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Grand challenges for integrated USGS science — A workshop report

June 29, 2017

Executive Summary

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has a long history of advancing the traditional Earth science disciplines and identifying opportunities to integrate USGS science across disciplines to address complex societal problems. The USGS science strategy for 2007–2017 laid out key challenges in disciplinary and interdisciplinary arenas, culminating in a call for increased focus on a number of crosscutting science directions. Ten years on, to further the goal of integrated science and at the request of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), a workshop with three dozen invited scientists spanning different disciplines and career stages in the Bureau convened on February 7–10, 2017, at the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The workshop focused on identifying “grand challenges” for integrated USGS science. Individual participants identified nearly 70 potential grand challenges before the workshop and through workshop discussions. After discussion, four overarching grand challenges emerged:

  • Natural resource security,
  • Societal risk from existing and emerging threats,
  • Smart infrastructure development, and
  • Anticipatory science for changing landscapes.

Participants also identified a “comprehensive science challenge” that highlights the development of integrative science, data, models, and tools—all interacting in a modular framework—that can be used to address these and other future grand challenges:

  • Earth Monitoring, Analyses, and Projections (EarthMAP)

EarthMAP is our long-term vision for an integrated scientific framework that spans traditional scientific boundaries and disciplines, and integrates the full portfolio of USGS science: research, monitoring, assessment, analysis, and information delivery.

The Department of Interior, and the Nation in general, have a vast array of information needs. The USGS meets these needs by having a broadly trained and agile scientific workforce. Encouraging and supporting cross-discipline engagement would position the USGS to tackle complex and multifaceted scientific and societal challenges in the 21st Century.

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