Value of Science

Science Center Objects

The science conducted across the USGS affects the well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans. However, it is challenging to quantify the value of this science, and better understanding and communication of this value is often needed.

SEA economists contribute to multiple associated efforts:

  • SEA economists work with the USGS Science and Decisions Center to estimate and communicate the value of select USGS science products. As part of that broader effort, the Fort Collins Science Center is developing case studies on the value of science conducted by the Ecosystems mission area. For example, recent actions by a non-governmental organization demonstrate that USGS mule deer science supported the protection of mule deer migration corridors valued by the public at multiple millions of dollars.

  • Many challenges impede the use of existing data to estimate the value of science to society. An alternative approach is to conduct nonmarket valuation surveys of users of a science product. The SEA branch spearheads an efforts to apply this approach to estimate the value that the LANDSAT program provides to society.

  • The National Park Service offers approximately 300 webcams of areas in its national parks, providing a virtual visitor experience to many Americans who would likely be unable to visit. The SEA branch collaborated with Colorado State University, Kansas State University, and the National Park Service to estimate the economic value on the webcam viewing experience for viewing brown bears at Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. Results show that average value for viewing Katmai’s bear webcams is roughly $11 per hour. When aggregated to all viewers, the total benefit is approximately $27 million annually. Applied elsewhere, this type of analysis has potential to be used to value information and digital services supported by USGS and other DOI bureaus. This information can help agencies determine the return on their investment in these services, and thus where to prioritize investments.

Return to Economics and Ecosystems Services or the Social and Economic Analysis branch