The solid-earth sciences offer a wealth of research opportunities. These include basic questions such as the origin of the Earth, abstract challenges such as the consequences for continental evolution of convection within the solid mantle, and provocative issues such as the disappearance of the dinosaurs or how life without sunlight is generated and sustained at submarine hydrothermal vents. Earth science research continues to solve socially relevant issues such as land-use planning and the prediction of earthquakes. And now, with the global perspective offered by earth system science and international collaboration, problems of vital concern to society's future—such as global change, contamination of water supplies, formation of mineral deposits, and prospects for future energy sources—demand contributions from earth scientists.
The survival and prosperity of humanity depend on knowledge about the earth processes that produce resources, hazards, and environments. The world's growing population needs more energy, more minerals, and more water resources and generates increasing concentrations of waste products that can pollute the air, water, and land. As more people settle in marginal regions they face increasing danger from geological hazards. Humanity will become an agent of its own destruction unless efforts to manage all of Earth's bounty as a nonrenewable resource prevail at every level. To do so will require scientific understanding of Earth's natural processes, particularly the linkages among the geospheres, the solid-earth, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. The earth sciences—spurred by a combination of innovative concepts, powerful data-handling and modeling capabilities, refined field methods, and advanced laboratory techniques—are in an era of intellectual accomplishment that will provide this understanding.
Recognition of the interconnectivity of earth processes was initiated by the plate tectonics revolution. The ocean crust is composed of materials that emerge from the interior at spreading centers, is modified as it moves along the surface, and returns to the interior in subduction zones; the continents are built and modified by processes related to the same internal processes that modify the ocean crust. The system of interconnecting influences ranges from convection in the interior and the mechanism driving plates along the surface through the interchanges with the hydrosphere and biosphere that result in long-term atmospheric, oceanic, and climatic changes, to the effects of human activity on the geological cycles. Emerging perspectives permit a synthesis of earth science data on the global scale. Supercomputers provide breathtaking opportunities to sift enormous
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society 7 Research Priorities and Recommendations Research in the solid-earth sciences is essential for the well-being of global society and for sustaining a high-quality of life in the United States. INTRODUCTION The solid-earth sciences offer a wealth of research opportunities. These include basic questions such as the origin of the Earth, abstract challenges such as the consequences for continental evolution of convection within the solid mantle, and provocative issues such as the disappearance of the dinosaurs or how life without sunlight is generated and sustained at submarine hydrothermal vents. Earth science research continues to solve socially relevant issues such as land-use planning and the prediction of earthquakes. And now, with the global perspective offered by earth system science and international collaboration, problems of vital concern to society's future—such as global change, contamination of water supplies, formation of mineral deposits, and prospects for future energy sources—demand contributions from earth scientists. The survival and prosperity of humanity depend on knowledge about the earth processes that produce resources, hazards, and environments. The world's growing population needs more energy, more minerals, and more water resources and generates increasing concentrations of waste products that can pollute the air, water, and land. As more people settle in marginal regions they face increasing danger from geological hazards. Humanity will become an agent of its own destruction unless efforts to manage all of Earth's bounty as a nonrenewable resource prevail at every level. To do so will require scientific understanding of Earth's natural processes, particularly the linkages among the geospheres, the solid-earth, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. The earth sciences—spurred by a combination of innovative concepts, powerful data-handling and modeling capabilities, refined field methods, and advanced laboratory techniques—are in an era of intellectual accomplishment that will provide this understanding. Recognition of the interconnectivity of earth processes was initiated by the plate tectonics revolution. The ocean crust is composed of materials that emerge from the interior at spreading centers, is modified as it moves along the surface, and returns to the interior in subduction zones; the continents are built and modified by processes related to the same internal processes that modify the ocean crust. The system of interconnecting influences ranges from convection in the interior and the mechanism driving plates along the surface through the interchanges with the hydrosphere and biosphere that result in long-term atmospheric, oceanic, and climatic changes, to the effects of human activity on the geological cycles. Emerging perspectives permit a synthesis of earth science data on the global scale. Supercomputers provide breathtaking opportunities to sift enormous
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society quantities of global data and to simulate and explain earth processes by modeling experiments. New instruments are poised for development and use in monitoring the whole Earth from space, in deducing its inner structure and workings by seismology, and in exploring the composition of its smallest particles with high-resolution analytical probes. Distinct intellectual paths wind through the structure of the solid-earth sciences, from theoretical research to the applications that flow from it. Boundaries between theoretical and applied earth sciences are artificial. Although theoretical research may be defined as speculative inquiry having no practical value, all engineering programs apply pure theory as an integral foundation for design and production. Research programs designed to improve the human condition—whether they are related to resource problems with water, energy, and minerals, to hazards presented by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods, or to environmental issues of global warming, desertification, and waste contamination—are crippled without basic research aimed at understanding earth processes. The variety of research opportunities in the earth sciences can be categorized under priority themes. Deliberate consideration can then be given to how these themes might best be supported and developed during the next decade. This brings in the difficult issue of setting priorities among first-class research opportunities and pressing societal needs, within and across scientific fields. The way in which science priorities are established will surely be influenced by the 1991 report Federally Funded Research by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. This chapter begins with a discussion of the problems of establishing criteria for setting science priorities. Following a summary of research initiatives and recommendations made over the past decade, the goals and objectives of the solid-earth sciences, as viewed by the committee, are presented as the Research Framework used throughout this report. Selected groups of research opportunities from the wide research areas covered in Chapters 2 through 5 represent the first stage of prioritization. For each of the eight priority themes that arise from the Research Framework, a single top-priority research selection was chosen with a remarkable degree of consensus. These eight top-priority research selections are discussed along with their supporting research programs and infrastructure; in addition, two high-priority selections for each theme are presented. The last section reviews the facilities needed to implement these major programs, which leads to the research recommendations. Comments about present and future research funding are then followed by a set of general recommendations. SETTING RESEARCH PRIORITIES Funding scientific research and technology is an expensive enterprise. Growing numbers of individual scientists require increasing support, and the megaprojects of big scientific collaborations consume vast amounts of money. These sometimes conflicting pressures emphasize the need for development of a national science agenda. That agenda should implement a system for setting priorities within each discipline and among all the sciences. Planning and Decision Making In the earth sciences new research initiatives usually develop within subdisciplines and reflect the interests of individual scientists. Initiatives spawned by independent scientists or groups of scientists inevitably become involved with funding agencies at an early stage. Scientists commonly establish a consensus about research directions and priorities by active participation in national and international workshops and conferences, by communication with colleagues, and by interaction with representatives from funding agencies. Scientists with common goals form working groups that determine implementation strategies, facility requirements, and needs for technology developments. Advisory committees can provide evaluations and recommendations on the long-range objectives and priorities in their field as well as the specific needs for funding, manpower, instrumentation, and facilities. Supporters of each new initiative make the case for their project's funding. They attempt to persuade funding agencies and government of the paramount importance of investment in what they have concluded is a key area of research. If the funding organizations are to receive the critical advice that they need to make sensible allocation decisions, it is essential that the subdisciplines remain active and responsible in developing a consensus about directions and priorities. The selection of priority research opportunities within a subdiscipline is relatively easy compared with the next step of ranking programs, or selecting priorities, among several subdisciplines. There is an additional problem of rational evaluation when support of a particular subdiscipline is shared by more than one agency. Similar oversight evaluations and comparisons are required before the relative merits
