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International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey (2012)

Chapter:2 History and Context of USGS International Activities

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Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
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CHAPTER TWO

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History and Context of USGS International Activities

AUTHORIZATION AND MISSION OF THE USGS

The Department of the Interior (DOI) is the nation’s principal conservation agency, with a mission to protect U.S. natural resources, offer recreation opportunities, conduct scientific research, conserve and protect fish and wildlife, and honor the nation’s trust responsibilities to American Indians, Alaskan natives, and island communities. The DOI manages about one-fifth of the land in the United States as well as hundreds of dams and reservoirs.1

Issues relating to Earth and environmental science fall within the purview of a wide range of U.S. government agencies that address issues of land use and management, energy and mineral resources, environment and climate, and public health. Geological survey agencies at federal and state levels conduct mapping, monitoring, and research in Earth and environmental science to inform near- and long-term decision-making and government policies. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) resides in the DOI and is “the nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency [that] collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems” (USGS, 2011a). Other federal government agencies with mandates to conduct scientific research on issues relating to Earth and environmental science are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; an independent agency), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Department of Commerce, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF), among others.

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1 See www.doi.gov/facts.html (accessed January 26, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
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Legislative Authorization of the USGS

The USGS has a long history of providing the DOI and the nation with a scientific foundation for decision making—it has been involved in land surveys and federal exploration expeditions since it was formally established in 1879 (Rabbitt, 1989). The USGS Organic Act of March 3, 1879 (20 Stat. 394; 43 U.S.C. 31) formally charged the USGS with responsibility for “the classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.” The Act of September 5, 1962 (76 Stat. 427; 43 U.S.C. 31 (b)) authorized the Secretary of the Interior to formally carry out international activities (see Box 2.1). USGS activities have since been expanded by Congress to include mapping, strategic mineral assessments, and marine surveys. In 1996, Congress transferred to the USGS the biological research functions of the former

BOX 2.1
Authorizing Language for USGS International Activity

The U.S. Geological Survey was established by the Organic Act of March 3, 1879 (20 Stat. 394; 43 U.S.C. 31), which provided for

establishment of office; appointment and duties; examination of geological structure, mineral resources, and products of national domain; prohibitions in respect to lands and surveys. The Director of the United States Geological Survey, which office is established, under the Interior Department, shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. This officer shall have the direction of the United States Geological Survey, and the classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.

The Act of September 5, 1962 (76 Stat. 427; 43 U.S.C. 31(b)), expanded this authorization to include

examination of geological structure, mineral resources, and products outside national domain. The authority of the Secretary of the Interior, exercised through the United States Geological Survey of the Department of the Interior, to examine the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain, is expanded to authorize such examinations outside the national domain where determined by the Secretary to be in the national interest.

On October 1, 1990, 43 U.S.C. 51 stipulated that funds received from any state, territory, country, international organization, or political subdivision thereof, for topographic, geologic, or water resources mapping or investigations involving cooperation with such an entity shall be considered as intragovernmental funds.

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SOURCE: uscode.house.gov (accessed January 26, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
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National Biological Service and the minerals information activities formerly conducted by the Bureau of Mines.

Federal Partnerships in International Earth Science

The mission of the USGS is to provide geological, topographic, biological, and hydrological information that contributes to the wise management of natural resources and that promotes public health, safety, and well being.2 This information consists of maps, databases, descriptions, and analyses of water, energy, and mineral resources, land surface, underlying geologic structure, and dynamic processes of the Earth. The USGS mission is broad and thus requires expertise in multiple areas to assess climate and land-use change, manage ecosystems, assess energy and mineral resources, monitor and mitigate natural hazards, monitor and manage water resources, and provide topographic, geological, geochemical, and geophysical maps. In addition to the other DOI bureaus with which the USGS collaborates, other federal science agencies with Earth science-oriented missions and expertise (e.g., NASA, NOAA, ARS) work with the USGS in areas such as climate change, soil mapping, invasive species, natural hazards, ecological forecasting, public health, energy, and water management (see e.g., NRC, 2007). The USGS collaborates with these agencies on a variety of projects, both domestically and internationally (some of these collaborations are presented in Chapter 3).

