The hydrologic community should be ready to face the complex water-related challenges of today and tomorrow by continuing disciplinary and interdisciplinary research toward a predictive understanding of the atmosphere-hydrosphere-biosphere-lithosphere system from the microscopic to the global scale, by continuing the transformation of hydrologic education to ensure the workforce needed for the years ahead, and by translating new scientific understanding to decision-making tools for solutions that achieve sustainable outcomes.
The NSF recognized the significance of emerging water issues and the need to strengthen and adjust its hydrologic science research efforts to address these issues. NSF acknowledges that understanding the complexity of the Earth system, which is driven by water, is critically important. It also recognizes the importance of interdisciplinary efforts among its various programs, divisions, directorates, and other agencies. The present study was undertaken by the NRC’s Water Science and Technology Board at the request of NSF Earth Sciences officials.12 The committee’s charge is to review the current status of hydrology and its subfields and the coupling with related geosciences and biosciences, and to identify promising new opportunities to advance hydrologic sciences for better understanding of the water cycle that can be used to improve human welfare and the health of the environment (Box 1-2).
With respect to the restrictions of the study to not make budgetary recommendations or to critique existing NSF programs, embedded within the statement of task was certain language that the committee interpreted as a request from the NSF for specific advice pertaining to the foundation. This includes reference in the task to current research modalities,13 educational opportunities, and strengthening observational systems, data management, modeling capacity, and collaborations including interfaces with mission agencies. These capabilities are integral to the NSF Hydrologic Science program and other NSF programs within the foundation; they represent the mechanism(s) used to promote the foundation’s mission.14 In addition,
12 Original language from the study proposal that was included in the grant from the National Science Foundation to the National Research Council authorizing and scoping the study is as follows: “The primary focus of this study will be the NSF program in hydrologic science but given the importance of water issues to the nation, the report should also serve the academic/educational community, other agencies with programs in hydrology and water resources, Congressional staff, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, professional societies, and other entities with missions related to Earth sciences and water resources.”
13 The committee interprets the term “modalities” in the statement of task as referring to capabilities within the NSF and other federal agencies used to advance hydrologic research including contracts and research grants, instrumentation and facilities, and so forth.