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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY 6 Preparing for the Future: Conclusions and Recommendations Over a period of more than 120 years the role of the USGS has evolved from a few scientists who collected data and provided guidance on how to parcel, manage, and use the public lands of the West to thousands of scientists who conduct research and assessment activities on complex scientific issues at scales ranging from the local to the global. If the past and present are guides, the USGS will continue to evolve and adapt to meet national needs. Change is a constant, but it is also difficult for any established organization like the USGS. Recognizing the need to adapt to changing demands in the future, the USGS invited the NRC in 1997 to conduct an independent review to help guide the organization in the early years of the twenty-first century. The Committee on Future Roles, Challenges, and Opportunities at the U.S. Geological Survey was charged to undertake a comprehensive study on the evolution of the agency to meet future needs. Specifically, the committee was charged to consider the following: major societal needs that the USGS should address; significant emerging scientific and technical issues that appear especially important in terms of their relevance to the mission of the USGS; opportunities for improving partnerships and other cooperative arrangements with other federal agencies, state agencies, universities, and the private sector; appropriate international functions of the USGS; and the balance of activities such as data acquisition and management, regional studies, and fundamental research.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY The preceding chapters address the components of the charge. In this final chapter, the committee presents its conclusions and recommendations, which are intended to provide strategic guidance on how the agency can prepare for its future. The conclusions appear in italics and the recommendations in bold type. A NATURAL SCIENCE1 AND INFORMATION AGENCY Over time, the USGS has evolved and built a solid foundation on which to plan its future. At present, senior management is attempting to modify the agency 's culture from a cluster of loosely linked organizational units to a tightly interactive community. The recent integration of the BRD into the USGS is an organizational change that provides an opportunity for the agency to respond to questions beyond the geological, hydrological, and geographical sciences. When the BRD merged with the USGS, it prompted slight changes in wording, but no fundamental changes to the formal mission statement of the agency. The mission of the agency is to supply information that contributes to the wise management of natural resources and that promotes the health, 1 Throughout this report, the committee uses the term “natural science” to broadly frame the range of scientific issues that are addressed by the USGS. Natural science is defined as “any of the sciences (as physics, chemistry, or biology) that deal with matter, energy, and their interrelations and transformation or with objectively measurable phenomena.” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1986) The specific activities carried out by the USGS within the broad domain of “natural sciences” depend on the agency's mission, which in turn, is shaped by the missions and responsibilities of other federal and state agencies and a variety of societal and political forces. Examples of natural science disciplines currently within the purview of the USGS include geology, hydrology, geography, biology, and geospatial information sciences. The committee chose this terminology after considering many other alternatives because it is a relatively succinct term that is generally understood to encompass all of the major scientific issues that are addressed by the USGS. The use of a single broad term also serves to emphasize one of the committee's main points—the value of integrated, coordinated science when dealing with the types of multidisciplinary mission-relevant problems addressed by the USGS. The term also was chosen by the USGS to describe itself in its 1999 vision statement. However, it is important to clarify that the committee's use of the term “natural science” does not imply that the USGS mission should include all natural sciences. The USGS is A natural science agency—not THE natural science agency.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY safety, and well-being of the nation's citizens. The information in the form of maps, databases, and analyses provides managers and policy makers with timely, unbiased, and reliable information on water, energy and minerals, biota, and land resources. This mission is fully appropriate for a federal science agency. Furthermore, the role of the USGS is well defined with respect to other federal agencies. The USGS provides technical expertise and information not available elsewhere to a variety of federal agencies and other customers. The USGS is a vitally important provider and coordinator of information related to critical issues in the natural sciences. As a result of changes in its external and internal environments, the USGS is evolving from an agency that was organized primarily to discover what is out there, to one that tries to understand what is out there, to one that tries to understand how what is out there works (i.e., process understanding). Although all three approaches are present in the work of the USGS today, the questions posed to the agency by society increasingly call for multifaceted, analytical, and integrative investigations of complex processes and systems. By evolving into a natural science and information agency, the USGS will be able to play a leadership role in the elucidation of the geological, hydrological, geographical, and biological processes that are important to the nation and in the use of modern technology for the effective and efficient dissemination of this information. In upcoming decades, many of the relevant social needs (Chapter 3) and emerging scientific opportunities (Chapter 4) that the USGS should address will involve interactions among the natural environment, its biota, and people. The USGS is well positioned, in terms of its information resources, technological capabilities, and range of professional expertise, to provide well-coordinated, comprehensive responses to priorities of society and science. Interactions between the environment, its biota and people are highly complex and unpredictable, and in many cases, the solutions require integrative approaches. Integrative science focuses on issues that cross disciplinary boundaries and is more than multidisciplinary collaboration. It involves individuals sharing different perspectives, methodologies, and conceptual models in a manner that changes each person's approach to the problem at hand. An integrative approach to science entails a focus on problems in all of their complexity, and the creation of teams with the skills and resources necessary to provide the entire suite of knowledge required for