International work conducted by NASA, NOAA, and ARS, similar to that of the USGS, may be performed at the request of outside agencies and international bodies. However, these agencies also have explicit mission statements or authorizing language to conduct international research.3 NSF, as another example, provides direct support to the scientific community for international scientific research; USGS scientists may apply to NSF for support of the direct costs of a research project, but the Survey has to provide the salary support for its own scientists in a project.4 The DOE participates in international science endeavors as well, and may ally with other federal science agencies such as the USGS for support on international components of its domestically based projects (e.g., NRC, 2010). The committee did not examine all of the potential federal partnerships for international work in which the USGS could ally itself; further detail regarding the mechanics of these kinds of interagency partnerships for international work is outside the scope of this report. Nonetheless, the committee considers well-organized partnerships among federal agencies

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2Figure 1.1 in Chapter 1 shows the science areas under which such information is categorized. Also see www.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/120/120-1.html.

3 See, for example, www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf for NASA; www.ppi.noaa.gov/wp-content/uploads/NOAA_NGSP.pdf for NOAA; U.S. Code Title 7, Chapter 64, §3291 and www.ars.usda.gov/research/docs.htm?docid=1428 for ARS.

4 NSF and USGS signed a memorandum of understanding in 2007 to facilitate development of research activities between the two organizations. See www.usgs.gov/mou/nsf_mou.pdf (accessed January 26, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
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to be important and provides specific encouragement for exploring these opportunities later in the report.

PAST INTERNATIONAL WORK

Since the first years of its existence as a federal agency, the USGS has conducted international projects in various countries worldwide (see Appendix C). The prompts for international work performed by the USGS over the years have been varied and include the need for information related to specific disasters; technological developments that have allowed the Survey to monitor natural hazards before they develop into disasters; geopolitical or military interests of the U.S. government during and outside active engagement in foreign wars; and trade, economic, health, and/or environmental issues. Projects in the earliest decades typically included geological and hydrogeological studies. Historically the USGS has also been a primary, independent provider of global petroleum and mineral resource assessments (see USGS, 2011b; Klett et al., 2007; and USGS, 2003a, 2003b, 2000).5 Studies requested by organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank have included prediction of impending drought situations, water quality assessments, and responses to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and hurricanes (see Funk, 2009; Friedel et al., 2008; Crone, 2007; Bucknam et al., 2001; Newhall et al., 1997). New efforts to examine the influence of geological and biological factors within the Survey’s mandate on environmental and human health have also been initiated. For example, in 2007 USGS mapped migration patterns and timing of vectors that transmitted avian influenza (USGS, 2007). In addition to these activities, the USGS has established several Centers of Excellence within the United States that have been asked to participate in various international projects in polar regions, wetlands areas, and seismically active zones worldwide (e.g., the Antarctic Resource Center,6 the National Wetlands Research Center,7 and the National Earthquake Information Center8). The Antarctic Resource Center has hosted international explorers and researchers for decades and has used materials from Antarctic Treaty nations to build a comprehensive collection of Antarctic aerial photography, maps, satellite imagery, and technical reports.

While carrying out its domestic mission, the USGS has also been called upon to further U.S. foreign policy through Department of State (DOS) and Department of Defense (DOD) funded projects. For example, USGS scientists served a role in the design of the

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5 “The USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries,” published on an annual basis, is the earliest government publication to provide estimates covering nonfuel mineral industry data. Available at minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/ (accessed January 26, 2012).

6 See usarc.usgs.gov/ (accessed January 26, 2012).

7 See www.nwrc.usgs.gov/ (accessed January 26, 2012).

8 See earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/neic/ (accessed January 26, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

Panama Canal in the 1890s; supervised topographic and geological mapping in the West Indies in the 1920s and 1930s; and supported military operations through strategic mineral assessment, military topographic mapping, and provision of water resources during World War II (Rabbitt, 1989). During World War II, some international USGS projects were oriented toward national security issues, a trend that has continued to the present day with the Survey currently working in support of the DOD in Afghanistan and Iraq. The USGS has deployed staff to Afghanistan and Iraq to conduct studies on energy, mineral, and water resources, hazard assessments, and capacity building (see also Chapter 3). The Director of the DOD Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan, Paul Brinkley, noted the following:

And as a part of that work, we began a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and, as a by-product of that partnership, became familiar with and then became actively involved with a(n) effort to understand the potential of the mineral wealth of Afghanistan and the challenges, which are many, to the Afghans in developing that resource in a socially and environmentally responsible way, but that would lead to economic sovereignty for the people of Afghanistan…9

Appendix C provides additional descriptions of USGS international activities from post-World War II through the mid-1990s, and Box 2.2 provides some examples of recent, major international efforts requiring USGS involvement.

