, and leadership changes. These organizational changes have had a great impact on the morale of MRSP employees and on their ability to successfully execute the Plan. The changes should be reflected in the planning elements. The adequacy and appropriateness of the MRSP are best measured against clear statements of vision, mission, and objectives for the program. Although implied in the Plan, these three planning elements are not clearly stated. For example, from information presented in the Plan, the vision might be stated as follows: “To achieve excellence in mineral resource research and information, and in communication with all appropriate constituencies and users so as to fully meet the public's needs for mineral resource information.” Such a vision should be conceived jointly by MRSP personnel and users. The mission of the MRSP is not explicitly stated but it is the panel 's view that it should focus on all aspects of national needs for mineral resource information. Some aspects of national needs are referred to in the Plan, but they are not specifically addressed in a mission context. A comprehensive statement of the mission might read as follows: To meet user needs for mineral resource information for applications in: Wise land-use management Public health and safety Protecting and improving environmental quality Mineral supply and national security Sustaining prosperity and improving quality of life.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Objectives and performance measures should be developed to implement and achieve the vision and the mission. The objectives also should address operational matters such as limited budgets, user needs, and program priorities. The Plan could be improved by building a stronger connection between the national needs addressed by the overall program and the specific questions addressed by each of subprograms. A clearer articulation of the vision, mission, and objectives of the overall program may lead to a clearer explanation of the key questions addressed by the each of the subprograms. Clearer statements of vision, mission, and objectives must be developed for the MRSP through in-depth consultation and discussion between MRSP users and MRSP staff. Only through such interactions with users will the MRSP develop a service culture to complement its scientific culture. CULTURE, CLIENTS, AND COMMUNICATIONS General Recommendation 2 To fulfill its mission, the MRSP and its Plan should shift away from an organizational culture dominated by self-direction and independent research toward one that also embraces projects developed through collaboration with users. The culture of an organization is defined by many factors. These include the extent to which the staff understand and project the organization's vision, mission, and objectives; the way the organization communicates with its clients and users and how it responds to their needs; the way in which it organizes and manages its operations in order to meet its objectives; and the attitudes, values, and motivation of individuals and management. The culture of an organization should not be static; it must change as its external environment changes. The external environment within which the MRSP operates has changed more rapidly and extensively than the program itself. This requires that the MRSP reexamine how it operates, why, and for whom. The MRSP and its forerunners have a distinguished record of

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan conducting and reporting excellent science. This record is enviable and valuable, and the panel endorses this effort fully, anticipating that it will continue to be enhanced. Having said this, however, the panel suggests that in response to external changes the MRSP should now view itself not only as a science organization but also as a service organization with direct responsibilities to meet the immediate needs and expectations of its users. The science component nonetheless remains vital for long-term needs (see General Recommendation 3). The clients and users of MRSP products are many. First and foremost are the public and elected and appointed officials who represent them. Other clients, users, and interested parties include federal land-management agencies, the mining and quarrying industries, environmental organizations, state geological surveys, state regulatory agencies, local governments, universities, other federal agencies (particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers), and other groups within the USGS (particularly in the Water Resources Division and in the geologic mapping, energy, and marine and coastal programs). Although the MRSP Plan has identified federal land-management agencies as primary users, the panel has doubts that the MRSP staff has an adequate understanding of the needs of these clients or how MRSP information is being used. Furthermore, as a result of interviews with land-management agencies, the panel concluded that these agencies do not fully appreciate the potential value and usefulness of resource assessments, and they are not convinced of the continuing need for resource assessments. The MRSP staff has not taken full advantage of opportunities to improve its program through partnerships. Data and expertise that currently reside in industry (particularly regarding assessments), state geological surveys, and academia, if incorporated into the MRSP and checked for quality by the USGS, could greatly enhance the efficiency and thoroughness of the program. Participation with academia through various mechanisms could also be used to ensure that key researchers have an opportunity to contribute to the program. Greater outreach to all potential users will help the program break out of its pattern of isolation. Many individuals interviewed by the panel expressed concerns about the timeliness of MRSP reports. In some instances reports were released well after a time at which they would have been of optimal

