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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan Appendix D International Comparisons: Changing Cultures in National Geological Surveys Most national geological surveys have undergone major changes in recent years. These have been due to pressures to make programs more relevant to societal needs, budget and staff reductions, and, in certain cases, by massive dislocations in their home political and economic environments. The last factor, for example, has dramatically affected organizations in former eastern bloc countries in Europe. Even in countries where centrally planned economies remain, such as China, geological organizations at national and regional levels are undergoing significant changes that are related partly to the globalization of mineral trade and the arrival of foreign companies seeking joint-venture exploration and mining opportunities in the country. These factors are influencing the missions of surveys in some cases but more commonly they are having major impacts on programs and operating cultures. The missions of major national surveys in developed countries are generally similar to that of the Geologic Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, although there are differences in emphasis and priority among mission components. Whatever the individual variations, however, the common denominator in missions is the provision of geoscience information needed by nations to aid in managing resources, ensuring environmental quality, contributing to economic development, and promoting the safety and security of their citizens. Although the underlying missions of surveys have not changed in major ways, the pressures on them from their external environments are driving significant cultural change in most organizations. There are three common manifestations of this change: closer, interactive relations with clients in both research and applications; emphasis on
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan collaborative, multi-partner and multidisciplinary research and operations; and, a focus on the quicker dissemination of project results and products. Many geological surveys have undergone downsizing and budget reductions in recent years. In Europe, for example, the Geological Institute of Hungary (MAFI) was reduced in size by more than 50 percent following the collapse of the communist regime. In Germany, the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR) has been held to very limited budget increases but has had to absorb the functions and responsibilities of the former German Democratic Republic (DDR) geological survey following reunification. The British Geological Survey (BGS) has for years struggled to maintain its basic, long-term core funding in the face of pressures to depend increasingly on revenues from research and service contracts. In North America, the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) will lose about 30 percent of its base funding over the period 1995-1998. The pressures on geological surveys due to budget and staff constraints have been intensified by requirements for expanded programs in environmental geosciences. With growing public concerns about the environmental consequences of industrial activities, including mining, and their long-term impacts on public health, the stresses in societies generated by land-use conflicts, and a myriad of related societal issues, geological surveys are turning their expertise and information bases towards these problems. In a downsizing environment, such program shifts make it even more difficult to maintain threshold levels of effort in traditional “core” areas (mapping, landmass investigations, mineral and energy resource studies, etc.) Ironically however, it has been the long-term past investment in such core activities that has equipped surveys with the very information bases and skills that are now being turned toward environmental issues. The pressures noted above are forcing geological surveys everywhere to streamline operations and to develop innovative ways to stretch research and operational funds. In relations with clients and customers, surveys are striving to be more responsive to client needs through better communications, the use of external advisory panels and committees to guide programs and projects, the tailoring of research and products to specific needs of customers, and, in some cases, the conduct of joint projects with industrial clients. The British Geological Survey
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Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan and the Geological Survey of Sweden, to name only two examples, have developed the concept of “tailored research” extensively. Collaborative research and team projects, with both internal and external partners, have become commonplace in many surveys. Multidisciplinary projects involving participants from state and provincial levels, universities, and, in some cases, industry are increasing. New national mapping accords in Australia, Canada and the United States are examples. In Canada, this approach has been extended into minerals through EXTECH, a project to improve exploration technology and mineral deposit model applications in mineral camp studies. Finally, information technology is having an important impact on one of the classic problem areas for geological surveys—the matter of getting information and data to clients and the public domain quickly. Most organizations are in transition here, but GIS (Geographic Information Systems) developments, digital mapping and map-production, and computer-formatted products such as CD-ROMs are already making inroads into this problem. Other developments such as direct on-line data access for customers will accelerate this trend.
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