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society of the science initiatives can be judged against other programs often competing for the same funds. Until recently there was no body charged with the task of establishing priorities across and among different agencies supporting the earth sciences. However, when global change was recognized as an integral part of public policy during the 1980s, the Committee on Earth Sciences (CES) was appointed to focus disparate federally funded research on the global environment and organize it into the U.S. Global Change Research Program—a focused, agency-spanning effort to coordinate scientific understanding of global change. The success of the CES provided impetus for the reorganization and revitalization of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET), an interagency group charged with orchestrating federal research and development activities that cut across the missions of more than one federal agency. One of the seven new umbrella committees established to oversee broad areas of science and technology is the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES), successor to CES. The CEES is a coordinating board composed of working groups and subcommittees dedicated to relevant research topics. It has demonstrated the utility of interagency activity coordination and of planned research program development on a national scale. A partnership has evolved not only among the government agencies but also with the scientific community. This orientation is shared particularly with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and increasingly with international organizations. The CEES, working with NAS, has developed a framework for planning and action, founded on five basic tenets, which include guidance by a set of priorities, evaluation criteria, and agreed-upon roles for the various government agencies and the CEES. The agencies prepare project summaries providing specific information. At a series of initial meetings, dialogue between agency and CEES representatives provides the foundation for the CEES recommendations for the annual program. This is followed by the exchange of written material, interpersonal briefings and discussion, and a series of meetings between agency representatives and a working group chairman from CEES. These meetings lead to consensus. Interactive revisions of the initial proposal then end with a final agency-endorsed recommendation to the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Despite the complexity of this procedure, a similar protocol could work well to determine priorities within the whole of earth sciences, as it works for those aspects addressing questions about global change. A high-level committee, with the capability and authority to evaluate priorities within earth system science, would present its findings to the FCCSET, which could then promote earth system science to OMB as coherent national activities, rather than as a collection of agency programs. ''Are the resources available for the endeavor of solid-earth science commensurate with the challenges or the available talent? Are there too many of us for the resources? Are there too few resources for the many of us?" Charles L. Drake (EOS, 1990) Individual and Group Research The committee concluded, in conformity with many other reports, that the first priority must be adequate support of the best proposals from individual investigators. The National Science Foundation's (NSF) merit review task force endorsed the principle that the individual grant for basic research is central to academic science and technological enterprise. This is also one of the three guiding principles espoused by the OMB in prioritization of agency requests. Despite these declarations of principle, individual investigators—as a group—feel threatened by inadequate support. The intellectual resources contributed by individual members of the earth science community are the most valuable asset that community can claim. Core support for individual investigators will ensure the diversity in ideas and approaches that characterizes scholarly activity in the United States. But many problems in the earth sciences are sufficiently complex that progress can be achieved only through cooperative multidisciplinary studies. In these cases, large-scale facilities cultivate growth and success; access to expensive, innovative, and often centralized new instruments and facilities has been a key stimulus in many breakthroughs.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society Clearly, not every earth science institute can have its own synchrotron, portable seismometer array, accelerator mass spectrometer, or ocean and continental drilling program. Funding bases and management practices have developed to implement these facilities and ensure their cross-disciplinary use in an efficient and effective manner. A large instrument or facility is of no use if there is no funding for the science it supports or if the technical staff and operating budget are inadequate. Do large, cooperative, expensive research programs drain support from the small grants programs? There is no simple answer, because even meritorious large-scale projects remain unfunded or have been terminated because of insufficient funds. Either overall funding for science is inadequate or the education system has produced more research scientists than it can support. But how can there be too many scientists when some projections of current trends indicate serious shortages of Ph.D.-level scientists in the first decade of the next century? Program science focuses on achieving specific objectives, such as resource assessment, space exploration, natural hazard reduction, or waste management. Although its emphasis is commonly on practical ends, some program science in recent years has involved the assembly of multidisciplinary research teams for projects in pure science. Examples are studies of the continental lithosphere by deep drilling, studies of structure by reflection seismology, and establishment of global seismic networks. Science of this sort presents significant challenges because current scientific knowledge is fully exploited while new fundamental science is being developed. As long as the large programs are based on scientific goals, projects by individual investigators can make valuable contributions. Key sources of support for program science include government agencies and industry. The setting of priorities is done by these organizations or by Congress if the funding needed is very large. The importance of these large projects should be judged according to the same standards as nonprogram science efforts in order to maintain a responsibly consistent set of priorities for all scientific disciplines. Peer Review and Evaluation If scientists do not establish their own system of evaluation, priorities will be set for them by bureaucrats or politicians. These professionals are skilled at tailoring budgets that address conflicting needs, but they are seldom expert in science; initiation and survival of scientific projects could come to depend more on the political savvy of special-interest lobbies than on scientific merit. If political expediency were the goal, many adverse consequences could be anticipated, including a short-circuiting of the peer review process, the intellectual exchange that most scientists consider essential for maintaining the quality of research. The committee concluded that credible evaluation should always involve some form of peer or merit review because it is effective for judging both the competence of an investigator and the merit and utility of a research project. Peer review should be the quality control point in ranking large or small proposals. Close scrutiny at this point will ensure that an excellent proposal in any area finds support and that a poor proposal—even in a very important area—is rejected. There should be no interference with or protection of programs, and reviewers should encourage innovation. At the same time, funding renewals should be reviewed as rigorously as initial proposals. The essential criteria for peer review comprise competence of the investigators, excellence of the proposal, utility of the research, and effect on the infrastructure. The peer review system for judging merit is ideal for identification of high-quality research, but the system is overburdened: in an endless cycle of paperwork, federal funds stimulate a large academic research base, which is then required to submit proposals for review. This demands an enormous effort on the part of competent scientists who could otherwise be conducting their own research. Much time and exertion are wasted in the preparation and review of unsuccessful, unfunded proposals. In this situation, creativity and innovation are stifled because overloaded reviewers may tend to reject unfamiliar thinking. A 1990 NSF report addressed this problem. Its recommendations suggested methods for streamlining the peer review system, but resource availability may restrict their adoption. An important factor in these reviews is recognition of the roles of both small and large projects because they complement each other. Advances are usually initiated by individuals, but fulfillment often requires large teams. Similarly, priorities are commonly realized within a particular discipline, with consequent major advances evolving from interdisciplinary activities. Priorities change and must be updated; granting agencies must set their courses years in advance. Dramatic swings in emphasis can only lead to loss of credibility. It is essential that any evaluation process create the environment for, and be responsive to, new ideas and techniques despite the risk.