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan value to the user. Furthermore, many users of MRSP work are not scientific experts and need information and analysis in a format that is more compatible for their use than has been the practice. The panel recognizes the dilemma that the MRSP has in meeting the needs of users and at the same time maintaining the high quality of their traditional scientific products (i.e., professional papers and fully reviewed maps and circulars), but service to users must be a prime objective of the MRSP. The panel repeatedly heard opinions from users that the MRSP should devote more attention and effort to geological mapping and related basic geoscience data acquisition. The panel noted that there is minimal reference in the MRSP Plan to the integration of geologic mapping in the assessment or mitigation subprograms. Further, the panel finds it inappropriate that, on the basis of briefings received from USGS personnel, there is little apparent integration of planning priorities between projects in the Geologic Division's National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and mapping in connection with MRSP assessment activities. The panel is aware of the possibility that this lack of correlation may be more apparent than real and may reflect limitations of the evidence placed before the panel. Nevertheless, this topic is conspicuous by its absence in the MRSP Plan. The MRSP may be able to leverage its geological mapping activities through closer coordination with state geological surveys. The federal-state partnership established under the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program provides a convenient mechanism for achieving this goal. The concerns expressed above (developed from individuals interviewed by the panel) reinforce the panel's perception that the MRSP is too strongly internally focused. The panel suggests that the MRSP must now modify this traditional approach by changing its operational culture to work more closely with clients and users. Some specific recommendations follow: The MRSP staff should actively involve users in planning projects to help determine the appropriate work products, analytical techniques, map scale, level of detail, and other parameters. The MRSP could benefit greatly from much more external input (from industry, other federal government scientists, land managers, policy makers, state government, academia, environmental organizations, and

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan the general public) at all stages of its work, especially in planning and review. Obviously, different users should be approached for different projects. For example, land managers and affected parties will have more interests in assessments, whereas academia may have more to contribute to long-term research projects. External input is needed on proposals and plans, for specific projects, work in progress, and review of reports and maps prior to publication. This external input can be solicited at minimal cost to the MRSP. For example, the USGS Water Resources Division has established liaison committees for the projects within its National Water Quality Assessment Program, as well as a review committee for its research activities. These committees have been successful in guiding projects, and communicating preliminary results to a wide range of users. The panel recommends that similar committees be considered for MRSP activities. Such committees could also promote an understanding of how MRSP information is being used or might be used by a variety of clients. In addition to external input at the project level, General Recommendation 4 covers external input at the program level through the creation of a program-level advisory panel. The MRSP should seek partnerships with interested parties, in particular state agencies, industry, and academia, in the collection of data and the conduct of projects. In some instances, cost-sharing mechanisms should be pursued to increase the overall efficiency of data collection, assessments, and research. The panel recommends that the MRSP vigorously seek appropriate cost-sharing mineral-research projects with industry and international organizations where such projects are consistent with the goals and objectives of the MRSP and involve a clear connection to a public good. For example, the Geological Survey of Canada maintains a program whereby research consistent with the mission of the organization can be co-funded and co-delivered with industrial partners on a cost-shared basis. International activities should be strengthened through cooperative agreements with foreign governments, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the United Nations.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan The MRSP should develop an external grants program to assist its basic research function. Such grants would help to ensure that the overall program continues with a high level of quality, would allow flexibility for rapid redirection of programs as needed, and would provide an opportunity to coordinate with ongoing research at universities. Other USGS programs and other mission agencies, such as NASA, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Institutes of Health, have or are developing extramural research programs that complement their intramural research programs. The appropriate balance between intramural and extramural research programs for the MRSP should be addressed by the external advisory panel proposed in General Recommendation 4. The advisory panel could also help identify grand challenges in the area of resource and environmental research and guide research