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY solutions or at least for well-informed responses. Developing interdisciplinary teams requires more of management than drawing a committee of scientists from each of the existing USGS divisions to attack a problem. It requires management to foster the integrative habit of inquiry by knowledgeable individuals. A determination to commit the USGS to integrative scientific investigations is not an easy step to undertake. Not only are the objects of study—and therefore the vocabularies—different among disciplines, but the traditional spatial and temporal scales of phenomena to be studied and the nature of acceptable explanations are different too. Integrative work relevant to policy often requires that new perspectives are forged, new applications of methods are developed, and greater emphasis is given to the definition of conceptual system models. Both the difficulties and the rewards imply that in a large, multifaceted agency such as the USGS, senior management has to take the lead in promoting such integration because they are the only personnel with knowledge of all the agency's resources and they alone are charged with the strategic application of these resources in the overall national interest. The USGS was founded around disciplinary skills and experience, and it continues to embrace a discipline-specific organizational structure. Despite this constraint, the agency recognizes the value of interdisciplinary teams and studies and has demonstrated the importance of those efforts many times. However, the agency has not yet created an interdisciplinary environment to confront the complexity of the issues at hand. The USGS has the capability and the opportunity to advance understanding of how the complex air-water-human-land system works with integrated research teams crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. The USGS should place more emphasis on multiscale, multidisciplinary, integrative projects that address priorities of national scale. The committee recognizes that integration is difficult to achieve, especially in cases that require integration of natural and social sciences. However, the failure to integrate will inhibit understanding of many natural science problems. Nevertheless, not all complex science problems require a broad integrative multidisciplinary research framework; therefore, the choice of research framework must fit the specific research problem. Problems that do not require a broad integrative multidisciplinary research framework should not be overlooked. In the future, the USGS must continue to be first and foremost a scientific agency capable of high-quality assessments and research on
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY relevant natural science issues. However, the nation and the world are entering a new era where economies are global, and information and its management are now a major source of wealth. How effectively the USGS can manage information will be critical to its future performance. For the USGS, information management has two essential aspects. The first is the ability of the USGS to assess the information needs of its customers and partners and to focus its resources on meeting those needs. The second is to deliver and facilitate the use of reliable, high-quality data and information effectively. The revolution in information technologies provides new opportunities for the way in which the USGS collects and disseminates information. In the future, information management at the USGS should shift from a more passive role of study and analysis to one that seeks to convey information actively in ways that are responsive to the social, political, and economic needs. MAJOR RESPONSIBILITIES Consistent with the mission responsibilities and the technical and analytical capabilities of the participating agencies, it is desirable that the USGS provide national leadership and coordination in the specific programmatic areas for which it is responsible. The USGS should provide national leadership and coordination in (1) monitoring, reporting, and where possible, forecasting critical phenomena, including seismicity, volcanic activity, streamflow, and ecological indicators; (2) assessing resources, including oil and natural gas (domestic and foreign), minerals, water, and biota; and (3) providing geospatial information. These activities include the following overlapping categories: surveys, monitoring, data analysis, research, information dissemination, and product generation. Subject to the overriding requirement that the USGS fulfill its primary and high priority mission responsibilities, the committee believes that the USGS should continue to conduct each of these activities, but that the balance of activities should shift toward the value-added activities of data analysis, problem solving, and information dissemination. A shift of balance does not mean that the USGS should reduce data gathering or long-term data collections, but that it should do more to interpret what the data mean and to make the data useful and accessible.