International Science in the National Interest
AT THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Committee on Opportunities and Challenges for
International Science at the U.S. Geological Survey
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, NW • Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey under contract No. G10AC00538. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-22449-9
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-22449-7
Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313, www.nap.edu.
Cover: The cover shows several examples of global scientific research conducted by the USGS and a complementary domestic science issue that the global research helps to inform. Design by Anne Rogers.
Copyright 2012 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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COMMITTEE ON OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE AT THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
IAN L. PEPPER, Chair, University of Arizona, Tucson
WALTER J. ARABASZ, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
JULIA E. COLE, University of Arizona, Tucson
W. GARY ERNST, Stanford University, California
LAURA F. HUENNEKE, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
TISSA H. ILLANGASEKARE, Colorado School of Mines, Golden
JEAN-MICHEL M. RENDU, Newmont Mining Corporation, Santa Fe, New Mexico
HARVEY THORLEIFSON, Minnesota Geological Survey, St. Paul
National Research Council Staff
ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Study Director
JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate
CHANDA IJAMES, Program Assistant
PEGGY TSAI, Program Officer
BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES
CORALE L. BRIERLEY, Chair, Brierley Consultancy, LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
KEITH C. CLARKE, University of California, Santa Barbara
DAVID J. COWEN, University of South Carolina, Columbia
WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley
ROGER M. DOWNS, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara
WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia
RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC
MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden
EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR., Arizona State University, Tempe
ROBERT B. MCMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado
ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis
CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico
BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville
CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington
HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JOAQUIN RUIZ, University of Arizona, Tucson
PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego
REGINAL SPILLER, Allied Energy, Houston, Texas
RUSSELL E. STANDS-OVER-BULL, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Billings, Montana
TERRY C. WALLACE, JR., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico
National Research Council Staff
ANTHONY R. DE SOUZA, Director
ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer
DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer
ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer
SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Senior Program Officer
MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer
JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate
NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate
JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate
COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate
ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant
CHANDA IJAMES, Program Assistant
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was established in 1879 to provide geological, topographic, and hydrological information that would allow for appropriate management of natural resources to benefit the public. Originally much of the Survey’s work consisted of mapping and data collection relating to water, energy, and mineral resources, with a focus on the national domain. However, early in its history, the USGS was also involved in international activities. For instance, in the 1890s, the USGS was involved in the planning and design of the Panama Canal.
More recently, the USGS has focused its activities on applications in seven national mission areas, all of which rely on expertise and information in the Earth sciences, including geology, geography, geophysics, geochemistry, hydrology, environmental science, climate science, soil science, and a variety of other fields. All seven mission areas are in fact interrelated, which emphasizes the fundamental importance of viewing the Earth as a system. In the 21st century we are seeing great changes in this system due to environmental impacts of political and economic globalization. Because international and U.S. interests are linked, the Survey’s role in global Earth science is likely not only to continue but also to increase. Importantly, USGS international science activities directly benefit the Survey’s domestic mission, and are increasingly relevant to U.S. national interests.
At a time of profound global change and following its recent reorganization, the USGS requested that the National Research Council (NRC) establish a committee on “Opportunities and Challenges for International Science at the U.S. Geological Survey.” The eight-person committee assembled by the NRC consisted of a diverse group that was united by their common ties to the Earth sciences, and by their understanding of the essential role that the USGS plays as a key science organization within the federal government. As part of fulfilling the NRC statement of task, our committee placed special emphasis on identifying ways to improve the effectiveness of USGS international activities and in providing insights for strategically guiding such activities during the next 5 to 10 years.
Our committee convened two public information-gathering sessions at the National Academies Keck Center in Washington, D.C., and held a closed meeting at the Academies’ Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, California. We also participated in multiple conference phone calls. The two public meetings allowed the committee to gain perspectives and information from two groups critical to the study: the USGS scientists and managers responsible for developing and executing domestic and international science projects for the Survey; and the Survey’s most consistent external partners who request the Survey’s expertise and provide support for it to conduct international projects.
The current desire for fiscal restraint in the federal government makes this a critical period for all federal agencies, including the USGS, with regard to the value of their activities for the nation. This report showcases the demonstrated and future benefits of USGS international activities to the USGS domestic mission and the U.S. national interest. The report also underscores the value of fresh approaches to complex issues in Earth science— especially highlighting the advantages of viewing Earth science problems in the context of Earth systems, appropriate for interdisciplinary examination.
The committee is deeply indebted to many USGS personnel who have gone out of their way to provide us with detailed responses to a diverse range of questions and issues. We also gratefully acknowledge various presentations made to the committee by personnel from the USGS, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the World Bank. Immense credit also goes to the NRC staff who assisted us in preparing the report. These include Elizabeth Eide, Jason Ortego, Chanda Ijames, and Peggy Tsai. We particularly thank Elizabeth Eide, the designated study director for our committee, for her insights, professionalism, and attention to detail and for ensuring that the committee stayed “on task.”
Finally, I would like to thank all of the members of the committee. It has been a privilege and an honor to interact with such a diverse group of multitalented individuals. I have learned a lot.
Ian L. Pepper
In addition to its own expertise, the committee relied on input from numerous external professionals and members of the public with extensive experience in various aspects of Earth science research and specifically international research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). These contributors provided presentations, data, references, figures, images, and perspectives which assisted the committee in understanding the scope of the issue and the impact of international science research on the nation’s domestic and international missions. This information was very important for the committee to be able to develop this report.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals, who include USGS staff and interested parties external to the USGS, and note their thorough and helpful responses to our inquiries throughout the study’s course and their interest in enhancing the capacity of the USGS to conduct international work. In particular, the committee would like to thank the following people: David Applegate, Michael Blanpied, Sally Brady, Patricia Bright, Herb Buxton, Richard Calnan, George Coakley, Ivan DeLoatch, Jim Devine, Jeff Doebrich, John Eichelberger, Jody Eimers, Johnny Fredericia, Bruce Jones, John Kelmelis, Pat Leahy, Bill Leith, John Pallister, Jean Parcher, Brenda Pierce, Andrew Reynolds, Verne Schneider, Emily Scott, Ione Taylor, June Thormodsgard, Ivette Torres, Ingrid Verstraeten, Gotthard Walser, Annica Wayman, Jean Weaver, and Greg Withee.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative
process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Eric Calais, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
James Franklin, Consulting geologist, Nepean, Ontario, Canada
David Rain, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
W.C. “Rusty” Riese, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Susan Riha, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Timberley Roane, University of Colorado, Denver
Donald Siegel, Syracuse University, New York
Allison Steiner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Debra Knopman, RAND Corporation. Appointed by the NRC, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.