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11 Questions For The Next Decade Of Geographical Sciences

March 25, 2010

Eleven questions that should shape the next decade of geographical sciences research were identified today in a new report by the National Research Council. Reflecting a time when populations are moving and natural resources are being depleted, the questions aim to provide a more complete understanding of where and how landscapes are changing to help society manage and adapt to the transformation of Earth’s surface.

The committee that wrote the report solicited input from the geographical science community to identify research priorities and the approaches, skills, data, and infrastructure necessary to advance research. The strategic directions span from overarching issues of environmental change and sustainability to specific areas in the field that are transforming. They are grouped by topic area, but are not ranked in any order of importance.

How to understand and respond to environmental change:

* How are we changing the physical environment of Earth’s surface?

* How can we best preserve biological diversity and protect endangered ecosystems?

* How are climate and other environmental changes affecting the vulnerabilities of coupled human-environment systems?

How to promote sustainability:

* Where and how will 10 billion people live?

* How will we sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?

* How does where we live affect our health?

How to recognize and cope with the rapid spatial reorganization of economy and society:

* How is the movement of people, goods, and ideas changing the world?

* How is economic globalization affecting inequality?

* How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability?

How to leverage technological change for the benefit of society and environment:

* How might we better observe, analyze, and visualize a changing world?

* What are the societal implications of citizen mapping and mapping citizens?

The report was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, National Geographic Society, and Association of American Geographers. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter. Committee members, who serve pro bono as volunteers, are chosen by the Academies for each study based on their expertise and experience and must satisfy the Academies’ conflict-of-interest standards. The resulting consensus reports undergo external peer review before completion.

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