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Next Generation Earth Systems Science at the National Science Foundation

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has played a key role over the past several decades in advancing understanding of Earth's systems by funding research on atmospheric, ocean, hydrologic, geologic, polar, ecosystem, social, and engineering-related processes. Today, however, those systems are being driven like never before by human technologies and activities. Our understanding has struggled to keep pace with the rapidity and magnitude of human-driven changes, their impacts on human and ecosystem sustainability and resilience, and the effectiveness of different pathways to address those challenges.

Given the urgency of understanding human-driven changes, NSF will need to sustain and expand its efforts to achieve greater impact. The time is ripe to create a next-generation Earth systems science initiative that emphasizes research on complex interconnections and feedbacks between natural and social processes. This will require NSF to place an increased emphasis on research inspired by real-world problems while maintaining their strong legacy of curiosity driven research across many disciplines – as well as enhance the participation of social, engineering, and data scientists, and strengthen efforts to include diverse perspectives in research.


Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Next Generation Earth Systems Science at the National Science Foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Publication Info

130 pages |6 x 9
  • Prepublication: 978-0-309-26323-8
  • Paperback (forthcoming): 978-0-309-22446-8

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