directions for the subprogram and the extramural funding program. The MRSP should be responsive to the needs of users to have reports completed in a timely fashion. Better understanding of user needs, through continuing dialog, will help to establish realistic timelines. A balance must be kept between timely products, such as open-file reports that are needed for immediate project requirements, and fully reviewed, high-quality maps, professional papers, and bulletins that are the hallmark of USGS products. Recognizing that the MRSP should incorporate costs of publications into its budget, the panel urges that the MRSP maintain this balance and seek efficiencies through the use of new technologies, including electronic products such as CD-ROMs. The panel concludes that the 1987 review of the USGS mineral resources program conducted by the Committee Advisory to the U.S. Geological Survey (National Research Council, 1987) contains findings and recommendations that remain valid today (Sidebar 3.1). In particular, given the fundamental importance of geologic mapping in the assessment and mitigation subprograms, the panel concludes that this activity should be more strongly reflected in the MRSP plan.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan SIDEBAR 3.1 Excerpts from the 1987 Review of the USGS Minerals Program Lack of Focus—Extreme Individualism: Many Survey professionals apparently believe that their principal function in the Survey is to pursue their own individual or topical programs, some of which can extend for many years. Some individualism is obviously desirable, provided the projects mesh with the Survey 's major goals. But when allowed to operate too freely, individualism results in lack of program concentration and project completion, and leads to major complications in establishing and achieving deadlines. Teamwork-attitude and mission-orientation could be improved by: ... having all projects and programs undergo outside peer review at least every two years. (p. 8) Communication and Motivation: Closely related to [the preceding] item ... is the necessity to communicate accurately the Survey's needs and changes in its programs to the professional staff. In the review of the Office of Mineral Resources, the Subcommittee found a wide diversity of opinion as to the responsibility of the Office, ranging from “pure research and no economically-related responsibilities,” to responsive and exclusively “public service” (p. 8). Insufficient Time Devoted to Field Mapping: The “limited field season” approach to mapping and other field-related activities is wasteful of time and effort. Most Survey workers devote less than three months of a year to actual field work, including those who are involved in mapping and examining ore deposits as a major activity. The quality of these programs would be greatly enhanced by more original mapping. It is unfortunate that many of the competent “mappers” are spending a disproportionate amount of time on office and laboratory activities (p. 9).

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan CORE COMPETENCE General Recommendation 3 The MRSP should place more emphasis on maintaining and continuing to develop its core competence in mineral deposit research and minerals-related environmental research in order to anticipate and respond to future national needs for mineral resource information. The panel concludes that the public would be well served by the MRSP maintaining its expertise related to important and timely national issues. In particular, a knowledge of the origin and geochemistry of mineral deposits will enhance decisions that must be made regarding the protection of the environment as related to the extraction of mineral resources. The panel therefore urges the MRSP to build on its existing strengths, such as resource assessments and mineral deposits research, and to apply that knowledge to ensuring a future mineral resource supply for the United States while simultaneously protecting the environment. The panel recommends that the MRSP maintain and strengthen core competence required to meet national needs for mineral resource research and information. As described below, that core competence involves the following elements: (1) Excellence in Mineral Deposit Research, (2) Scientific Integrity, and (3) Expert Professional Staff. Excellence in Mineral Deposit Research The panel recommends that research on the geology, geochemistry, and genesis of mineral deposits, a long-standing strength of the U.S. Geological Survey, be continued. Publications arising from USGS research on mineral deposits have appeared in Monographs, Professional Papers, Bulletins, Circulars, Open-File Reports, and professional journals. This remarkable body of literature is in continual use and demand by a large number of users throughout the world. Literature as much as 120 years old is still consulted, and the longevity

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan of these basic research products dealing with mineral deposits cannot be over-emphasized. Research on mineral deposits should consist of both basic and applied research. Basic research includes the documentation of time-space characteristics and the genesis of mineral occurrences. Applied research includes the application of basic research to the discovery of mineral deposits, to the assessment of terranes for their mineral potential, and to the evaluation of the environmental characteristics of unmined and mined mineral deposits. Basic and applied research on mineral deposits is fundamental to the successful design and implementation of field and laboratory techniques under the Mitigation Studies, Assessments, and Resource Investigations Subprograms of the MRSP. Scientific Integrity The USGS has an enviable and well-deserved reputation for an extremely