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Monitoring, Reporting, and Forecasting The value of the USGS's high-quality, longitudinal databases will increase as they become longer and include a wider range of environmental variability and human influences. When surveys are repeated, they constitute a form of monitoring that can be used to detect or quantify natural change or human influence. The use of automated gauging and other remote monitoring devices, especially at remote sites, makes long-term monitoring more reliable and cost-effective. Long-term databases are one of the USGS's most important contributions to the nation, and care must be taken not to disrupt them. Long-term monitoring is expensive and time consuming, and it has to be conducted carefully to provide the greatest amount of information return per dollar or time expended. In order to provide the maximum value to society, monitoring programs must be maintained indefinitely into the future so as to obtain the data necessary for understanding the natural cycles and fluctuations of earth systems as well as the impact of human activity on them. The USGS can realize efficiencies in program areas in which the agency invested heavily in the past. Efficiencies can be realized by employing methods, such as remote sensing, in national resource surveys and reviewing national resource surveys for their relevance to the agency 's mission. The USGS could also enhance monitoring and data analysis with the use of conceptual and mathematical modeling. Research into processes and relationships could be enhanced by regular internal and external reviews and articulation of the kinds of research that are considered necessary and useful for public policy. Finally, the USGS should place less emphasis on the design and development of new products and more emphasis on the update, maintenance, ease of availability, and security of quality data stores that are amenable to the rapid generation of value-added products. This emphasis could leverage the capability of value-added industry to produce tailored products on demand for USGS investigations and studies, using the most current and reliable software and hardware. For many years the USGS has provided national leadership in communicating natural hazards information in a timely and understandable manner to multiple and diverse client groups. This information assists in protecting lives and property. The USGS is encouraged to play a stronger role in the disaster information community because the cost of natural
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY disasters is increasing rapidly. Planning to minimize or avoid impacts is critical to reducing cost and human suffering. The USGS has responsibility to monitor and issue warnings for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides, as well as to monitor floods and water quality. It also has responsibility to make disaster-related information available to disaster managers. Although disaster managers are finding it easier to obtain and share relevant information than in the past because of the Internet, data formats and reliability as well as accessibility remain problematic. It is critical that the USGS continue to exercise national leadership in hazards research and risk communication. The USGS should emphasize system modeling as a powerful tool for integrative science. System modeling would enable the USGS, in coordination with other agencies and partners, to develop a greater understanding of complex science problems that involve natural and human systems. The USGS has the capability, within one agency, to gather geologic, hydrologic, and biological information about land use issues. By using the NMD appropriately, it can represent the information geographically. The challenges are (1) to recognize the types of information to solve a particular problem, and (2) to integrate different types of information in meaningful ways. Understanding of large, complex systems can be improved through the use of integrative system models. Moreover, effective application of such models to real-world problems requires a comprehensive understanding of social, as well as geological, contexts. The committee believes that the development of an enhanced capability in integrative system modeling can contribute to the future effectiveness of the USGS. Modeling and integration capabilities need to operate across divisions and feed into the administration of research programs, especially for helping to establish research priorities and identifying where multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary research is needed. Modeling and integration efforts would also benefit from the establishment of a coordination committee involving related federal agencies and from the development of strong ties with other partners. Developing this modeling and integration capability would require hiring new scientists with appropriate background skills and developing new partnerships.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Assessing Resources The USGS has a national reputation for its work in the area of assessing energy, mineral, water, and more recently, biological resources. These assessments are critical for the well-being of the United States. As the United States progresses into the twenty-first century, natural resources essential to the economic and strategic security of the nation will be subject to much greater pressures than in the past. The USGS should provide national leadership in the provision of natural resource information. By doing this the USGS will help the United States understand its future natural resource needs. Providing Geospatial Information The USGS is well positioned to provide the framework for a geospatial information depository and portal for the DOI and other federal departments, providing access to a wide range of natural resource information and derivative products that can support effective decision making. In this role, the agency would be responsible for integrating and making interoperable the nation's disparate geospatial databases, for promoting and coordinating the continued development of the architecture for the NSDI, and for developing national mapping and product specifications. The USGS would also be responsible for making the geospatial databases available as understandable information products for public use and exchange. Sharing geospatial data is important, because it avoids duplication of expenses associated with generation and maintenance of data. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL ROLES As discussed in the previous section, the USGS is expected to address a variety of natural science issues of regional, national, and international importance. A major responsibility of the USGS is to serve as the science arm of the Department of the Interior (DOI). For informed decision making, DOI's agencies make use of objective, non-advocacy information from the USGS. If this information were not available—for example, to the BIA, BLM, MMS, and NPS—similar expertise would