In summary, past work by USGS on the international scene has been consistent with the role of a geological survey agency in maintaining systematic information needed for government to optimally function. Whereas domestic surveys tend to be broader and more long-term in perspective, international USGS activity has had a much greater tendency to be a quickly mobilized response to rapidly evolving and pressing government priorities, in which information was needed, or there was a need to assert a presence.

PRESENT INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES

Organizational Structure of the USGS for International Activities

At present, USGS activities are organized on both a topical and a regional basis. Seven mission areas are each administered by an associate director in (1) Climate and Land-Use Change, (2) Core Science Systems, (3) Ecosystems, (4) Energy and Minerals, (5) Environmental Health, (6) Natural Hazards, and (7) Water. Two additional associate directors are responsible for administration and enterprise information, as well as for human capital. Concurrently, activities are coordinated on a regional basis, with eight regional executives

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9 Transcript from the U.S. Department of Defense, available at www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4643 (accessed October 28, 2011).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

BOX 2.2
Examples of Major USGS International Programs: 1990-present

Delta Research and Global Observation Network: assesses the impact of climate change and human activities on the Mekong basin’s ecology and food security. This is a part of the Lower Mekong Initiative conducted through the Department of State, for which USGS is a partner with relevant subject matter expertise.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET): provides timely alerts on emerging food security issues (e.g., impending droughts and floods) in locations such as sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Central America, and Haiti. The USGS is a FEWS NET partner and provides geospatial data, satellite images, and technical support to aid FEWS NET’s monitoring needs.

Global Mineral Resource Assessment Project: assesses global supply, demand, and availability of critical minerals. This assessment is being conducted in cooperation with other national and international geological and mineral resource institutions, with USGS serving to coordinate the global assessment.

National Earthquake Information Center: provides worldwide, near-uniform monitoring of significant earthquakes. The USGS is a partner and provides maintenance and operation, data collection, and quality control for two thirds of the U.S.-funded Global Seismograph Network.

Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) system: provides rapid estimates of likely fatality and economic losses following significant earthquakes anywhere in the world. The USGS is the agency responsible for this system and for coordinating PAGER efforts with international and external collaborators.

World Petroleum Assessment: estimates total petroleum resources available worldwide and identifies new target areas for exploration. The USGS is the principal agency responsible for producing the report estimates, which have significant economic, security, and natural resource policy implications.

Wildlife Disease Information Node: provides rapid access to local and global information on wildlife disease outbreaks. The USGS aggregates information from authoritative media sources to produce an interactive Global Wildlife Disease News Map that is useful for understanding the spread of wildlife disease and its connection with human and animal health.

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SOURCES: FEWS NET, 2011; NRC, 2006; USGS, 2003a,b; USGS, 2011b,c,d,e.

for the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South Central states, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Northwest, and Alaska.

The Office of the Director is supported by, among others, a director for an office of science quality and integrity, a chief of an office of equal opportunity, and a senior advisor for science applications. The Director of the USGS Office of International Programs (OIP) coordinates the Survey’s international activities and reports to the Survey’s Senior Advisor for Science Applications (see also Chapter 1).

The OIP focuses on obtaining high-quality, timely, scientific data that are international

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

in scope and relevant to the USGS science strategy themes.10 The OIP facilitates the international work of the USGS through support of activities that

  • enable USGS scientists to contribute to efforts to address global scientific, natural resource, and environmental issues;
  • improve the effectiveness of the United States to carry out its fundamental domestic missions;
  • further U.S. foreign policy and national security interests; and
  • promote the competitiveness of the U.S. private sector in the global economy.

Box 2.3 specifies OIP approaches to support these activities.