high level of scientific integrity. Every effort must be made to maintain this reputation. To avoid the inadvertent loss of scientific integrity, it is important that the USGS have a unified approach for addressing issues of data quality, and that this approach is followed by the MRSP. Every care must be taken to maintain scientific and reporting standards and to be absolutely clear and unambiguous on how measurement were made and how reliable they are. As the USGS increasingly uses outside laboratories or a central USGS laboratory, the original research investigators will have less control over the quality of the analytical work conducted on field samples that they collect. This lack of control can be remedied by preparing detailed quality control protocols for collection, handling, preservation, and analysis of field samples. A standardized approach to these processes will also increase the accessibility and usability of the data. MRSP scientists should work collaboratively with users to design quality assurance and control programs that meet user needs.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Professional Expertise The scientific credibility and respect attributed to the USGS has resulted, in large part, from the traditional high quality of the scientific personnel. Many of the most famous and prestigious scientists in American geology have worked within the historical equivalents of the current MRSP. This traditional credibility and respect, based on the quality of the personnel, must be retained and strengthened. Therefore, the MRSP must make every effort to retain and to recruit “the best and brightest” personnel. As retirements or transfers occur, the managers within the MRSP and Subprograms must identify the areas of greatest scientific need and value, and hire the best personnel available. In identifying the highest priorities for new hiring, the managers within MRSP should pay special attention to strengthening and developing the newly emphasized components of Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits and Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines. However, opportunities must also be made to recruit first-class personnel in the traditional elements of Mineral-Resource Frontiers and Mineral-Deposit Studies, especially because downsizing and retirements have greatly decreased the number of experts in mineral resources within the USGS (Figure 1-1). During the scientific and organizational transitions that are now occurring within the USGS, it would be highly desirable for the MRSP to further strengthen and develop scientific and project relationships with appropriate personnel in the Water Resources and National Mapping Divisions, and in other programs in the Geologic Division, especially the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. PLANNING AND PERFORMANCE General Recommendation 4 The MRSP and its Plan should place greater emphasis on improving the mechanisms and procedures for comprehensive planning, setting priorities, and evaluating and enhancing performance, particularly through external reviews or advisory panels.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan The principle of calling on external guidance to assist in program design and development is well established. Many federal agencies have strengthened and built support for their programs through the use of advisory panels, such as those governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, National Research Council committees, and other less formal arrangements (Sidebar 3.2). The National Research Council panel is very concerned that MRSP clients, users, stakeholders, and partners of the MRSP have not been adequately consulted in the design, implementation, and scheduling of previous assessments and resource investigations and that close collaboration with these users has either not taken place or has commonly been unsatisfactory. Several alternative mechanisms can be envisioned to address the need for external guidance (Sidebar 3.2). General Recommendation 2 covers input at the project level. At the program level, the panel suggests that the MRSP consider establishing an external advisory panel. Suggested charges for the panel may include helping to establish priorities that would guide project selection; providing guidance regarding directions of the program; identifying linkages with other USGS programs and other federal and state programs; helping to establish performance measurement criteria and an external peer-review system; and helping to maintain awareness and interest on the issues and concerns in the broad community of users. Such an advisory panel could contain representation from federal and state agencies, industry, universities, consultants, and other users of MRSP research products. SIDEBAR 3.2 Possible Mechanisms to Improve External Guidance Project-level liaison and review committees (see General Recommendation 2) Program-level advisory panel established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act Program-level advisory panel established by the National Research Council Exchange of employees with other federal agencies and with other USGS programs.