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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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New Research Opportunities in the
EARTH SCIENCES

Committee on New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences at the National Science Foundation

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
×
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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COMMITTEE ON NEW RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES IN THE
EARTH SCIENCES AT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

THORNE LAY (Chair), University of California, Santa Cruz

MICHAEL L. BENDER, Princeton University, New Jersey

SUZANNE CARBOTTE, Columbia University, New York

KENNETH A. FARLEY, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

KRISTINE M. LARSON, University of Colorado, Boulder

TIMOTHY LYONS, University of California, Riverside

MICHAEL MANGA, University of California, Berkeley

HO-KWANG (DAVE) MAO, Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC

ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis

DAVID R. MONTGOMERY, University of Washington, Seattle

PAUL E. OLSEN, Columbia University, New York

PETER L. OLSON, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

PATRICIA L. WIBERG, University of Virginia, Charlottesville

DONGXIAO (DON) ZHANG, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

National Research Council Staff

MARK D. LANGE, Study Director

JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate

COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
×

BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES

CORALE L. BRIERLEY (Chair), Brierley Consultancy, LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado

KEITH C. CLARKE, University of California, Santa Barbara

DAVID J. COWEN, University of South Carolina, Columbia

WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley

ROGER M. DOWNS, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara

WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia

RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC

MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR., Arizona State University, Tempe

ROBERT B. McMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

M. MEGHAN MILLER, UNAVCO, Inc., Boulder, Colorado

ISABEL P. MONTAÑEZ, University of California, Davis

CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville

CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (retired), Ocean Park, Washington

HENRY N. POLLACK, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

JOAQUIN RUIZ, University of Arizona, Tucson

PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego

REGINAL SPILLER, Azimuth Investments, LLC

RUSSELL E. STANDS-OVER-BULL, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Billings, Montana

TERRY C. WALLACE, JR., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico

National Research Council Staff

ANTHONY R. de SOUZA, Director

ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer

DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer

ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer

MARK D. LANGE, Program Officer

SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Program Officer

JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate

NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate

COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate

JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate

ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant

CHANDA IJAMES, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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Preface

This report summarizes the findings and recommendations of the Committee on New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences (NROES). The committee was charged by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with undertaking the following tasks to advise NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)1:

•   Identify high-priority new and emerging research opportunities in the Earth sciences over the next decade, including surface and deep Earth processes and interdisciplinary research with fields such as ocean and atmospheric sciences, biology, engineering, computer science, and social and behavioral sciences.

•   Identify key instrumentation and facilities needed to support these new and emerging research opportunities.

•   Describe opportunities for increased cooperation in these new and emerging areas between EAR and other government agency programs, industry, and international programs.

•   Suggest new ways that EAR can help train the next generation of Earth scientists, support young investigators, and increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the field.

In keeping with its charge, the committee did not evaluate existing EAR programs or other federal research programs, and budgetary recommendations are not provided. This report focuses on new and emerging research directions that significantly intersect the portfolio of EAR research interests in surface and deep Earth processes. Research directions that are funded primarily by other NSF divisions are not addressed, but several interdisciplinary research opportunities that EAR can position itself to pursue do straddle boundaries with other organizations both within the NSF Directorate for Geosciences (GEO: Division of Ocean Sciences [OCE] and Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences [AGS]) and more broadly across NSF (Office of Polar Programs, Directorate for Biological Sciences, Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences). Interagency coordination with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Geological Survey also is of great importance for pursuing key Earth science research opportunities in the future.

The National Research Council (NRC) has issued several prior reports that have helped shape NSF activities in Earth science research. Prior to 1983, EAR directed all of its funds to individual investigators through core research programs. Pursuing the recommendations of Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences2 and Research Briefings,3 EAR created a variety

_______________________

1 EAR is part of NSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO), which also comprises the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) and Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE). Earth science involves the part of geosciences that addresses Earth’s solid surface, crust, mantle, and core, including interactions between the solid Earth and the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.

2 NRC, 1983, Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 95 pp.

3 NRC, 1983, Research Briefings 1983, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 99 pp.

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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of cross-disciplinary programs, including Instrumentation and Facilities and Continental Dynamics. In 1993 the NRC report Solid-Earth Sciences and Society4 documented progress in Earth science, its technology drivers, the status of its constituent disciplines, a host of significant unsolved problems, and many outstanding research opportunities. It also described the fundamental importance of Earth science in a globalized, high-technology society. In 2001 the influential NRC report Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science5 (BROES) articulated emerging research frontiers in (1) Critical Zone studies, (2) geobiology, (3) Earth and planetary materials, (4) continental investigations, (5) studies of Earth’s deep interior, and (6) planetary science, all framed in a context of the societal relevance of pursuing basic research in Earth science. NSF and EAR acted on several of the key recommendations in the BROES report, notably reorganizing the divisional structure, investing significant resources in shallow Earth dynamical and hydrological systems, critical zone observatories, and geobiology, and pursuing the EarthScope Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction initiative. The BROES report extensively documented the value of pursuing basic research in Earth science; the arguments have only strengthened with time as issues of natural resources, natural hazards, geoscience engineering, stewardship of the environment, and terrestrial surveillance for national security have repeatedly been foci of political and societal discussion and action throughout the past decade.