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society TABLE 7.1 Evaluation Criteria for Research Proposals Scientific merit is assessed on the basis of: ■ Objectives and significance ■ Breadth of interest ■ Conformability to specified goals ■ Potential or actuality of new discoveries ■ Downstream benefits ■ Bottleneck breakers ■ Transfer values ■ Education of professionals Societal benefits to be considered include: ■ Improvement of the human condition ■ Relevance for industry ■ National security and advantage ■ Opportunity for international cooperation ■ General education The feasibility of a proposal includes programmatic or practical concerns such as: ■ Scientific logistics and infrastructure ■ Community commitment ■ International involvement ■ Timeliness ■ Probability of success ■ Costs: scientific and social The return per dollar needs to be considered. There should be a favorable ratio of benefits (societal + scientific + security) to cost. Evaluation Criteria and Prioritization Priority decisions should consider the three guiding principles applied by OMB in its assessment of funding requests from federal agencies: Support is required for certain programs that address national needs and national security concerns. Support for basic research must be adequate: small science receives high-priority in the agencies' final programs. Support for the scientific infrastructure and facilities must be maintained at adequate levels. However, criteria for evaluation are the heart of the priority-setting process. Criteria for setting priorities and evaluating proposals are similar, although implementation may differ according to the scale of the initiative and the mandate of a sponsoring agency. The criteria that should be applied to research proposals through strict peer review include scientific merit, societal benefit, feasibility, and positive cost-benefit analysis. The lists of factors to be considered under each of these major criteria can become very long; a selection is displayed in Table 7.1. Moving from lists to a workable selection presents many problems. An example from mineral resources illustrates the problems of prioritization. Selection of the most promising research opportunities in mineral resource research could greatly accelerate scientific progress and potentially save millions of dollars in research and exploration expenditures. Presumably the most promising opportunities are those with the greatest potential for dramatic advances in scientific understanding or for providing solutions to societal problems at the lowest costs and with the greatest potential for success. Higher priority might be awarded for a variety of reasons, for example, to support a historically productive investigator or line of research, to provide seed money for a risky but promising new line of research, to test a major scientific hypothesis, or to solve a significant societal problem. However, perceptions of research priorities in mineral resources are apt to differ at different levels within an organization and between organizations. At the national level, preference might be given to strategic minerals that are in short supply in this country. The NSF might favor research made possible through the development of a new analytical method or a recent scientific discovery. An individual state might choose projects related to its particular resources. Government departments would select projects related to their missions. At a university, research emphasis will reflect the academic interests of faculty members. Similar diversity exists within various segments of industry and between industry, government, and academic institutions. Thus, the establishment of priorities within the field of mineral resources, as in any field, is dependent on the goals of the establisher. Those goals must be clearly thought out and communicated before priorities within and between disciplines can be assessed, much less ranked. Once the goals have been established, it is necessary to design a procedure to apply the evaluation criteria to rank research proposals. One proposal is that the criteria be formulated into a standard set of questions and that the written answers produced are compared and judged; this formalizes the common procedure of open discussion. Others argue that this approach is too qualitative; they advocate a quantitative method of evaluation, using weighted criteria, making prioritization a structured, uniform process that can be defended. The problem is that the criteria (see, e.g., Table 7.1) probably do not have equal weight, and the weighting may well vary according to the mission of a funding agency. Such methods may be no more objective than those
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society that arrive at consensus through discussion because of the subjective nature of the selection of weighting factors. The committee explored various methods of scoring criteria in an attempt to establish a numerical ranking of research topics. We found that a numerical system appears to offer some degree of success when similar proposals are compared but is not effective when tested for ranking priorities among disparate proposals. PREVIOUS RECOMMENDATIONS AND INITIATIVES The committee used a variety of materials in the preparation of this report. It established 22 panels that prepared topical working papers. In addition, there were several recent publications reviewing specific aspects of the solid-earth sciences (or issues involving the solid-earth) that had been prepared mainly, but not exclusively, by advisory panels or workshops under the aegis of the National Research Council (NRC). These publications were treated from the outset as the equivalent of additional panel reports, providing recommendations reached by consensus within a particular earth science community. Similar reports have been considered as they were published. Many of the committee members had participated in the preparation of these reports and long-range plans; their experience helped to put discussions and possibilities into a realistic perspective. The selection of priorities in this volume, therefore, reflects the conclusions of many previous committees that have dealt with the earth sciences. Perhaps the most striking aspect of research planning during the past few years has been the growing parallel perception in different research communities that their interests are part of a global system. Consequently, there has been convergence among the research plans of groups concerned nominally with solid-earth, atmospheric, space, and ocean sciences. This convergence has focused on the driving processes within the solid-earth and on global change as manifested mainly in the atmosphere and oceans. This historical development is illustrated in Table 7.2 by a sequence of selections of research topics, beginning with the 1983 report prepared by the NRC Board on Earth Sciences (now the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources) at the request of NSF. That report, Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences (ORGS), recommended the eight priorities shown in the upper left of the table. Another 1983 report was a research briefing developed for the NRC Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and federal agencies. The five research areas listed (which were based on the ORGS recommendations) were identified as those most likely to return the highest scientific dividends as a result of incremental federal investment. Four of these areas already had operating programs or were organized promptly. The organizations were the (1) Consortium for Continental Reflection Profiling; (2) Deep Observation and Sampling of the Earth's Continental Crust; (3) Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS); and (4) various satellite programs, of which the Global Positioning System (GPS) in particular was relevant. The fifth area was organized later; a 1987 report on the NRC Workshop on Physics and Chemistry of Earth Materials identified three major research topics where significant advances could be expected from research on earth materials. In 1988 the NRC Space Studies Board published Mission to Planet Earth , one of six volumes responding to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) request "to determine the principal scientific issues that the discipline and space science would face during the period from 19952015." The volume outlined a bold integrated program for determining the origin, evolution, and nature of our planet and its place in the solar system. The importance of combining the space-borne program with an earth-based program was emphasized. The research objectives were addressed by the four themes given in Table 7.2, which proposed to expand NASA's mission by treating the whole Earth as a solar system planet. The long-range plan for the NSF Division of Earth Sciences, prepared by NSF's internal advisory committee in 1988, emphasized A Unified Theory of Planet Earth. The influence of the two previous reports, ORGS and COSEPUP, is evident from the selection of research priorities. The 1990 Long-Range Plan of the Ocean Drilling Program represents a distillation of workshop and panel discussions through 4 years and the conclusions of two major international conferences. The plan is based on four high-priority research themes, with 16 objectives. These research themes extend much deeper into the Earth than was envisaged in the early phases of ocean drilling programs. In 1989 NASA's Solid-Earth Science Branch was formed by joining two previously autonomous NASA programs on geology and geodynamics. This union reflected a recognition of the need to