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan In addition to this advisory panel, the MRSP should consider asking the National Research Council to periodically review program plans, such as has been the task of this panel. We note, for example, that the minerals information activities transferred from the U.S. Bureau of Mines to the USGS in January, 1996 were not included in the MRSP Plan or the charge to the panel. Given the importance of these features in meeting national needs for mineral resource information and in the core competence in the MRSP (General Recommendation 3), we suggest that the matter be externally reviewed. An on-going NRC review committee under the Water Science and Technology Board has been successful for the research programs of the Water Resources Division of the USGS. The committee has produced several reports in the last five years, and these reports have helped guide programs in the Water Resources Division. As noted in Chapter 2, the MRSP would benefit from better communication between its staff and staff of the federal land-management agencies. The MRSP should consider exchanging employees with other federal agencies (on personnel details through the Intergovernmental Personnel Act) to learn more about user needs and approaches, and to help follow through with uses of MRSP products. Similarly, exchanges of MRSP personnel with other units within the USGS, particularly the Water Resources Division and the geologic mapping, energy, and marine and coastal programs in the Geologic Division would foster cooperation and improve overall efficiency. Intra-agency transfers of staff could be used to build expertise in areas such as hydrology and microbiology and facilitate a multidisciplinary approach in the relatively new environmentally-oriented subprograms. Linked to the mechanisms discussed above is the question of setting and maintaining appropriate program balance. This question was part of the charge to the panel, but it proved difficult to address. Without more quantitative input regarding the future needs and priorities of users of the MRSP products, and without better knowledge of the relations between the MRSP and other USGS programs, we found it impossible to adequately evaluate the funding levels, scope, and program balance. The panel recognizes that this will require extensive discussions within the MRSP, within the USGS, and particularly with users. This evaluation could be a prime responsibility of an advisory panel.

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan The level, balance, and scope of the research in the Plan have been developed during a time of disruption and transition in the USGS. Even if they were designed to provide an appropriate scientific basis for informed decision-making and to build a scientific foundation for the future at the time they were developed, the panel questions whether they are appropriate now. The level of funding for the MRSP and the balance of funding among its subprograms deserves thorough collaborative review by MRSP personnel, users, and collaborative agencies and organizations. In order to address these matters, the short-term client needs for mineral resource information and the core competence requirements of the Program to meet the long-term public needs should be carefully evaluated. This will require extensive discussions within the MRSP, with the USGS, and particularly with users. With this background it will be possible for the MRSP and users to develop funding levels, scope, and balance for the program that will address both current clients needs and long-term national needs for mineral resource information. Discussion of the level, balance, and scope of activities in the Plan could be a major oversight responsibility of the proposed MRSP advisory panel. The panel has commented generally, however, on the internal distribution of funding within the MRSP. Specifically, Recommendation C (Chapter 2), says that assessments can be conducted more efficiently while still meeting the needs of land management agencies, and that the cost-savings should be directed toward more fundamental investigations in other parts of the MRSP. Recommendation G suggests redirecting funds from Studies in Support of Remediation to fundamental investigations in the MRSP. Looking to the future, the panel agrees with the MRSP Plan's increasing emphasis on concerns about the impacts of mineral resource development on the environment. To this extent, the panel finds that fundamental studies (particularly in the Environmental Behavior of Mineral Deposits and the Geochemical Backgrounds and Baselines components of the Mitigation Studies Subprogram) deserve more emphasis. Also related to the questions of funding levels, scope, and program balance, the MRSP should focus on providing data and information that are of national interest and avoid commitment to projects that are more properly the responsibilities of state and local governments. For example, the proposed study of aggregate resources

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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan in the corridor along the Colorado Front Range might be viewed as a Colorado and Wyoming state issue unless the USGS establishes a compelling national justification for the project. There is a clear federal role when issues are generic in nature, affect a number of states, or where land is managed by the federal government. In such instances, it is important that fair and appropriate cost-sharing arrangements be developed. Funds can flow in either direction. Finally, the panel notes the recommendations of the 1995 National Research Council report on Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology. With regard to funding, this report addresses the need for maintaining a world-class level of scientific and technical performance. While other federal agencies provide a small amount of support for research on mineral resources, the MRSP is the largest federal program in this area. In its review, the panel developed concerns that the amount of funding for the MRSP and the current performance of the program are not sufficient to achieve the desired world-class level of performance. As stated above, the panel finds that to establish the appropriate level of support for the program, extensive discussions within the MRSP, within the USGS, and with users are necessary.

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