The questionnaire below was developed and used by the committee to gather information from key individuals and organizations.
Online Questionnaire: Transformative Research in the Geographical Sciences
What This Is: The National Research Council is conducting a study to examine how transformative research has influenced the evolution of the geographical sciences and to provide insight into how transformative research evolved in the past so that it can be encouraged in the future.
The committee is seeking ideas and examples from experts in the field of geography and related disciplines and hopes you would be willing to respond briefly to the set of questions below. Your comments will inform a report to be published by the National Academies Press in 2015.
Why It Is Being Done: Transformative concepts result in significant advances by re-orienting existing fields, creating new fields, or providing new theoretical or technical frameworks. For example, in geography, transformations emerged from the human-environment tradition that described the human role in changing the Earth in the 1950s, followed by the “quantitative revolution” in the 1960s, which brought a wide range of statistical approaches to the discipline, and later came a series of critical approaches such as political economy and feminism in the 1970s.
Transformative methods include the development of paleo-environmental techniques to reconstruct past environments, the applications of remote sensing to track land use and cover, and the emergence of geographic information systems to integrate and analyze a wide range of spatial data in the 1980s. More recently, the advent of new genetic techniques has transformed the way biogeographers are able to query biological systems. Transformations may also be driven by the urgent needs of society, including the risks of hazards and climate change, conditions of social deprivation and inequality, and the challenges of globalization.
The history of science shows many transformative concepts were difficult to identify when initially introduced or were judged to be suspect. Some concepts failed due to poor timing or lack of empirical verification; competing narrative overwhelmed others, while still others were retained due to strong and energetic communities of adherents. A framework to help identify potentially transformative research would advance the national research agenda and provide valuable guidance to researchers and funding agencies.
Questionnaire: To help the committee better understand the multifaceted issue of identifying transformative research a priori, please respond to as many of the five questions below as you are able.
- What is the most important transformation in geographical sciences over the past 20 years?
- How has transformative research in your area of interest emerged in the past and were there early indications it would be transformative?
- Is there past research that should have been transformative (in your estimation), but in hindsight was not?
- How can transformative research be fostered in the geographical sciences?
- In your estimation, what is potentially going to be the most important new transformative research initiative in the next 20 years?
Comments received by August 5, 2014, will be available at the committee’s next meeting, and comments will continue to be received up to October 27, 2014, for consideration at the committee’s final meeting.
The study is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Please note that any written comments submitted to the committee (whether by mail, email, fax, or this comment form) will be included in the study’s public access file.