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society TABLE 7.2 Priority Development: Previous Research Recommendations and Initiatives 1983: ORGS 1983: COSEPUP 1987: PACEM Continental lithosphere Seismic studies, continental crust Mantle convection Sedimentary basin evolution Continental scientific drilling Material transport through fluid flow Magmas Physics/chemistry of geological materials Evolution of continents Physical and chemical properties of rocks Global digital seismic array Tectonic processes Satellite geodesy Convection of Earth's interior Evolution of life Surficial processes 1988: Mission to Planet Earth 1. Composition, structure, dynamics, and evolution of the interior and crust. 2. Structure, dynamics, and chemistry of the oceans, atmosphere, and cryosphere and their interactions with the solid-earth (including the global hydrological cycle, weather, and climate). 3. Characterizing the interactions of living organisms among themselves and with the physical environment (including their effects on the evolution of the environment). 4. Monitoring and understanding the interaction of human activities with the natural environment. 1988: NSF 1990: ODP 1991: NASA Continental lithosphere Crust and upper mantle Global geophysical networks Physics and chemistry of earth materials Physical behavior of the lithosphere Soils and surface mapping Global change: geological reconstruction Fluid circulation in the lithosphere Global topographic mapping Fluid mechanics in earth sciences Oceanic and climatic variability Geopotential fields Global positioning system (active tectonics) Volcanism and limate Studies in the Earth's deep interior ORGS: Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences (NRC, 1983). COSEPUP: Research Briefings 1983 (NRC, 1983). PACEM: Earth Material Research: Report of a Workshop on Physics and Chemistry of Earth Materials (NRC, 1987). Mission to Planet Earth (NRC, 1988). NSF: Long-Range Plan, NSF Division of Earth Sciences, Advisory Committee, 1988. ODP: Long-Range Plan for the Ocean Drilling Program, NSF, 1990. NASA: Solid-Earth Sciences in the 1990s, NASA Technical Memorandum 4256 (three volumes). understand the Earth as a whole, comprised of interacting systems. NASA sponsored an international workshop in 1989 that developed a 10-year plan of research to integrate the two programs into one. The report, published in 1991, identified the five areas shown in Table 7.2 as deserving major emphasis in the solid-earth sciences for the 1990s. Many other reports were taken into consideration by the committee for this volume, but those mentioned above suffice to illustrate the parallelism developing in research programs specified by organizations as different as NSF, NASA, and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). This is due in large part to recognition of the earth system as one that is interconnected on all scales and the fact that the wide disparity of time and space scales represented by geophysics, geochemistry, geology, fluid dynamics, and biological processes can be addressed for the first time by global data sets and modeling on high-speed computers. For example, it has become clear that ODP's existence is important for other earth science initiatives that deal with global processes and interactions to achieve their goals. ODP also will play a role in the RIDGE (Ridge InterDisciplinary Global Experiments) initiative, which developed from several workshops, initially under the guidance of the NRC Ocean Studies Board. It illustrates the trend toward multiagency support; the planning effort is now supported by NSF, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The rift valleys that are central to the RIDGE initiative are responsible for the formation of continental margins, where 70 percent of the world's population is concentrated. MARGINS is another interdisciplinary research initiative developed from an NRC workshop jointly organized by the Ocean Studies Board and the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources. Only recently has the patchwork of diverse studies of different disciplines become interpretable in terms of comprehensive models. The workshop group concluded that a significant change in direction from current research was required, with a shift away from phenomenological descriptions to an approach focusing on process-oriented studies and modeling fundamental physical pro-
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society cesses. This new direction requires interdisciplinary organization and funding structures. The trend in the initiatives outlined above has been to emphasize processes, recognizing the need for attention to the properties of earth materials. Continental drilling, like ocean drilling, is a technique. The ODP is now emphasizing the determination of processes through the technique of drilling. A similar philosophy is expressed in the 1988 report The Role of Continental Scientific Drilling in Modern Earth Sciences: Scientific Rationale and Plan for the 1990s (Interagency Coordinating Group for Continental Scientific Drilling, 1988), based on an international conference and workshop. The report presents a comprehensive plan for a program that "should be the mechanism by which scientific drilling activities of the Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Science Foundation and other agencies are coordinated and focused on critical problems of national interest . . . directed at fundamental research and closely integrated with other geological and geophysical studies to address outstanding problems in the earth sciences." The U.S. Global Change Research Program has become a central focus because it involves important and urgent political and economic issues, which require the best of scientific attention. The International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) was addressed by a 1988 NRC report, Toward an Understanding of Global Change, which identified early U.S. contributions. Also in 1988, Earth System Science: A Program for Global Change, was prepared by the NASA Advisory Council, with the anticipation that the program recommended would become a part of the planning for the Global Change Research Program. This involves "the initiation of a new era of integrated global observations of the Earth" and "the development of new management policies and mechanisms to foster coordination among NASA, NOAA, NSF, and other federal agencies engaged in earth system science and the study of global change." The organization and operation of the Committee on Earth and Environmental Sciences, outlined earlier, illustrate the new generation of management mechanisms. GOALS, RESEARCH AREAS, OBJECTIVES, AND RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES The starting point for evaluation of solid-earth science programs must be to define the goals. Recent research and discoveries in the earth sciences have brought us to the stage where we should consider the Earth as a set of interrelated systems. The theory of plate tectonics gave new emphasis to the unifying concept of planet Earth as an integrated system, with every part functioning to some degree separately but being ultimately dependent on all others. New data on the Earth's interior reinforce the notion of an internal engine driving geological processes. The dynamic Earth behaves like a thermodynamic engine that generates stresses and flows in solid and fluid materials and causes differential transfer of matter in geochemical cycles. The crustal topography is shaped by internal movement, and the near-surface chemistry involves interaction between the oceans, the atmosphere, and fluids from the crust and mantle. The detailed architecture of the surface is carved by the action of fluids driven by energy from the external heat engine—the Sun—with the aid of gravity and tidal forces. Exchange of material deep within the interior is brought about by plate subduction, slow thermal convection of the mantle, and hot-spot volcanism. The distribution of water, economically valuable minerals, and energy resources is determined by these various processes. The multidisciplinary research areas described in this report reflect this new awareness of interconnectivity. The committee agreed that the GOAL of the solid-earth sciences is to understand and to predict the behavior of the whole earth system, from interaction between the crust and its fluid envelopes of atmosphere and hydrosphere through the mantle and the outer core to the inner core. A major challenge is to understand how to maintain an environment between the solid and fluid geospheres in which the biosphere and humankind can flourish. Reaching this goal will require an understanding of: the origin and evolution of the core, mantle, and crust and the interactions and linkages between the solid-earth, its fluid envelopes, and the biosphere. Such a comprehensive understanding will provide a basis for meeting the significant challenges to society and to earth scientists: to provide sufficient resources—water, minerals, and fuels; to cope with the hazards—earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and floods; to avoid perturbing the geological cycles—soil erosion, water contamination, and improper mining and waste disposal; and
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society to learn how to anticipate and adjust to environmental and global change. Major research opportunities arise from the new, global, highly interconnected view of the whole earth system: earth system science. The committee decided to structure its priorities on the basis of four broad objectives and the major research areas that support them. This framework or matrix of objectives and research areas served as the basis for our consideration of priorities in the solid-earth sciences. The following four OBJECTIVES are derived from the challenges facing society in which fundamental understanding of the solid-earth sciences plays a primary role: Understand the processes involved in the global earth system, with particular attention to the linkages and interactions between its parts (the geospheres). Sustain a sufficient supply of natural resources. Mitigate geological hazards. Minimize and adjust to the effects of global and environmental change. The committee selected the following five RESEARCH AREAS that will provide the understanding needed to address the above objectives: Global paleoenvironments and biological evolution. Global geochemical and biogeochemical cycles. Fluids in and on the Earth. Dynamics of the crust (oceanic and continental). Dynamics of the core and mantle. These research areas all relate to the dynamic behavior of the earth system, but they emphasize different time scales, processes, and environments, and they progress from the surface downward into the core. These societal challenges, objectives, and research areas were selected to provide comprehensive coverage of the whole earth system. They reflect the committee's best evaluation of where the research frontiers are, and they represent a solid foundation for making predictions about areas of research that are likely to succeed (see Table 7.3). In matrix form they constitute the RESEARCH FRAMEWORK, which has been used to categorize the research opportunities throughout this volume. These objectives and research areas also represent a stage in prioritization based on the broad trends of community consensus, illustrated by the series of published initiatives and plans discussed above and reinforced by the committee's discussions and draft materials prepared by the committee's panels. These PRIORITY THEMES have the greatest promise for achieving the goals and objectives of the solid-earth sciences. They represent the first-priority scientific issues for understanding the Earth, for discovering and managing its resources, and for maintaining its habitability. (Note that Objective A—understanding the processes—is not a priority theme; it is inherent in all of the research areas and is basic to the other three objectives.) Each priority theme embraces a very wide range of research, as outlined in the earlier chapters. In the first stage of priority selection, subsets of RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES (representing significant selection and thus prioritization) from a large array of research projects were listed in research frameworks at the ends of Chapters 2 through 5. (Chapter 6 considers the requirements of education, manpower, international collaboration, and the infrastructure of facilities and equipment required to support and maintain those opportunities.) These research opportunities include frontier areas: where exploration of the unknown is still under way, where different processes converge or overlap, where data gathering is needed, where different disciplines overlap, and where conditions are ripe for computer modeling. They are compiled here into a single table, Table 7.4. PRIORITY THEMES AND RESEARCH SELECTIONS Selection of Top- and High-Priority Research The question of how to prioritize the research opportunities received much attention by the committee, and it was concluded that simply producing
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society TABLE 7.3 Aims of Priority Themes Research Areas I. Global Paleoenvironments and Biological Evolution To develop a record of how the Earth, its atmosphere, and its hydrosphere as well as life have evolved, so as to yield understanding of how its surface environment and the biosphere have changed on all time scales from the shortest to the longest. Such a record provides perspective for understanding continuing environmental change and for facilitating resource exploration. II. Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles To determine how and when materials have moved among the geospheres crossing the interfaces between mantle and crust, continent and ocean floor, solid-earth and hydrosphere, and hydrosphere and atmosphere. Interaction between the whole solid-earth system and its fluid envelopes represents a further challenge. Cycling through the biosphere and understanding how that process has changed in time is of special interest. III. Fluids in and on the Earth To understand how fluids move within the Earth and its surface. The fluids include magmas rising from great depths to volcanic eruptions and solutions and gases distributed mainly through the crust but also in the mantle. IV. Crustal Dynamics: Ocean and Continent To understand the origin and evolution of the Earth's crust and uppermost mantle. The ocean basins, island arcs, continents, and mountain belts are built and modified by physical deformations and mass transfer processes. The tectonic products of the deformations constitute the locales for resources introduced by chemical transportation. The shapes of landform surfaces are sculpted mainly by fluids. V. Core and Mantle Dynamics To provide the basic geophysical, geochemical, and geological understanding as to how the internal engine of our planet operates on the grandest scale and to use such data to improve the conditions on Earth by predicting and developing theories for global earth systems. Objectives A. To Understand the Processes in All Research Areas To understand the origin and evolution of the Earth's crust, mantle, and core and to comprehend the linkages between the solid-earth and its fluid envelopes and the solid-earth and the biosphere. We need to maintain an environment in which the biosphere and humankind can flourish without risk of mutual or shared destruction. B. To Sustain Sufficient Supply of Natural Resources To develop dynamic, physical, and chemical methods of determining the locations and extent of nonrenewable resources and of exploiting those resources using environmentally responsible techniques. The question of sustainability, the carrying capacity of the Earth, becomes more significant as the resource requirements grow. C. To Mitigate Geological Hazards To determine the nature of geological hazards, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, soil erosion, floods, and materials (asbestos) and to reduce, control, and mitigate the effect of these hazardous phenomena. It is important to consider risk assessment and levels of acceptable risk. D. To Minimize and Adjust to the Effects of Global and Environmental Change To mitigate and remediate the adverse effects produced by global changes of environment and changes resulting from modification of the environment by human beings. These latter changes may necessitate changes in human behavior. In order to predict continued environmental changes and their effects on the Earth's biosphere, we need the historical perspective given by reconstructed past changes. a ranked list of programs or facilities would be meaningless. The needs of different sections of the community, the various federal agencies, private corporations, and state and local governments (not to mention global and international bodies) are diverse. Priorities have already been established by government agencies, industry establishes its own priorities, and strategies in petroleum and mineral resources are driven by international economic and political factors. A critical evaluation leading to prioritization is more readily accomplished given a specific list of projects and a budget. Lacking such constraints, the committee employed the matrix of priority themes as the basis for an agenda in the solid-earth sciences, an outline of how priorities might be determined through the next decade, depending on the availability of funds. The committee recognized that, in a field as wide as earth system science, research needs to advance on a broad front. The research opportunities summarized in Table 7.4 all merit strong support. However, their number was clearly still too large to be considered a suitable response to the charge "to establish research priorities." The problem was to generate a selected list, and the approach adopted was to identify a single top-priority item for each of the eight priority themes that have framed this report. Candidates for the top-priority selections were solicited from individual members of the committee and then debated by the committee. A
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society "Try forecasting the future of physics . . . . I looked into the previous survey to see how well it had done in my pet field of atomic physics. The performance was unimpressive. Apparently nobody noticed that the laser was about to revolutionize atomic physics. . . . [T]he lesson is that scientific discoveries invariably exceed the power of our imaginations. " Daniel Kleppner (Physics Today, December 1991) high degree of consensus was attained in making the selection, which can be attributed at least in part to the earlier effort spent in defining where the main issues and outstanding problems lie at this time. (Other groups from the diverse field of earth sciences might have made a different selection, but this selection is thought to provide as firm a basis for planning the future as any other that might be proposed.) Two high-priority research subjects were also selected for each priority theme (in one priority theme there were three); in most cases they could compete strongly for the top position (see Table 7.5). There are of course supporting and supplementary research programs associated with each of the priority selections. Because the Earth consists of numerous complex interactive systems, it is not surprising that the research programs, facilities, equipment, and data bases related to the priority themes overlap to a considerable extent. Indeed, one possible criterion for emphasis on a particular research activity is that it relates to more then one research theme or objective. For example, seismic networks are very important for understanding (Objective A) crustal dynamics (Research Area IV) and the mantle and core (Area V), as well as for hazard reduction (Objective C). Major programs such as the national, international, and state seismic networks can thus be seen as important for science and society for several reasons. They serve two objectives and two themes, although information from them alone will not provide a complete answer to any specific research priority. Similarly, the geological history of the past 2.5-million-years is important for understanding (Objective A) interaction between the Earth and its fluid envelopes (Area III), environmental and biological changes (Area I), and global geochemical cycles (Area II). These understandings are critical to assessing future global change (Objective D) and contribute substantially to sustaining water and soil resources (Objective B) and somewhat to hazard mitigation (Objective C). Major programs such as national, international, and state seismic networks can thus be seen as important for science and society for several reasons. This applies to such programs as ocean drilling, which contributes to the understanding of all five research areas (Objective A) as well as to global change assessment (Objective D). Similarly, The Role of Continental Scientific Drilling in Modern Earth Sciences (Interagency Coordinating Group for Continental Scientific Drilling, 1988) specified applications addressing problems related to many different priority themes: Earthquakes and crustal deformation (III, IV, V, C) Volcanic and magmatic processes (II, III, IV, V, B, C, D) Evolution of continental lithosphere (I, II, IV, B) Basin evolution and hydrocarbon resources (I, II, III, IV, B) Mineral resources (B) Thermal regimes and geothermal energy (II, III, IV, V, B) Calibration of crustal geophysics (III, IV) Role of fluids in crustal processes (II, III, IV, B, C) Lithospheric dynamics (III, IV, V, C) Disposal of radioactive and toxic wastes (D) Subterranean bacteria (B, D) Finally, the prominence of fluids in research priorities related to the solid-earth is striking. Within research areas I through V, III is concerned directly with fluid-rock interactions, I includes paleoceanography and paleoclimatology, the processes in II are accomplished dominantly through fluids, and in IV fluids influence the strength of the crust and shape its surface in landforms. Among the societal objectives, water quality is the top-priority for Area B, and microbiology in a hydrous environment is the top-priority for Area D. The surface and outer few kilometers are in intimate contact with the hydrosphere, and water is a most reactive phase.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society nature of fluid-rock interactions (physical, chemical, and biological) is important. Hierarchical computational capabilities, with constant general use of relatively simple systems and access to progressively more complicated and advanced facilities, will be needed both for data handling and model construction and testing. Advanced instruments, themselves, require advanced computational capabilities. In addition to collections of data, there are collections of materials that must be preserved and made available for research when needed. At a time when many geologically important localities are being overtaken by urban development and private lands or are being exhausted through mining activities, the archival curation of important collections of fossils, minerals, rocks, and ores is an increasingly important aspect of the earth sciences. There is a need to evaluate the collections of subsurface samples recovered from drill cores, for example, because these samples were collected at significant expense and, from an economic perspective, can be considered unique. However, as the resource industries abandon areas of active exploration, samples and records are being discarded because curation costs would be prohibitive. The need for such information is important for both scientific and applied reasons-for instance, such samples could lead to the refined understanding of reservoir heterogeneity needed for enhanced hydrocarbon recovery activities. Major national museums such as the Smithsonian Institution have become one of the important elements in the curation of a limited amount of these materials. In addition to terrestrial materials, there are unique collections of lunar rocks and meteorites that yield progressively more secrets about their inaccessible sources as time passes and instrumental techniques are improved. Other materials that need proper curating are the ice cores drilled from Antarctica and other ice sheets and the huge library of deep-sea cores. A large proportion of the information that is important for implementation of the priority areas identified in this report is spatial. Maps present a peculiar problem, although perhaps only a temporary one. Existing geological maps, for example, embody a huge potential resource. Although optical scanners can be used to digitize information from maps, the procedure is not yet very reliable, and inordinate amounts of time-consuming verification and attribute coding are demanded. A simple distinction can therefore be made between acquisition of data in digital form and digitizing existing data sets. The coming decade will perhaps be one of transition. That transition is likely to require substantial resource commitment, one that is concomitant with the need. Global digital topographic data sets were discussed in the section on space-based facilities. Access to that kind of high-resolution topographic data and the ability to manipulate them are likely to prove important mainly because so much solid-earth data needs to be interpreted with topographic control. There are large data bases of subsurface information, including seismic reflection data, well-log data, and core and well-cutting collections, as well as detailed gravity and magnetic data, all of which are relevant to the properties of the relatively shallow subsurface. In the United States the use of some of these data sets is confined to those involved in oil and gas exploration, since they are privately owned. Other sets are under the care of state and federal agencies and are in the public domain. Digitization, remote access, and the question of broadening use are important considerations, as are preservation, quality control, and other curatorial matters. Geological maps and other maps of surface and near-surface properties are essential in the study of the solid-earth. The issue of making and updating maps was considered earlier, but there is a linked question of publication, data storage, access, and availability. The USGS and various state agencies are active in addressing these issues, as identified by the National Geological Mapping Act (P.L.102-285). Compatibility and standardization are likely to remain important. Worldwide opportunities, such as access to maps of the former Soviet Union, which up to now have been secret or hard to obtain, could provide occasion to apply the lessons learned in domestic efforts. Museum curation and storage of fossils, rocks, minerals, rock cores, rock cuttings, ice cores, and meteorites are a growing concern. Because of the value of the materials, their unique character, or the huge replacement cost, they must be stored not only where they are accessible for research but where scholars who appreciate their special value (e.g., taxonomists) can supervise preservation. Local, state, national, and even global considerations (only two nations have collected rocks on the moon, but researchers from many nations have been able to work on lunar materials) are involved. Opportunities for improving curatorial facilities are likely to provide a focus—and escalating costs to provide a challenge. A paleontological data base is desperately needed. Hard-copy documentation of the fossil record has
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society reached a triumphal peak in the successive editions of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Researchers now need computer access to the kinds of basic information found in the treatise about duration of existence of a life form, geographical distribution, and much more. The ability to manipulate large data bases can be expected to reveal a great deal about how life has evolved; this is currently an almost indigestible mass of information. This specific data set is singled out here not only as an example of the kind of data base that can be put together from existing material but because it has unique potential for improving our understanding of the history of life. Data bases covering the physics and chemistry of earth materials also are needed. Hard-copy editions of The Data of Geochemistry have been published by the USGS at intervals over the past 70 years, and the Geological Society of America has published an important handbook of physical constraints. An accessible data base that included, for example, material properties, thermodynamic data, kinetic data, and fluid-rock interaction data would significantly assist researchers. Geographic information systems, which are widely used in land and environmental management, are relevant to all of the committee's priority themes. There will be greater use in areas where such systems are already important, as well as broad extension of their use through much of the solid-earth sciences. Advances in data-handling capability, standardization, and easy (often on-line) access to data bases are needed. Advanced modeling capabilities and access to advanced computational facilities will complement both the data uses outlined above and the measurement needs discussed earlier. Singling out those fields in which effort will yield the most results in the coming decades is difficult. It is easier to note where activity has been great already because these are clearly promising areas for future success. Processing seismic data generated in oil and gas exploration has long been a leading computational activity, and the demands of modern three-dimensional surveys are particularly challenging. The teleseismic data of global seismic networks is now being processed to generate tomographic images of the mantle, and computational models of mantle flow can be compared with the seismic-derived images. At the other end of the spatial scale, modeling of crystal structures from ab initio calculations is a successful field likely to be more widely applied in the solid-earth sciences. Geochemical modeling, especially advances on the "box models" of early geochemical cycle studies, is likely to prove fruitful. Paleoenvironmental models, especially where they attempt to accommodate oceanic and atmospheric circulation, are both challenging and likely to become more important. There are clearly opportunities for the greater involvement of solid-earth scientists in aspects of all four subcomponents of the federal government's initiative in high-performance computing systems. FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF PRIORITY RESEARCH Current Agency Expenditures The federal funding levels for fiscal year 1990 have been categorized based on the Research Framework; detailed information on the trends is given in Appendix A. Because of the diversity of agencies and accounting methods, there is some uncertainty about what matrix box is most appropriate for some of the research funds, but the broad picture is valid. Table 7.15 summarizes research allocations among the eight priority themes and illustrates the range of support from federal agencies, state programs, and international activities. A glance at Appendix A, where details of the financial survey are given, will illustrate the difficulty of extracting this information from the different reporting formats of the various agencies. Nevertheless, this table provides a fair picture of the distribution of research support among the areas of the Research Framework and shows fields of concentration by the different agencies. The total research expenditure for fiscal year 1990 is estimated to be $1.368 billion. This includes $153.5 million for infrastructure and education but does not include a share of the basic operating costs of DOE's national laboratories. Within the Research Framework, the greatest percentage of support is in the sustenance of resources (Objective B; areas II, III, and IV). If some of the support in this category (e.g., soil studies, cartography, bathymetry) were to be considered peripheral to the solid-earth sciences, crustal dynamics (objectives A and B; IV) would assume the "lead" position. Industry Support of University Research The petroleum industry has traditionally supported hydrocarbon research that involves theoretical and, more particularly, applied geology, geo-
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society TABLE 7.15 Approximate Percentages of Expenditures Keyed to the Research Framework of the Federal Agencies for Fiscal Year 1990a Objectives Research Areas A. Understand Processes B. Sustain Sufficient Resources—Water, Minerals, Fuels C. Mitigate Geological Hazards—Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Landslides D. Minimize Global and Environmental Change—Assess, Mitigate, Remediate I. Global Paleoenvironments and Biological Evolution 2 < 1 <1 1 II. Global Geochemical and Biogeochemical Cycles 4 20 — 1 III. Fluids in and on the Earth 2 12 <1 3 IV. Crustal Dynamics: Ocean and Continent 19 22 4 6 V. Core and Mantle Dynamics 4 — <1 — a One percent of the total of $1,368 million is about $13 million (see Appendix A). physics, and geochemistry. Likewise, so has the mining industry. It is hard to assign a meaningful dollar cost to all this research. A rough guide might be this: the seismic-exploration industry worldwide is expected to rise to about $5 billion by the mid-1990s. If about 1 percent of this sum goes to related earth science research, industry support would be about $50 million. Other estimates indicate that $100 million to $275 million is expended annually on oil and gas research in the United States in both the public and the private sectors. Although most of the research is in-house, both mining and petroleum industries historically have supported research projects conducted in university departments and have collaborated in research with federal agencies (e.g., Bureau of Mines and DOE). Mining industry support of university research typically involves funding graduate-student field or laboratory work, summer or interim employment of graduate students, consulting arrangements with faculty, and direct grants. During the fiscal decline of the mining industry in the early and mid-1980s, this support diminished considerably as companies cut back on research and exploration activities and on geoscientific personnel. In recent years a growing proportion of the supported research has been in the area of low-temperature, heavy metal geochemistry—a reflection of concern about waste management. At the same time, support for basic research in ore-forming processes and igneous petrology has declined. The petroleum industry currently supports university research through granting foundations in the form of doctoral and master's fellowships, direct faculty support, and grants for equipment and laboratories. At the same time, many companies are providing support directly through their research and operating subsidiaries, either through membership in industrial consortia or direct funding of research by faculty and students. Additional research funding is handled by trade associations, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the American Gas Association. The industry-supported Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society has played an important role for decades. A wide variety of university programs have been encouraged through these means, ranging from basic research in petrology, paleontology, and sedimentology to technologies for reservoir characterization, enhanced oil recovery, and seismic signal processing. Petroleum industry support of environmental research is growing. Particular emphasis is being placed on disposal of solid and liquid wastes and groundwater management. The main thrust of oil and gas company research is naturally toward the development of technology and science that may be directly applied to exploration for and development of oil and gas. If an application cannot be defined, support for a research project is unlikely to be granted. It should be noted, however, that a surprising number of research programs pursued by industry have led to significant bodies of fundamental knowledge that in turn have
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society supported societal endeavors quite apart from the search for energy resources. Suggestions for Future Funding Although the course of events in future years can be assessed only very generally, in terms of both level of support and its fluctuation, it is clear that federal funding is substantial in relation to all of the committee's priority themes. Programs are commonly—but not always—related to a particular discipline or technique (e.g., drilling) and are often related to several priority themes. Only the activities related to the major mission of the Earth Observing System (EOS) lend themselves to crude representation of funding-time scenarios (funding wedges), and these generally show an upswing when the EOS will be getting under way. One question to ask is whether specific recommendations—for example, the eight top-priority recommendations of this report—are addressed by the mix of programs under way and envisaged by the federal agencies. To a considerable extent, the answer is clearly yes. For example, understanding the history of the past 2.5-million-years requires advanced analytical facilities, ocean drilling, Landsat and related data, geological mapping, advanced data management, and access to supercomputing. Understanding that history will increase our knowledge of the origin and nature of the surficial deposits and of the recorded environmental and hydrological history over that interval. This is exactly the kind of understanding needed for developing sound waste isolation practices. There is need for a more detailed assessment of the extent to which the priority themes identified in this report will be addressed in federal programs in the coming decade. Questions that could be asked include the following: Are the planned activities of the various agencies adequate? Are they complementary? Is there duplication? Are international activities integrated with those of the United States? Are there significant pieces missing? What activities are most timely? These programmatic questions are best addressed from within because the detailed information they require is usually available only for the past, not the future, and is difficult for outsiders to interpret. This report provides a background that explains why particular scientific questions have been accorded priority within the solid-earth science community. Earlier in this chapter, under the heading Planning and Decision Making, it was shown that there are broadly based mechanisms in place within the federal government for going the necessary step further: assessing at the interagency and program level such issues as whether the priority questions are being addressed, whether a better job could be done by allocating existing resources differently, or whether additional resources are needed. RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendations for action in areas affecting the solid-earth sciences—education, research support, and the national approach to both—are presented below. The committee's over-arching recommendation, which is basic to all its other suggestions, is that the United States make a commitment to earth system science. Knowledge of the interrelationships among the solid-earth, its fluid envelopes, and the biosphere is crucial to humankind's continued well-being. Education Recommendations The continued vitality of the solid-earth sciences is critically dependent on a continuous supply of well-prepared geoscientists. Chapter 6 presents a number of recommendations for actions to be taken at the graduate, undergraduate, and secondary-school levels. Three recommendations for college curricula merit special attention: EDUCATION RECOMMENDATION 1: Conventional disciplinary courses should be supplemented with more comprehensive courses in earth system science. Such courses should emphasize the whole Earth, interrelationships and feedback processes, and the involvement of the biosphere in geochemical cycles.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society EDUCATION RECOMMENDATION 2: New courses need to be developed to prepare students for growth in both employment and research opportunities in areas such as hydrology, land use, engineering geology, environmental and urban geology, and waste disposal. Such courses will be necessary to prepare students for changing careers in the extractive industries and environmental areas of the earth sciences. No longer are these two areas separate, as mineral and energy resources need to be exploited in environmentally sound ways. EDUCATION RECOMMENDATION 3: Colleges and universities should explore new educational opportunities (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels) that bridge the needs of earth science and engineering departments. This need arises from the growth of problems related to land use, urban geology, environmental geology and engineering, and waste disposal. The convergence of interests and research is striking, and the classical subject of "engineering geology" could become a significant redefined area of critical importance for society. Research Recommendations As mentioned earlier, the committee discovered a remarkable degree of consensus when it selected the top-priority research area for each of the priority themes. The eight top-priority research recommendations are listed below (and summarized in Table 7.5). Each has two high-priority research recommendations associated with it under the same priority theme. In many cases they were strong contenders for the top-priority position, and the choice was difficult. The high-priority selections are given below the top-priority selections. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 1 (Priority Theme I): There should be a coordinated thrust at understanding how the Earth's environment and biology have changed in the past 2.5-million-years. The current research activities of many federal agencies bear on this issue, and international involvement would be appropriate as well. High-priority topics are: to work out the environmental and biological changes that have taken place over the past 150-million-years, since the oldest preserved oceans began to evolve and to explore environmental and biological changes prior to 150-million-years ago. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 2 (Priority Theme II): The earth sciences need to establish how global geochemical cycles have operated through time. This information, which is essential to working out how the earth system operates, is now a realistic target that could be achieved by coordinating a number of federal programs and current national and international activities. High-priority topics are: to construct models of the interaction between biogeochemical cycles and the solid-earth and climatic cycles and to establish how geochemical cycles operate in the modern world. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 3 (Priority Theme III): The earth sciences need to take up the challenge of investigating the three-
