Global science, global problems, local dependencies

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Geoscience is clearly a global science and with increasing concerns about global issues such as climate change, sustainability, and energy, it would seem the geosciences are ideally poised to lead as a global professional community. However, regional and national differences over the priorities of geoscience, legal requirements, and the mobility of geoscientists--especially new graduates--make for a much more complex picture than most realize. Examination of both the U.S.-centric data collected by AGI and data collected by the IUGS Taskforce on Global Geoscience Workforce indicates a level of fracture and discord evident in the broad geosciences professional across borders. In addition, uneven global workforce migration patterns make the geosciences generally counter to immigration expectations for accommodating labor shortages in the geosciences. Though the rest of the world is increasing its production of geoscience graduates, the United States remains the dominant engine in global geoscience graduate production and hosts approximately half of the world's geoscientists. Yet, most of the global geosciences community's views, policies, and expectations are set through channels which rely heavily on the experience and perspectives of geoscience faculty, who represent at best only 5 percent of the geoscience profession. The global mobility and collaboration of faculty in their research does not encompass many of the trends and challenges for the broader global geoscience community of nearly half-a-million professional geoscientists. Robust efforts in building global geoscience solutions for improving the aggregate sustainability of society is going to require the entirety of the global geosciences. The first step forward is a establishing a broad understanding of the variable social and political structures in which most geoscientists function.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Leila Gonzales*
  • Heather Houlton*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2011