Funding and Development of USGS International Activities

USGS international work receives financial support through (1) federal appropriations that may be used for international Earth science projects, provided the projects support U.S. policy or have scientific analogues in the United States, thereby benefiting the American public; and (2) other U.S. agency partners, international organizations, and foreign governments using “reimbursable” funds.11

The OIP indicates that from 2006 to 2010, the USGS directed $15 million per year of federally appropriated funding toward international energy assessments, mineral assessments, and invasive species monitoring and research.12 The USGS has also used federal appropriations to fund international activities related to natural hazards, such as global earthquake monitoring. Some of these activities take place as a result of direct congressional mandates, and others are conducted on the initiative of the USGS to support the fulfillment of its domestic mission and U.S. government needs. Total reimbursable funding for USGS international activities from 2006 to 2010 ranged from less than $10 million per year to $20 million per year.13 The amount and sources of this funding vary annually, making continuity difficult to predict. Most of the reimbursable funding has been provided by USAID, the DOS, the Department of Defense (DOD), international organizations such as the World Bank and United Nations, and foreign governments (see Figure 2.1).

The committee gathered information from four of the USGS’ largest international project sponsors—DOS, USAID, DOD, and the World Bank—at one of its two public meetings (see Appendix D). The information shared at that meeting provided background

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10 See international.usgs.gov/index.htm (accessed January 26, 2012).

11 Reimbursable funds refer to those provided by the federal agency organization (e.g., the Department of Defense) requesting an activity to take place. Reimbursable funds may cover direct and indirect costs.

12 Jody L. Eimers, USGS, personal communication, March 18, 2011.

13 Jody L. Eimers, USGS, personal communication, March 18, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

BOX 2.3
USGS Office of International Programs Support for International Activities

Contributing to efforts to address global scientific, resource, and environmental issues by

- developing global reference datasets for scientists investigating regional and global environmental trends;

- conducting studies of historic climatic and ecological changes in the geologic record to help understand the likely consequences of future climate change in ecosystems at different latitudes;

- representing the United States in organizations such as the International Hydrologic Program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Improving the effectiveness of the USGS to carry out its domestic missions by

- obtaining information needed by domestic programs;

- supporting cooperation in managing migratory and invasive species as well as transborder ecosystems;

- participating in international scientific professional societies by adding to the knowledge and skills base of USGS scientists.

Advancing U.S. foreign policy and national security interests by

- providing information and technical assistance in responding to natural disasters in foreign countries;

- providing technical assistance in the assessment of water, energy, and mineral resources;

- supporting development of information standards;

- facilitating collaboration among resource and information managers;

- conducting studies to manage invasive species;

- providing technical assistance to international organizations in managing biological information;

- conducting global assessments of energy and mineral resources.

Supporting the competitiveness of the U.S. private sector in the global economy by

- encouraging the use of U.S. equipment and software;

- building regional and global databases of energy and mineral resources;

- encouraging the release of data by foreign governments;

- facilitating contacts between U.S. companies and foreign counterparts;

- developing and disseminating technical and scientific information standards.

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SOURCE: international.usgs.gov/mission.htm (accessed January 26, 2012).

for the text that follows. Box 2.4 presents input from these four partners on important strengths of the USGS in its conduct of international work, potential measures of success for various USGS international projects, and some keys to improving the facilitation of future international projects with the USGS.

USAID is the U.S. government’s primary foreign assistance agency. International programs based on science and technology are critical components of U.S. foreign policy

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

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FIGURE 2.1 Flowchart showing sources of reimbursable funding (U.S. government agencies, international organizations, and foreign government agencies) for USGS international science projects. Note that the lists of agencies and organizations are not exhaustive.

(NRC, 2006), and the DOS and USAID carry out such scientific work through a variety of financial mechanisms, including contracts, cooperative agreements, grants, strategic objective agreements, and collaborative agreements. To develop high-level projects, the USGS creates international memoranda of understanding or agreements with a foreign ministry or agency following the DOS C-175 process.14 Negotiating and approving a memorandum of understanding or agreement usually takes six months or more. Where appropriate, the USGS maximizes efficiency by writing the memorandum to be multidisciplinary, in

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14 DOS describes this process at www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/c175/index.htm (accessed January 26, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

BOX 2.4
Perspectives from USGS Partners in International Science

Value of USGS International Collaboration

Discussion with representatives of four of the USGS’ primary international partners—the Department of State (DOS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Defense (DOD), and World Bank—underscored the importance of USGS contributions to work on a variety of global Earth science issues. The representatives pointed to natural hazards, food security, climate, natural resource availability (minerals, energy, and water), public and environmental health, and burgeoning populations in cities and along coasts as critical in the near to long term and as areas in which the USGS can provide unique scientific input. In addition to the specific scientific expertise the Survey provides to international studies, these partners cited capacity building as a critical component of much of the USGS international work. The four agencies also emphasized the value they place on the longevity of their relationships with the Survey, the fact that the USGS is an established, worldwide leader in many Earth science disciplines, and the Survey’s reputation as a reliable partner that generates high-quality products.