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY have to be developed within these agencies. The USGS should ensure that science information is provided to DOI bureaus in an efficient and effective way. In turn, DOI leadership should ensure that USGS personnel and resources are utilized in DOI decision making. The USGS also has significant responsibilities that support other government agencies, states and local governments, tribes, industry, academic institutions, and the public. The oil and gas assessments and natural hazard maps are examples of USGS products that are of interest to a wide range of audiences. Interest in and concern about natural processes, resources, and environments are now affecting more segments of the population, and the USGS should encourage this interest. The USGS needs to provide leadership and research on a scale appropriate to the problem. Such a focus will require regional directors to understand the broader national and international context of a problem, and headquarters to appreciate the diversity of regional problems. The USGS engages in international activities. For many years, the agency has worked internationally to provide the nation with much needed information about sources of essential minerals and fuels. More recently, research in foreign countries has helped USGS scientists to understand and prevent or mitigate environmental threats, and this work has proven to be a wise and necessary investment. Foreign area studies are worthwhile because environmental threats in one place can have significant influences in other places. For example, globalization means that U.S. companies and financial markets are increasingly vulnerable to disruptions caused by natural disasters anywhere on earth. The Kyoto earthquake provided an indication of how a much larger and more devastating earthquake in Tokyo might affect the economic and social fabric of the world. Because many of the natural science issues within the purview of the USGS are global in nature, there is a compelling argument for the USGS to increase its international work on activities that meet mission objectives. The USGS should develop international expertise in natural science problems relevant to the USGS mission. Specifically, the USGS should perform a more vigorous role in pursuing foreign area and global studies that develop relevant natural science information in support of U.S. interests; increase technical assistance to foreign countries that are developing relevant natural science programs; and become more active in international activities to benefit the domestic programs and the international stature of the agency.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY IMPROVING EFFECTIVENESS In the future, the USGS will be asked to do more than in the past, and management of the agency will become increasingly challenging. The most fundamental challenge is one of magnitude: the size of the agency's human and financial resources relative to the demands for its information, services, and products. Yet the agency's management also has to address problems of substance, such as those associated with the need to develop an innovative, strategic, and balanced program of problem-specific and core research. Priority Setting The future of the USGS depends on its skill in identifying and setting rational and realistic priorities and its ability to reduce commitments of time and money that do not contribute to these priorities. Priority setting is not unknown at the USGS, which has in recent years prepared several strategic plans that establish broad priorities for the agency. However, there are three areas of concern in the USGS planning process that should be addressed. First, priorities stated in the strategic plans seem to have been developed internally with few mechanisms for refining them in response to input from customers. Second, in being responsive to its customers, the USGS should resist overpromising or overcommitting resources and, as a result, creating unreasonable expectations among its customers. Third, although responsiveness to customer needs must drive USGS priorities, this responsiveness must be in the context of the agency's national mission. The USGS should develop a more effective process to assess and prioritize customer needs. A step in the right direction is the DOI “Agreement on USGS Research Support for DOI Resources Management Bureau Needs,” which attempts to establish a process for determining USGS science priorities in support of the management and regulatory missions of other DOI bureaus. The USGS should work to ensure that the spirit and substance of this agreement are met. Similar, formalized approaches should be pursued with other customer groups, such as state geological surveys, environmental protection agencies, and resource management agencies. Thus, the USGS needs to consider mechanisms
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY for prioritizing its activities and seeing that they are consistent with stated mission goals. An important aspect of priority setting for the USGS is to support and maintain a strong research program. This report emphasizes the need for the USGS to develop objectives for a long-term core research program. One important objective of such a program should be to generate new knowledge on a set of understudied issues of importance to society (Chapter 3) and science (Chapter 4) that are central to a deeper understanding of interactions among natural systems and between nature and society. By “long-term” research is meant a period that is long enough to improve understanding of specific, understudied problems. This period should be of the order of 5 to 10 years. Such a time horizon would provide the opportunity for teams of multidisciplinary teams of researchers to collaborate, apply novel approaches, and produce significant