Comparing "Geosciences" Across Borders and Cultures - How Seamless Can the Geosciences Move Globally

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The United States, based on prior IUGS estimates, currently has 50% of all working geoscientists resident and continues to educate about 50% of all new geosciences graduate degree recipients globally.   Demographic and cultural trends in the United States, like most western nations, point to both mid and long-term supply problems for the science and engineering workforce, and those economies will be increasingly dependent on talent from developing nations and an increasingly transnational workforce.    The geosciences is a broad discipline that is inherently interdisciplinary, and therefore also difficult to precisely define.  Yet it also holds its own body of knowledge, community, and institutions around the world.  The geosciences as a field is inherently global in scope, and increasingly students, researchers, and professional geoscientists are increasingly mobile globally, crossing national boundaries with ease.  Yet, such mobility does not come without challenges, especially from the view of organizations that educate and consume global geosciences talent.  The issue is one of transferability and comparability of skills and degrees, which are often complicated by local cultural and historical perspectives. 

 To evaluate the scope of the global geosciences workforce, global production of new geoscientists, and improve mobility, the American Geological Institute sought to expand its long-standing survey of North America’s 900 geosciences academic programs to the global community of about 2000 geoscience programs.  Collecting comparable information proved difficult given the challenges of culture, educational system, local needs, and language.  To this end, AGI hosted a workshop at the 33rd International Geological Congress in Oslo, Norway to identify key players looking at national and regional issues of the geosciences workforce.  One result of this workshop was a demonstration that the scale and scope of the variance in what constitutes a ‘geoscientist’ varied far more than expected.   In response, AGI proposed to the IUGS a taskforce to examine the issue of definition and developing baseline information on the supply, demand, and flow of geoscientists around the world.  This paper examines the latest result from the taskforce, including national and regional differences in how geosciences is defined, both from the perspective of academic curriculum as well as by national employing bodies. 

Likewise, issues of discipline and academic isolation that risk limiting the global population that will have full exposure and opportunity in the geosciences will be discussed.  The goal is to establish a global view to facilitate a collaborative effort to build a mobile, representative, and sustainable geosciences community to address the worlds pressing environmental and resource issues.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Leila Gonzales*
  • International Geoscience Education Conference (iGEO) 2010