Measures of Success

Outcomes or measures of success for international projects are important for the USGS, for the sponsoring or partnering agency, and for the nation receiving the project results. Although the committee was not made aware by the USGS or its sponsoring agencies of any single, established, formal process to collect quantitative evidence of the success of international projects, the major sponsoring partners described various quantitative and qualitative measures of success for USGS international projects. The qualitative measures include (1) the ability to demonstrate the role of natural resources in the development and stability of other foreign nations; (2) the transfer of scientific knowledge to a foreign country and of the basic tenets for scientific best practices; (3) the transfer of knowledge of the benefits of good resource management as part of a national strategy; and (4) the establishment of trust and knowledge to enable the transfer of basic research information from the USGS to practical application by the private sector and local government authorities in a foreign country.

As examples of quantitative outcomes, the four partners cited statistics such as the number of water wells established, the decrease in the number of deaths due to hazard early warning systems such as the

which case all or most science mission areas can take advantage of having a memorandum in place.

The DOS/USAID Strategic Plan lists the USGS as an essential partner in fulfilling U.S. foreign policy objectives in strategic priority areas, such as energy security and the environment (DOS, 2007). Likewise, the USGS OIP stresses the importance of partnerships in fulfilling the USGS science strategy—in particular, partnerships with the DOS, USAID, and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These international activities are authorized by legislation and by international agreements compatible with government-wide guide-lines,

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, and the number of new mines or new investors for mineral or energy resource development that are attracted to an international area studied by the USGS. Two specific cases involving USGS mineral resource work in Madagascar and Mauritania with the World Bank were mentioned as having yielded quantitative measures of success: the two nations showed increases in both mining output and investment of mining companies in new mines as a direct result of USGS work.

Key Considerations for Future International Work

The four sponsoring agencies identified the following critical points for the future, continued success and effectiveness of the USGS in international science projects:

- The USGS can afford to be more strategic and proactive, rather than reactionary, in its approach to and planning for participation in global science projects.

- USGS is perceived to lack empowerment or authorization to propose its own international work in a broad suite of areas where it has demonstrated expertise; partners expressed appreciation for the occasions when the USGS initiates international project ideas.

- The USGS can benefit from enhancing its collaboration with academic institutions within the United States and abroad in conducting international work.

- Streamlining the process for collaboration for interagency agreements and those with international organizations and foreign governments could add flexibility to project opportunities and increase project effectiveness. For example, although interagency agreements are simpler than exchanges with international organizations or foreign governments, agency-wide agreements for interagency work are not common but were suggested as a potential aid in promoting project development and continuity, as well as long-term planning. Project contracts with international organizations and foreign governments are difficult to execute because of legal restrictions on USGS authority to act as a part of the U.S. government; direct contracts are rare in these partnerships but may offer added efficiency.

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SOURCES: Personal communications, April 18, 2011, with Andrew Reynolds, Department of State; Annica Wayman, U.S. Agency for International Development; Emily Scott, Department of Defense; and Gotthard Walser, World Bank

expressed by DOS Circular 175.15 These projects typically involve several partners and funding streams can also be from several sources, including both reimbursable and appropriated funds. The USGS Natural Hazards mission area, for example, uses a combination of congressionally appropriated funds and reimbursable funds for international work.

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15 The Department of State indicates that the Circular 175 and its successors provide regulations and a process designed to ensure that treaties and other international agreements entered into by the United States are carried out within constitutional and other legal limitations, with consideration for the agreement’s foreign policy implications, and with appropriate involvement by the State Department.

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

The congressionally appropriated budget includes funding for the Global Seismographic Network (GSN), a joint program between the USGS, NSF, and Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS); the USGS is responsible for maintenance and operation, data collection, and quality control for two thirds of the GSN’s globally distributed seismic stations. The USGS also receives federal appropriations under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program to fund operation of the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) (USGS, 2011f). Through the NEIC, the USGS is responsible for the exchange of information on earthquake research and earthquake preparedness between the United States and other nations.

Sources of reimbursable funding for interactional activities in the Natural Hazards mission area include the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), which supports the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program and the Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT). EDAT operations are also supported partially through federal appropria-tions.16 Through EDAT, USGS scientists travel internationally to help in earthquake response in underdeveloped countries, not only providing technical assistance but also gaining “lessons learned” and advancing earthquake science. One such deployment followed the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where USGS scientists established temporary networks of seismic stations for site-response analysis and aftershock detection, performed seismic hazard assessment for rebuilding, investigated fault ruptures and landslides, and trained others to perform earthquake monitoring and analysis.

The DOD and the World Bank are two other key international partners for the USGS in the international arena. Similar to DOS/USAID, the DOD makes requests to the Survey through an interagency mechanism to enlist the Survey’s expertise in various types of projects (see Box 2.4, also Box 3.11). Reimbursable funds are provided to the USGS to conduct the work through interagency agreements. The most recent projects with DOD have been conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan and have included assessments of economic stability programs—for example: What would development of minerals mean for the country? What is the status of fresh groundwater and water wells in these nations? Details of the Afghanistan project are provided in Box 3.11.

Among nonfederal collaborations, the USGS has worked with the World Bank on various international technical assistance projects in South America, Africa, and Asia since the early 1990s. In contrast to federal partners, the World Bank has, in general, not contracted directly with the USGS but has used mechanisms such as parallel funding contributions (with funding for USGS work provided through USAID) or subcontracts (the USGS subcontracts the World Bank work to individuals or companies outside the federal government). These mechanisms have been used largely because the USGS is not permitted to enter into open competition for international projects. Such competitions or open requests

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16 Jody L. Eimers, USGS, personal communication, March 18, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

for proposals are common project development mechanisms for technical assistance projects at the World Bank. A direct contract was recently established between the USGS and the World Bank for the first time for a project that entails regional geologic mapping in Mauritania and includes expert input from the British Geological Survey and the French Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (French Geological Survey). The successful establishment of this direct contract between the USGS and World Bank may serve as a model for the World Bank to streamline and enhance future engagement with the USGS (see also Box 2.4).17

The USGS has entered into international agreements that guide its foreign work and which are now the principal influence on most if not all near-term future activity. It currently participates in 256 agreements18 with 75 countries and 12 international organizations.19 Several of the high-profile projects are discussed in Chapter 3. A major but indispensible element of all international activity is travel, which constitutes a significant portion of the expense. The OIP has indicated that 2,100 USGS employees have been issued government passports, and over a thousand international trips are arranged for USGS staff annually.

International Partners

The OIP works with agencies representing more than 40 foreign governments and international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Standards Organization. USGS work in some cases is also supported by international organizations such as the World Bank (see previous section), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the private sector. Box 2.5 presents examples of UN organizations and regional consortia of multinational geological survey agencies with which the USGS is engaged.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

International work is woven into the USGS fabric and has been for many years. As authorized by a 1962 amendment to the Organic Act, the USGS examines the “geological structure, mineral resources, and products” both within and outside the national domain in support of U.S. national interests and for the benefit of the American people. In addition to pursuing projects in support of its domestic mission, the USGS conducts international work in response to a range of requests from Congress, federal and state agencies, and organizations around the world. Funding for these efforts comes from a variety of sources—federal

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17 Gotthard Walser, World Bank, personal communication, April 18, 2011.

18 “Agreements” refer to programmatic agreements, exchanges of letter, technical assistance agreements, memoranda of understanding, memoranda of cooperation, letters of agreement, arrangements, contracts, statements of intent, and protocols.

19 Jody L. Eimers, USGS, personal communication, June 14, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

BOX 2.5
Examples of USGS Involvement with United Nations and
Other Geological Survey Consortia

United Nations Activities

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)

International Hydrological Programme (IHP)

International Geological Correlation Program (IGCP)

International Center for Integrated Water Resources Management

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The USGS has also been active in carrying out cooperative training and studies with several other UN organizations

International Networks and Activities

Geospatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI)

Global Biological Information Facility (GBIF)

International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)

Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN)

Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN)

World Meteorological Organization

Group on Earth Observation (GEO)

Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)

Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)

appropriations (both directly to the USGS and through other federal agencies), foreign countries, international institutions, and other organizations—and the projects vary considerably in terms of scope, duration, goals, and outcomes. Chapter 3 summarizes recently concluded and ongoing USGS international interactions and collaborations, and identifies how these activities have supported the overall USGS mission and/or U.S. government needs.

REFERENCES

Bucknam, R.C., J.A. Coe, M.M. Chavarria, J.W. Godt, A.C. Tarr, L. Bradley, S. Rafferty, D. Hancock, R.L. Dart, and M.L. Johnson. 2001. Landslides Triggered by Hurricane Mitch in Guatemala—Inventory and Discussion. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 01-0443.

Crone, A.J. 2007. Earthquakes pose a serious hazard in Afghanistan: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2007-3027.

Suggested Citation:"2 History and Context of USGS International Activities." National Research Council. 2012. International Science in the National Interest at the U.S. Geological Survey. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13302.
×

DOS (U.S. Department of State). 2007. Strategic Plan Fiscal Years 2007-2012: U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development. Available online at www.state.gov/documents/organization/86291.pdf (accessed May 27, 2011).

FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning Systems Network). 2011. About: What is FEWS NET? Available online at www.fews.net/ml/en/info/Pages/default.aspx?l=en (accessed May 25, 2011).

Friedel, M.J., J.A. Tindall, D. Sardan, D. Fey, and G.L. Poptua. 2008. Reconnaissance study of water quality in the mining-affected Aries River basin, Romania. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008–1176.

Funk, C. 2009. New Satellite Observations and Rainfall Forecasts Help Provide Earlier Warning of African Drought. The Earth Observer 21(1):23-27.

Klett, T.R., D.L. Gautier, and T.S. Ahlbrandt. 2007. An Evaluation of the USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000— Supporting Data. Open-File Report 2007-1021. Available at pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1021/ (accessed May 25, 2011).

Newhall, C., J.W. Hendley II, and P.H. Stauffer. 1997. Benefits of Volcano Monitoring Far Outweigh Costs—The Case of Mount Pinatubo. U.S. Geological Fact Sheet 064-97. Available at pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs115-97/fs115-97.pdf (accessed May 25, 2011).

NRC (National Research Council). 2006. The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2007. Assessment of the NASA Applied Sciences Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2010. Realizing the Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate for the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Rabbitt, M. C. 1989. The United States Geological Survey, 1879-1989. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1050.

USGS (U.S. Geological Survey). 2000. U.S. Geological Survey World Petroleum Assessment 2000—Description and Results. USGS Digital Data Series (DDS) 60. Available at pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-060/ (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2003a. USGS Mineral Resources Program: The Global Mineral Resources Assessment Project. USGS Fact Sheet FS–053–03. Available online at pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs053-03/fs053-03.pdf (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2003b. USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000. Available online at pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs-062-03/FS-062-03.pdf (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2007. Avian influenza surveillance of wild birds: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2007-3094, 4 pp.

USGS. 2011a. About USGS. Available online at http://www.usgs.gov/aboutusgs/ (Accessed May 20, 2011).

USGS. 2011b. Mineral Commodity Summaries 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available at minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/2011/mcs2011.pdf (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2011c. Earthquake Hazards Program: Global Seismographic Network. Available online at earthquake.usgs.gov/monitoring/gsn/ (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2011d. About the Wildlife Information Disease Node. Available online at wildlifedisease.nbii.gov/aboutwdin.jsp (accessed May 25, 2011).

USGS. 2011e. PAGER – Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response. Available online at earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/pager/ (accessed May 26, 2011).

USGS. 2011f. Budget Justifications and Performance Information for the U.S. Geological Survey, Fiscal Year 2012. Available at www.usgs.gov/budget/2012/greenbook/greenbook_2012.pdf (accessed May 25, 2011).

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Science at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is intrinsically global, and from early in its history, the USGS has successfully carried out international projects that serve U.S. national interests and benefit the USGS domestic mission. Opportunities abound for the USGS to strategically pursue international science in the next 5-10 years that bears on growing worldwide problems having direct impact on the United States--climate and ecosystem changes, natural disasters, the spread of invasive species, and diminishing natural resources, to name a few. Taking a more coherent, proactive agency approach to international science--and building support for international projects currently in progress-would help the USGS participate in international science activities more effectively.

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