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society dimensional distribution of fluid pressure and fluid composition in the Earth's crust. The instrumental, observational, and modeling capabilities that exist within various federal programs can be effectively focused on this problem. International coordination is important. High-priority topics are: to model fluid flow in sedimentary basins and to improve understanding of microbial influences on fluid chemistry, particularly groundwater. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 4 (Priority Theme IV): There should be coordinated and intensified efforts to understand active crustal deformation. The opportunity exists to revolutionize current knowledge of this area, which is vital not only to the solid-earth sciences but also to the missions of several federal agencies and various state and international bodies. High-priority topics are: to explore landform responses to climatic, tectonic, and hydrologic events and to increase comprehension of crustal evolution. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 5 (Priority Theme V): An integrated attack on solving the problem of understanding mantle convection needs to be mounted. Seismic networks, satellite data, high-pressure experiments, magnetic observatories, geochemistry, drilling, and computational modeling can all be marshaled into the fray. Again, federal, national, and international organizations will be involved. High-priority topics are: to establish the origin and temporal variation of the Earth's internally generated magnetic field and to determine the nature of the core-mantle boundary. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 6 (Priority Theme B): A dense network of water quality and quantity measurements, including resampling at appropriate intervals, should be established as a basis for scientific advances. Coordination of federal and state agencies that have programs in the field will be needed. High-priority topics are: sedimentary basin research, particularly for improved resource recovery; improvement of thermodynamic and kinetic understanding of water-rock interaction and mineral-water interface geochemistry; and development of energy and mineral exploration, production, and assessment strategies. RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 7 (Priority Theme C): There should be an effort to define and characterize regions of seismic hazard. Because many people and much property in the United States are endangered by earthquakes, improved understanding of seismic occurrences is a pressing need. This issue is important to the missions of several federal agencies and to organizations ranging from local to international. High-priority topics are: to define and characterize areas of landslide hazard and to define and characterize potential volcanic hazards.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society RESEARCH RECOMMENDATION 8 (Priority Theme D): The earth sciences need to develop the ability to remediate polluted groundwater on both local and regional scales, emphasizing microbial methods. Coordination of local, industry, state, and federal activities will enhance the potential for success, and international involvement would be desirable. High-priority topics are: to secure the isolation of toxic and radioactive waste from household, industrial, nuclear plant, mining, milling, and in situ leaching sources and to investigate the relationship between geochemistry and human health. General Recommendations Recommended priorities for research will need to be developed within the existing complex structure in which federal agencies, most with highly specific missions, interact with universities, with industry, and with each other. These groups should also be interacting with professional societies, state and local agencies, other nations, and international organizations. The series of recommendations that follow is intended to provide guidance for the diverse communities involved in research and practice in the solid-earth sciences in the coming decade. The study of the whole earth system is essential for the solution of global problems. RECOMMENDATION 1. There should be a major commitment to earth system science, emphasizing interrelationships among all parts of the Earth. The recommended commitment should be akin to the space missions that have revolutionized our understanding of other planets in the past two decades. We are able for the first time to recognize the features associated with the internal evolution of our planet, the actual heterogeneities that drive the geological processes of the Earth. Thus, we are at the threshold of a new and fundamental understanding of global geological phenomena. To be effective, any "Mission to Planet Earth" must be a visionary and broad-ranging study of our entire planet, from core to crust. At least four elements are widely recognized as being crucial to this program: (1) the need for global observations, including those based on space technologies and international collaborations; (2) the development and application of novel instrumentation; (3) the utilization of new computer technologies; and (4) a commitment to support advanced training. Individual science is innovative science. RECOMMENDATION 2. High-priority should continue to be given to the best proposals from individual investigators. The intellectual resources represented by members of the scientific community are our most valuable asset. The U.S. scientific and industrial population may receive less support in some areas than our international competitors, but it does not suffer from lack of imagination. Core support for individual investigators is the best way to ensure that the diversity
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society in ideas and approaches that is at the root of American inventiveness remains a strong feature of the U.S. Effort. New instrumentation offers unparalleled opportunities for acquiring information about the Earth. RECOMMENDATION 3. The newest tools for data acquisition need to be made available for use in earth science research. Advanced instrumentation is urgently needed for experiment and analysis in the laboratory and for deployment in space (on satellites), at sea (on research vessels and on the sea bottom), in aircraft, and on land (in networks and in boreholes and movable arrays). Observations and measurements made from space will inspire new concepts and Earth models. RECOMMENDATION 4. The opportunities for the integration and use of observations and measurements from advanced space-borne instruments in solid-earth geophysics and geology should continue to be made available. The opportunity for increased understanding of the continents using an integrated approach with remote sensing, field, laboratory, and other data (e.g., seismic) is extraordinary. Remote sensing data should be incorporated and used as a standard field geology tool throughout the undergraduate curriculum and especially in field geology courses. At the graduate level, research should address geological problems aided by remote sensing methods rather than consider remote sensing as a separate discipline. The vast amounts of earth data on hand, together with the new data that will be acquired, must be made available to all. RECOMMENDATION 5. There is an essential need for the production and availability of interactive data banks on a national level within the earth sciences. With new methods of digital acquisition, handling, and archiving, and with growth in the use of geographic information systems along with the Global Positioning System, there are major opportunities to apply the computer revolution to the solid-earth sciences. It is time to integrate the vast amounts of solid-earth science data in nondigital form, like maps, with the exponentially growing digital data sets. National coordination of data-handling services, retrieval procedures, networking, and dissemination practices is required to improve access to the wealth of data held by government, industry, and academic organizations. This will ensure the best use of data in understanding the Earth, sustaining resources, mitigating hazards, and adjusting to environmental change.
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Solid-Earth Sciences and Society Understanding of earth systems is essential for sustainable development of the world. RECOMMENDATION 6. Efforts need to be made to expand earth science education to all. All citizens need to understand the earth system to make responsible decisions about use of resources, avoidance of natural hazards, and maintenance of the Earth as a habitat. Public school systems must respond to this need. At the university level curricula should be adjusted to meet the needs of contemporary society while maintaining excellence at the professional level. The cooperation of industry, academia, and government in supporting research will have a synergistic effect. RECOMMENDATION 7. Research partnerships involving industry-academia-government are encouraged to maximize our understanding of the Earth. Cooperative multidisciplinary investigations that pool intellectual resources residing in government, academic, and industrial sectors can produce more comprehensive research efforts. The primary objectives of the government, industry, and academic groups are diverse. The breadth of disciplines that collectively exist within groups spans our science, but each has its own primary research objectives. Each sector has much expertise to offer that would make it possible to capitalize on the complementary nature of collaboration. The solid-earth sciences stand to gain immeasurably if these three major research groups establish forward-looking cooperative programs. International scientific cooperation is needed to further understanding of global earth systems. RECOMMENDATION 8. Increased U.S. involvement in international cooperative projects in the solid-earth sciences and data exchange is essential. The solid-earth sciences are an intrinsically international undertaking. Increased understanding of the Earth as a system requires that regional problems be looked at from an international perspective. Cooperative programs involving both nongovernmental international science programs and individuals should be strengthened. Groups involved in U.S. foreign policy decisions should be aware of the importance of the earth sciences in global agreements about issues such as waste management, acid rain, hazard reduction, energy and mineral resources, and desertification. Cooperation between the West, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe presents a timely opportunity for U.S. scientists to join with scientists from those countries in data collection and data sharing to increase knowledge of global earth systems. Such cooperation with other countries can be an important tool in U.S. foreign policy.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: