• the balance of activities such as data acquisition and management, regional studies, and fundamental research.

This report is intended for diverse audiences. It contains advice for policy makers, managers, and scientists, as well as anyone with a broad interest in the future of the USGS.Chapter 1 is an introduction to the U.S. Geological Survey, including a discussion of its mission and vision statements.Chapter 2 provides a historical context for the chapters that follow.Chapter 3 identifies the driving forces in the early twenty-first century that stand to influence the USGS.Chapter 4 considers how the USGS might evolve to meet future national needs, and Chapter 5 discusses the administrative challenges the agency will face. The final chapter summarizes the conclusions and recommendations, most of which are given below. Throughout this summary and in Chapter 6, the committee presents its conclusions in italics and its recommendations in bold type.


Over time, the USGS has evolved and built a solid foundation on which to plan its future. The recent integration of the Biological


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 science” 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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