A significant difference between the context of the 2001 BROES report and this 2011 NROES report is the presently improved organizational structure of EAR, with Deep Earth Processes and Surface Earth Processes sections that are now better suited to addressing evolving research opportunities in Earth science. Therefore, the goal of this report is not a major redefining of existing programs to exploit research opportunities. Rather, it builds on existing programs to support geosystem research efforts of particular promise. Another important change of context is the degree to which disciplinary and interdisciplinary science planning efforts have recently been summarized in workshop reports and white papers (see Appendix A) by various EAR research communities. The latter community efforts have been strongly encouraged by EAR program managers and have resulted in an unprecedented number of current, thoughtful, and detailed summaries of scientific opportunities spanning EAR activities, some with moderate levels of prioritization.

Given the breadth of the task assigned to this NROES committee and the huge prior investment in community planning conducted by many groups, the committee did not convene any additional symposia or workshops, preferring to draw largely on the extensive community consensus documents that had been recently produced. Not all research areas, notably geochemistry and structural geology, have prepared disciplinary scientific vision or “Grand Challenge” documents, and particular efforts were made to solicit input from a cross section of researchers in such fields. The committee also requested feedback on the following topics from department heads at universities and colleges, professional societies, and federal agencies with a significant Earth science component:

•   the 10-year outlook for the Earth sciences, including linkages with other disciplines;

•   the scale of activities suitable for conducting this science, including the roles of individual investigators, major facilities, and “system-level” research; and

•   the facilities and infrastructure needed to support these research activities.

Program managers in federal agencies with major Earth science programs—NSF, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration—also provided programmatic information and perspectives on future research directions and agency interactions. The names of survey respondents and other individuals consulted by the committee are listed in Appendix B. Many of the conclusions and recommendations reached by the committee reflect ideas articulated in the thoughtful contributions by numerous members of the geosciences community. Finally, the committee expresses its gratitude to the NRC study director, Mark Lange, for his considerable efforts in bringing the committee together and editing its report and to NRC staff members Jason

_______________________

4 NRC, 1993, Solid-Earth Sciences and Society, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 346 pp.

5 NRC, 2001, Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 168 pp.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2012. New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13236.
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Ortego and Courtney Gibbs, who assisted the committee extensively with website development, document tracking and assembly, note taking, and meeting logistics.

Thorne Lay
Chair        

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Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:

Gregory Beroza, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Thure Cerling, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Marc Hirschmann, University of Minnesota, Morris

Kip Hodges, Arizona State University, Phoenix

George Hornberger, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

David Mohrig, University of Texas at Austin

Joan Oltman-Shay, Northwest Research Associates, Redmond, Washington

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse—nor did they see—the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Raymond A. Price, Queen’s University. Appointed by the Division on Earth and Life Studies, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of the report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Research Council.

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The 2001 National Research Council (NRC) report Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science (BROES) described how basic research in the Earth sciences serves five national imperatives: (1) discovery, use, and conservation of natural resources; (2) characterization and mitigation of natural hazards; (3) geotechnical support of commercial and infrastructure development; (4) stewardship of the environment; and (5) terrestrial surveillance for global security and national defense. This perspective is even more pressing today, and will persist into the future, with ever-growing emphasis. Today's world-with headlines dominated by issues involving fossil fuel and water resources, earthquake and tsunami disasters claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, profound environmental changes associated with the evolving climate system, and nuclear weapons proliferation and testing-has many urgent societal issues that need to be informed by sound understanding of the Earth sciences. A national strategy to sustain basic research and training of expertise across the full spectrum of the Earth sciences is motivated by these national imperatives.

New Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences identifies new and emerging research opportunities in the Earth sciences over the next decade, including surface and deep Earth processes and interdisciplinary research with fields such as ocean and atmospheric sciences, biology, engineering, computer science, and social and behavioral sciences. The report also identifies key instrumentation and facilities needed to support these new and emerging research opportunities. The report describes opportunities for increased cooperation in these new and emerging areas between EAR and other government agency programs, industry, and international programs, and suggests new ways that EAR can help train the next generation of Earth scientists, support young investigators, and increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the field.

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