results on critical problems. In the past, much USGS research and development focused reactively on short-term and narrowly defined problems, and often failed to anticipate the emergence of critical long-term problems. This approach is unsuitable for dealing with complex natural science problems that are relevant to the USGS mission. The solution to many complex natural science problems requires a research framework based on integrative science—science committed to bridging barriers that separate traditional modes of inquiry. The USGS should develop and set a research agenda that is balanced appropriately between problem-specific research and core research. Clearly, the USGS needs to undertake both problem-specific and core research to address current and emerging science issues. However, the USGS should give high priority to, and expand considerably, the core research agenda and commit the necessary resources to undertake the priority research. The research agenda should be developed through a formal and continuous strategic science planning process. The USGS should review continually the balance between problem-specific research and core research and determine the appropriate mix of problem-specific and core research efforts. To focus its efforts, the USGS should consider mechanisms to set a research agenda based on a series of guiding principles. Setting the research agenda will require substantive communication within the USGS and beyond its borders as well. The result should be a portfolio of
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY planned and coordinated core and problem-specific research activities appropriate to USGS expertise with broad support inside and outside the agency. The principle of calling on external advisory committees to assist in program design and development is well established. Many federal agencies have strengthened their programs through the extensive use of such committees. As a major federal science agency, the USGS cannot afford to be without external advisory committees. The USGS should establish and make extensive use of external advisory committees. Consideration should be given to the establishment of an agency-level external advisory committee and, where there are none now, external advisory committees at divisional and program levels as well. A major advantage of external advisory committees is that they have organizational memory, but because they need to have broad expertise, they may not be as well suited to reviewing specific aspects of a program as specially constituted review panels. Therefore, the USGS should continue to request specially constituted review panels to conduct independent reviews and provide answers to specific questions. Meeting Technical Needs The scientific credibility and respect attributed to the USGS are primarily the product of an outstanding work force. However, the reservoir of accumulated knowledge is in danger of being lost through forthcoming retirements unless existing staff overlap with new staff. Without a new generation of talented scientists to replace departing staff, the ability of the USGS to answer the questions of the future will be compromised and the morale of the remaining staff will deteriorate. The USGS should devote substantial efforts to recruiting and retaining excellent staff. The rejuvenation of the work force should take into account the new areas of expertise that will be needed in the future. In identifying new hiring priorities, the USGS has to pay special attention to its long-term core research agenda. Thus, opportunities should be made available to recruit scientists who can work effectively across program boundaries and who can be expected to provide leadership in the integration of science information. To facilitate integrative science, the issue of personnel location will have to be addressed. In the future, USGS professional staff members
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY will be expected to increase the effectiveness of their multidisciplinary investigations, which can be facilitated by concentrating scientists from different disciplines in centralized facilities. Therefore, consideration should be given to the colocation of scientists from different disciplines in order for them to conduct integrative science projects more efficiently. In an environment of fiscal pressures, the agency may not be able to make as many new hires as it may wish. As a result, the USGS has to develop an organizational culture that encourages, values, and rewards flexibility and teamwork. For the agency to undertake multidisciplinary, integrative initiatives, it is of paramount importance that scientists be able to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. To retain excellent staff, careful consideration must be given to the reward system. The present reward system favors research over assessment and service activities. Management should seek ways to resolve this nettlesome issue by altering reward structures to encourage, recognize, and reinforce categories of professional activity that are sometimes underrated. Even if the professional staff of the USGS were to increase substantially in the future, the increase would probably be insufficient for the agency to accomplish its goals solely through in-house activities. As the problems that the USGS addresses become more complex and multidisciplinary, it is unlikely that the existing professional staff, even with major retraining, would be able keep up with all of the new techniques and new knowledge, let alone cover all of the areas of expertise necessary to carry out an ambitious program of integrative science. To achieve its mission goals, the USGS will have to strengthen coordination and collaboration with other federal agencies, as well as with states, academia, and industry. At present, the USGS is insufficiently engaged with potential partners, especially related federal agencies, whose work can enhance the ability of the USGS to achieve its mission objectives. Coordination and collaboration increase institutional flexibility in meeting mission goals. They permit the sharing of resources (personnel, equipment, and ideas), enhance the prospects for new project funding, and can lead to high-quality science. In addition to making a strong commitment to increase external coordination and collaboration, the USGS should strive to improve cooperation between scientists within the agency. The USGS can make greater use of intra-agency transfers that foster cooperation, lessen the “stovepiping” of programs, and could accelerate the development of new integrated entities.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY USGS cooperative programs with regional, state, and local governments as well as with other entities are stimulated by requests for scientific knowledge and data. These reimbursable programs can have considerable value: they allow the USGS to exchange employees between programs, they allow the agency to leverage its funds and thereby to expand its range of operations, and they provide a measure of the worth of certain agency products. The efficacy of engaging in reimbursable work has been a source of debate both within and outside the USGS for many years. Proponents emphasize that reimbursable work enhances USGS programs, expands the work force, and keeps the agency in close contact with customers. Opponents argue that reimbursable programs distort the priorities of the USGS and inevitably lead to problems of conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest that act against the best long-term interests of the agency. The USGS has a long-standing partnership with state geological surveys and water resources agencies. This partnership is strained because of concerns by state survies that the USGS inappropriately competes with them for local project funds. The concerns, real or perceived, about competition between USGS and state surveys have to be addressed. The agency should ensure that reimbursable contracts meet mission and strategic goals and that they do not compete unfairly with state or other organizations. Clearly, the reimbursable work of the USGS benefits many agencies. However, some of the reimbursable programs cause friction between the USGS and state and private entities, are viewed as conflicts of interest, and may divert the agency from its mission. Existing guidelines for reimbursable programs appear to be insufficiently clear or inconsistently applied. The USGS is aware of the issues and has taken steps to avoid unfair competition with the private sector. However, the issue of USGS funding through reimbursable work deserves review with regard to its effects on customer relations and with regard to the USGS mission and strategic plan. The USGS should place more emphasis on whether potential cooperative projects meet mission and strategic plan objectives. Appropriate reimbursable programs are partnerships in which the USGS performs a function that is consistent with its basic mission and that contributes to its strategic objectives without competing unfairly with organizations that can provide a similar service.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Budget The agency's budget, which has remained constant for many years, is a matter of concern. Even with an agile, talented work force and a strong commitment to coordinated research efforts with other agencies and partners, it will be difficult for the agency to attain its future goals, especially those associated with a long-term core research program of integrative, multidisciplinary, relatively large research initiatives. In response to priorities of society and science, the USGS is being called upon to confront complex problems that are critical to human and ecosystem survival. Long-term problems such as those associated with natural hazards that pose increased risks to the nation cannot be solved with the current level of program funding. As the agency's responsibilities continue to increase, its budget should be increased to a level commensurate with the tasks. The USGS should justify and request additional funds to support the development of a research portfolio in the national interest. With an appropriate level of funding for practical research related to national needs, the USGS will be better able to fulfill its mission. Future budget requests should contain sufficient flexibility to permit the USGS director to respond rapidly to new research challenges and opportunities. A fraction of the agency's operating costs could be set aside for new initiatives analogous to a research and development budget in the private sector. SUMMARY Underlying many of the committee's conclusions and recommendations is the inescapable observation that future demands placed on the USGS can be expected to exceed the capacity of its financial and human resources. Some of the increased demand may be met by improvements in collaboration and coordination with other federal agencies, universities, and private industry and by creating a more agile and flexible work force. However, unless significant actions are taken soon to address human and financial resource issues, the USGS may be unable to meet all of its mission goals, respond rapidly to new challenges and opportunities, and transition toward becoming a natural science and information agency.
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FUTURE ROLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Although the demand for information from the USGS and its supply capacity are out of line, the USGS has established a good foundation on which to plan and build a successful future. It has evolved from an organization that was called on to document the natural resources of the West to one that is now being asked to understand geological, hydrological, geographical, and biological processes of immense importance and complexity. In the future, the USGS will be asked increasingly to deal with questions about how natural systems affect human systems and how human actions modify natural systems. More specifically, it will be asked to provide information on a host of problems ranging from environmental threats and human vulnerability to sustainable resources and livable communities. If it broadens the basis of inquiry to include integrative approaches involving natural and human sciences and becomes proficient at information management, the USGS will more fully realize its potential and provide the scientific information and knowledge essential to the future well-being of society.
Representative terms from entire chapter: